Early in Bush's first term, a friend of a friend had, through family connections, gotten a few minutes in the Oval Office with the guy. Bush, he said, was exactly as you'd expect. When he found that his guest was Californian, he leaned back in his chair and sighed, "You know, i just don't get that state. Everything I touch there turns to shit."
True enough. But Bush's observation is more relevant to Iran than to the Golden State. Which is why the attention he's paying the country should strike fear into the heart of any dissident. Iranians don't much like their government, but they have a habit of rallying round it when foreigners judge it time to get involved. The government realizes both these things and so has made it common practice to redirect anger at Iran's high unemployment, poor economy, and choked-off cultural life towards the Great Satan and Evil Zionists who anchor them with sanctions and isolate them internationally. Publicly promising support for their dissidents simply plays into that -- suddenly, they are operatives of the Great Satan, paid agents of the Zionist Conspiracy, and their calls for reform are drowned amid cries of "treason".
That's why Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi's idea is so worthwhile. The US should publicly forswear an attack on Iran and directly engage their government -- not their reform elements -- over human rights and democratic processes. When we broadcast our intentions, disavow imperialist intent, and make obvious, self-evident criticisms against the Iranian regime, we can empower the critiques of dissidents without exposing them to our (well-deserved) baggage. A much better plan all around.
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