Monday, December 14, 2009

Reading Iran Between the Lines

Today, Secretary Clinton delivered a fabulous speech at Georgetown University about the need to promote human rights and democracy.

Among other good parts: "this isn’t just about what we do; it’s about who we are. And we cannot be the people we are - people who believe in human rights - if we opt out of this fight. Believing in human rights means committing ourselves to action.”

That's exactly why I want to work in government and make foreign policy.

On another note, she referenced human rights in Iran more than any other country - five times by my count. Given that the Obama administration has been carefully toeing the line between rhetorically supporting the Iranian opposition and engaging the regime in Tehran (and rightly so), I'm sensing a shift of emphasis.

And the timing is important here. As Trita Parsi and Dokhi Fassihian argue:

Time is of the essence. Iran's human rights abuses must be addressed now and not just when our focus turns to punitive measures. Otherwise, the administration will unintentionally signal that the rights of the Iranian people are used solely as a pressure tactic against Iran when it fails to compromise on other issues.

Considering Secretary Gates predicted "significant additional sanctions" on Friday and Congress seems prepared to pass the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) this week, it seems the punitive measures are well on their way.

Unfortunately, IRPSA will do little to change Iran's behavior and do plenty to hurt Iran's people.

Secretary Clinton is right that our belief in human rights compels us to action. But someone better remind Congress she means action in the name of human rights, not for the sake of venting frustration.

PS Sorry for the radio silence. Posts should be more regular again.

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