Engaging Iran: Iranian-Americans Speak

Since Obama took office intent on engaging Iran, a revolution has taken place, a revolution that both exposes the poignant power of the Iranian people and the vile repression of an illegitimate and torturing regime. Like many, I am torn between the need to see things very clearly and to promote American and Western interests and prevent avoidable conflict and the need to show absolute solidarity with those amazing people who changed the world's consciousness last June. I've been hoping for a clearer message from the Green movement's leaders as to what they think Obama and the West should do. Mousavi and Karroubi both oppose sanctions. And yet legitimizing the coup is a real danger of engagement. Here is a response, just posted and signed by many distinguished members of the Iranian diaspora in America:

Over the past century, the U.S relationship with Iran has been volatile, and the coming months may prove to be a decisive era in the history of the relationship between the two 0717GETTY countries. A misreading of the situation in Iran might lead to decisions which will damage the national interests of both countries.

The harsh repression of peaceful protests in the wake of the disputed Iranian election this past June removed any doubt about the cruelty of the Iranian totalitarian regime. Direct shots fired at unarmed civilians in Iran captured global attention, but this was only an example of the atrocities that were committed. Intensifying pressure on protesters, the use of Stalinist methods against detainees, and threatening university students and faculty are only few more examples of the continuing campaign against peaceful opposition in the weeks since the election.

Recent news indicates the US administration's intention to negotiate with the Iranian government. While maintaining an active venue of negotiation is necessary for resolving the conflict between the two countries, a constructive dialogue with Iran must address the Iranian regime's recent brutalities. Neglecting such atrocities by any country, particularly in this crucial period, would have a severe negative effect on the Iranian public. As people with deep connections to their Iranian homeland, and who have studied and worked at universities across the world, the signers of this letter are concerned about the neglect of human rights violations in Iran by the rest of the world. As the current regime faces an internal crisis of legitimacy, it is obvious that the goal of the Iranian government is not the resolution of its international conflicts. Rather, they seek a false victory for their confrontational policies, which could be used as justification for escalating the violent crackdown against domestic political opposition.

From our point of view, the confrontational policies of the previous US administration, coupled with the use of double standard in dealing with issues of human rights, have had a negative impact on the public perception of the United States' intentions in the Middle East. While we oppose any military threat against Iran, we remind American policy makers that turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, which began in 1953 with the coup against Mohammed Mosaddeq, has created suspicion within Iran about American intentions. In our opinion, neglecting the recent atrocities in future negotiations with Iran would confirm this suspicion in the eyes of the Iranian people and would have a negative effect on long-term relations between the two countries. We believe the issues of human rights violations and the Iranian government's atrocities against its own citizens are critical issues that should not be sacrificed for short term gains. It is important to remember that the Iranian public is carefully following the interactions of foreign governments with those who violated their civil rights.