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The brutal crackdown on the opposition movement and subsequent international outcry pressured President Barack Obama to emerge from his silence and support Fakhravar and his friends in Tehran. Obama first said he didn’t want to be seen as “meddling in Iranian elections.” When criticized for the timidity of these remarks, Obama suggested he was protecting the demonstrators from being labeled as tools of the United States, “sometimes the United States can be a handy political football.” Fakhravar and the larger opposition movement “felt alone again.”
But because of Fakhravar’s work in Washington, the Green Movement isn’t so alone anymore.
With the help of his friend Richard Perle, who he considers a “father figure,” Fakhravar has made friends with some of the most influential policy makers in Washington, D.C. From Pentagon officials like Harold Rhode, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, to legislators like Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, Fakhravar has amassed quite an impressive Rolodex. His story has encouraged these policy makers to act in very public ways.
After learning that the Voice of America was broadcasting anti-American messages and pro-Islamic Republic sentiments to Iranians, Senator Coburn wrote a letter to President Bush, and once Senator Obama became President Obama, another letter was sent, this time signed by over 70 congressmen. What’s more, at the conclusion of the first Iran Democratic Transition Conference, it was announced that Congressman Trent Franks and Congressman Ted Deutch would be co-chairing a new Congressional Free Iran Caucus. The Conference also heard from the likes of Senator Jeff Sessions and Senator John Cornyn, the sponsor of the Iran Democratic Transition Act in the Senate.
The conference also commemorated what would have been the 28th birthday of democratic martyr Neda Agha-Soltan. Participants learned that Neda had been apolitical, but that the vote fraud of the 2009 elections troubled her enough to protest on the streets of Tehran. For her effrontery, she was shot in the heart by soldiers trying to break up the crowd. The man who attempted to save her life pleaded with her, “Neda, don’t be afraid.”
As Pope John Paul II similarly said in his first homily as Pope, likely directed at his fellow Poles, “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.”
Iran could indeed open herself up to the free exchange of ideas that can bring about a needed, fundamental, and relatively bloodless transformation. Organizations like the confederation will continue to spread the ideas of democracy and liberty to the still unfree people of the Islamic Republic.
Anticipating no real action from the Obama administration on the horizon, it will most likely be up to a Republican administration to renew and amplify Fakhravar’s 2006 plea: “Help us to uproot the Iranian regime. Believe in us. Believe that a secular democratic government in Iran will be the United States’ best ally and friend.” That is the world that Rick Santorum sees very clearly.
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