Sunday, June 21, 2009

Troubled in Tehran

The child in this picture is standing outside the Iranian embassy in Greece. It seems that people all over the world are taking up banners, ribbons and flags in order to protest the recent Iranian election results.

There are two things that interest me greatly: the first is the sheer number of Iranians who seem to be upset about the election. At this juncture, this is a somewhat obvious point to make, but it seems strange that a candidate that won by nearly 30 points should find himself surrounded by so many who doubt his win and who oppose him so vehemently. President Obama won by only 7 points, yet even the most disappointed of his detractors understand that he is the president now. (Although clearly there is something to be said for the relative newness of elections in Iran.)

The turmoil in the midst of the 30 point win tells me what it tells millions of Iranians from all over the world: something is fishy here.

The other thing that interests me is the use of banners written in English. If you scan photos on the internet of the protests, you'll see English often. Why? Perhaps it's because they want the United States to do something.

It surprises me whenever I find people from other nations who expect something from America. Maybe it really isn't arrogance when we talk about our leadership role in the world. Maybe we do have some kind of responsibility.

President Obama, of course, is getting criticism for not speaking out strongly enough or early enough. I suppose everyone has their own opinion about the perfect timing and tenor of such a message. But what can the United States really do in this situation? What does the world want from us? Do they want us to create more awareness around the world? Do they want us to covertly pressure the Assembly of Experts to remove the Ayatollah? Send troops in to stop the violence? What?

The world is obviously watching to see what will go down in Tehran in the coming days and weeks. Will the protests gain strength and momentum? Will the Ayatollah crush them with military force? Will they do a full recount? Even the so-called Iran experts don't have a good sense of where this is all leading. It looks like it could end up being a watershed moment for Iran.

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