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Clinton: Greens told US to be silent.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week admitted that sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians and revealed that the Obama Administration didn't come out and vocally support the Green Movement in 2009 because the Green Movement asked it to remain silent.

Clinton last week gave back-to-back interviews to BBC Persian and the VOA in which she discussed Iran policy in more detail than she usually does with American interviewers.

In passing, she mentioned that the State Department would soon start what she called a "virtual embassy" on the Internet in Farsi and English to try to answer the kinds of questions usually answered by embassies, such as how to apply for visas.

The American media picked up that minor point in the interviews and flashed that around the world. The Islamic Republic has spent days responding and denouncing the whole idea of a "virtual embassy," treating it as some huge anti-Iranian initiative by the Americans, although it is nothing but a passive webpage.

The Islamic Union of Iranian Students even put out a statement that proclaimed it would occupy the "virtual embassy" just as students occupied the actual embassy 32 years ago this month. The statement didn't explain how they would accomplish that.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani was among the many who took time to ridicule the idea, saying, "Mrs. Clinton has confused diplomacy with a toy."


The official themes of the responses to the two interviews were to claim they showed American weakness and were conducted to distract Americans from the economic disaster facing them. That ignored the fact that the interviews were broadcast to Iran and not in the United States. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast said one goal of the interviews was to inflame Iranophobia in the West, again missing the point that hardly anyone outside Iran would ever see either interview.

The BBC Persian interviewer used questions sent in by Iranians after BBC Persian announced it would be interviewing Clinton. The BBC said it got more than 1,500 comments on its website, more than 1,000 emails plus assorted phone calls, voice messages and even videos.

As presented by the BBC, many of the queries were highly critical of US policy and based on regime propaganda. The first question asked how Clinton could call for more sanctions when they have caused planes to crash, jobs to be lost and prices to rise in Iran. The BBC interviewer said the station got more questions on sanctions than any other topic.

Clinton said, "I am aware that, from time to time, certain sanctions can be difficult for totally innocent people going about their daily lives. But I would ask you to put yourself in the position of the international community and those who seek a better future inside Iran. If you do not want to have a [military] conflict, if you do not want to just give way to behavior that is very reckless, ... sanctions is the tool that we have at out disposal to use. The whole goal is to change behavior. And anything that can be done within Iran to send a message to the regime that this is important,... we would welcome."

The BBC said another batch of questions asked why Washington didn't come out firmly behind the Green Movement in 2009. In the past, US officials said the Obama Administration was concerned that vocal backing from Washington would hurt the protesters and promote a harsher backlash.

But Clinton went much further last week. She said, "At the time, the most insistent voices we heard within the Green Movement and the supporters from outside of Iran were that we, the United States, had to be very careful not to look like what was happening inside Iran was directed by ... the United States.... So, we were torn. I will tell you it was a very tough time for us, because we wanted to be very full-hearted in favor of what was going on inside Iran--and we kept being cautioned that we would put people's lives in danger, we would discredit the movement, we would undermine their aspirations.

"I think if something were to happen again, it would be smart for the Green Movement ... to say, 'We want the voices of the world. We want the support of the world behind us.' That's what the Libyan opposition figures did, as you remember.... And I think that maybe in retrospect it was an unfortunate decision on the part of the leaders of the Green Movement."

The BBC also said it got many questions accusing the United States of double standards for such things as supporting the Bahraini government against its Shia majority and launching the coup of 1953 to restore the Shah. Clinton disagreed on Bahrain, saying, "We have consistently spoken out about Bahrain and we have pushed the government to do more." She did not mention that Saudi Arabia has been furious with the United States for doing so.

On the 1953 coup, she said, "We've expressed regret about what was done in 1953," a reference to the 1999 statement by her predecessor, Madeleine Albright. "We sometimes, in retrospect, look back and say, 'Could we have done that in a different way?' And so we have regretted what happened in 1953." It is easier for a Democratic Administration to say that because Democratic President Harry S Truman rejected the British proposal for a coup. It was his Republican successor, Dwight D, Eisenhower, who agreed to the coup plot.

Addressing generally the question of double standards, Clinton said, "I think I've lived long enough to say probably every country--every country--has hypocrisy because it's difficult to be always transparent about what you're doing and what you stand for. But I don't know any country that has been more transparent, more self-corrective, more willing to say, 'Maybe we shouldn't have done this.'"

Quotable notable

Hillary Clinton,

US secretary of state, responding to questions from Iranians about the United States using double standards:

"I think I've lived long enough to say probably every country--every country--has hypocrisy because it's difficult to be always transparent about what you're doing and what you stand for But I don't know any country that has been more transparent, more self-corrective, more willing to say, 'Maybe we shouldn't have done this.'"
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Author:Nelson, Warren L.
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Nov 4, 2011
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