UPDATE 4: One woman's testimony from Baharestan Square yesterday:
UPDATE 3: Posting corrections. If you were puzzled by the fact that several paragraphs jumped around in the main post, or that font mysteriously changed, I apologize. I'm not sure what happened with all of that, but it should be corrected now.
UPDATE 2: Neda Soltana's family has been forced to cancel her funeral and mourning displays, and have now been forced out of their home.
UPDATE 1: The invitation has (finally) been rescinded.
On June 3 of this year, the Institute for Science and International Security, (ISIS) published on its website Nuclear Iran published the following: 'The hottest ticket in many a capital city is an invitation to the U.S. embassy’s July 4 picnic. This year, as the NYT reported yesterday, the State Department has instructed all embassies and consulates that “they may invite representatives from the government of Iran” to their Independence Day celebrations. These are typically casual affairs featuring traditional American picnic food--burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and informal mingling. So long as the meat is halal, Iranian guests should feel right at home.' This was Real Politik at its best. Voice of America followed up with a report, as did the Telegraph, nicknaming it 'hot dog diplomacy.' 'Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman, said a cable went out to US diplomatic missions last week advising that Iranian diplomats "may be invited" to their July 4 receptions. "We review these types of invitations every year, and a decision was made this year to invite officials from Iran," Mr Wood said. "This is very much in line with our policy of trying to engage the Iranian government," he said.'
In a separate report, TimesOnline discussed the background of Saeed Mortazavi: 'Relatives of several detained protesters have confirmed that the interrogation of prisoners is now being headed by Saaed Mortazavi, a figure known in Iran as “the butcher of the press”. He gained notoriety for his role in the death of a Canadian-Iranian photographer who was tortured, beaten and raped during her detention in 2003. ... Mr Mortazavi has also led a crackdown in Tehran that has seen women arrested for wearing supposedly immodest clothing. Earlier this year he oversaw the arrest and trial of Roxana Saberi, the American-Iranian journalist sentenced to eight years for spying, and his name has appeared on the arrest warrants of prominent reformists rounded up since the unrest started, such as Saeed Hajarian, a close aide of Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former President. With more than 600 people now having been arrested, including dozens of journalists, many fear the worst.'
As well they should. According to the TimesOnline (and what I and others are hearing from Iranians) in an interview with a student in hiding, the student protestors are begging for moral and other assistance from the West. In particular, they long to know that America supports them and will put pressure on Iran. How far that pressure can or should go is something of an unknown right now. But it is shameful to the country that beckons the world to freedom and democracy that we are evidencing such reluctance to even modestly complain about the brutality of a regime which makes claims to leadership and democracy.
'"But what do they do about it in the West? Some of the politicians behave as if nothing special has happened. One says the nuclear negotiation is the priority and another one politely asks the masters to deal better with the people. And some apologists pretend to speak on behalf of the people of Iran and ask the Western governments not to get involved in the condemnation of killings, calling it “interference.” ... Every day I hear of friends being taken away. They vanish without trace. I have no knowledge of what they are going through, for they have cut off the phones in the prisons. I fear a huge bloodbath is on the way and the world better react now, as soon as possible, before it is too late. Experience has shown us that if you appease these demons they will become ever more outrageous but if you stand up to them firmly, they will draw back like cowards. The West must show a reaction to the human rights abuses that are taking place here; otherwise the people of Iran will lose all faith in the claims of the West that they truly respect human rights."'
This same kind of plea was evidenced in the question put to President Obama at yesterday's press conference by Nico Pitney from the Huffington Post. We now know that this was a planted question, and that there was a second planted questioner at the press conference. The HufPo question turned out to be so on target, and disquieting to the president however, that he may abandon this idea is the future.
'THE PRESIDENT: "Since we're on Iran, I know Nico Pitney is here from Huffington Post."
Q: "Thank you, Mr. President."
THE PRESIDENT: "Nico, I know that you, and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?"
Q: "Yes, I did, I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian. We solicited questions last night from people who are still courageous enough to be communicating online, and one of them wanted to ask you this: Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad? And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?"
THE PRESIDENT: "Well, look, we didn't have international observers on the ground. We can't say definitively what exactly happened at polling places throughout the country. What we know is that a sizeable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It's not an isolated instance -- a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election. And so ultimately the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States. And that's why I've been very clear: Ultimately, this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government. What we can do is to say unequivocally that there are sets of international norms and principles about violence, about dealing with peaceful dissent, that spans cultures, spans borders. And what we've been seeing over the Internet and what we've been seeing in news reports violates those norms and violates those principles. I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it."'
How wrong you are, Mr. President, how wrong you are. Once a government murders, disappears, violently oppresses, tortures, rapes and disenfranchises the majority of its own population, it's too late for them to take a peaceful path. Hot dog diplomacy is not going to cut it. Letting these invitations stand is a disgrace to this entire country, and to the brave Iranians who are suffering and dying while you are keeping your cool. You trample the very notion of fighting for that freedom by doing so. We don't have to 'meddle' or 'interfere' in Iran's internal politics to express our utter disgust and repulsion at what is happening. And dis-inviting diplomats to a picnic, who represent such an animalistic regime, isn't the same thing as refusing all diplomatic contact or engagment where our interests are at stake. But to not even acknowledge extreme displeasure with a regime, and to not use the weight of diplomatic displeasure (as Britain has done), is callous and a betrayal of those fighting for their liberty. This administration said it wanted to employ more 'soft power,' using diplomatic tools. Now that it has the opportunity to fully employ those tools, it refuses to do so. That is why cartoons, like the one at the head of this post are appearing on Iranian blogs and Facebook pages. That is why the question posed by Mr. Pitney was worded as it was. That is why the student interviewed by the TimesOnline said "Some of the politicians behave as if nothing has happened at all." Because the one man in the world, who above all others, must stand for freedom and liberty is standing for nothing.
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