ZP Heller at HuffPo wonders:
The contrary argument, of course, is that if Obama or Congress speak out more aggressively, it will endanger the reformists in Iran and give ammunition to Khamenei and his allies.
Khamenei’s speech today pushed me to reexamine this line of thinking. He didn’t need an incendiary line from Obama to stir up anti-U.S. sentiments — he just made one up. “It was said on behalf of the U.S. President that he was waiting for a day that people came out to streets,” he claimed.
It seems my basic question is: Can Obama afford to be slightly more vocal on human rights concerns given that Khamenei’s government is willing to fabricate statements to advance his agenda?
As for the bottom-line question, maybe, if he can effectively distinguish between opposing violent suppression of peaceful protests and supporting one side in the internal leadership struggle. But insofar as the regime is clearly pushing the “protesters are CIA stooges” line pretty hard, presumably because they think it’s their most effective attack, I think it’s all to the good if those protesters can counter with: “You see, they’re so desperate they had to just make this up!” This gets harder the more the flow of information in Iran is restricted, but you’ve still got plenty of people who can say: “No, I saw the video myself; Obama called for respect for free speech, but said it was not for the United States to say who should represent Iranians.” Putting them in a position where they’re backed into statements that can be publicly demonstrated to be false helps undermine their argument against the protesters, and more broadly helps to weaken the credibility of the regime.