In my previous post, I wondered whether the Obama administration would need to make a stronger statement about Iranian electoral fraud or consider other measures for dealing with the regime. The strongly anti-Ahmedinejad Hadi Ghaemi, New York-based spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, explains why that’s a mistake.

Robert Gibbs’ White House statement may not fully capture the depth of the crime committed against the Iranian people. "But I think it’s wise for the U.S. government to keep its distance," Ghaemi says. The White House can and should "show concern for human life and protesters’ safety and promote tolerance and dialogue." But to get any further involved, even rhetorically, would "instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the U.S., whether under Bush or under Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation" any chance to spread.

Ghaemi continues to say that the international community should present a united front that gives "no legitimacy" to the election. In particular, he wants U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to express "serious grievances" about how the election was conducted. "Sanctions and military threats, all these things are counterproductive," Ghaemi says. The initiative has to be expressed and promoted by the Iranians themselves, particularly from Mir Hossein Moussavi and other exponents of popular Iranian outrage. "It very much depends on what leading reformers, including Moussavi, ask them to do, and how much responsibility do they take for exposing them to danger. If they put their tails between their legs and walk away, it will be very sad." 

After years of being told in this country that no initiative for the expansion of global human rights will occur absent active U.S. support, Ghaemi’s advice can come across as passivity or indifference. But that reflects a certain arrogance, and occurs at the expense of the goal in question. "We should not have the U.S. lead," says Ghaemi. Instead, the Iranian people have to lead, and the international community, with the U.S. in a background and muted role, ought to refuse acceptance of the regime’s contentions, and not offer positive endorsements of the dissidents and the protesters. 

Update: Andrew passes along a Farsi report saying the head of the election-monitoring commission has ruled that the results should be declared invalid and a new election be held. An English translation is available from the National Iranian American Council’s new blog collecting and translating Farsi-language tweets, which I am obsessively refreshing. And don’t miss the excellent, excellent work that Laura Rozen is doing on Iran, a subject she knows extremely well.