As Usual, John Kerry's Timing Is Awful

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on December 24, 2009


Consider this story:

Large-scale protests spread in central Iranian cities Wednesday, offering the starkest evidence yet that the opposition movement that emerged from the disputed June presidential election has expanded beyond its base of mostly young, educated Tehran residents to at least some segments of the country’s pious heartland.

Demonstrations took place in Esfahan, a provincial capital and Iran’s cultural center, and nearby Najafabad, the birthplace and hometown of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, whose death Saturday triggered the latest round of confrontations between the opposition movement and the government.

The central region is considered by some as the conservative power base of the hard-liners in power.

Iranian authorities are clearly alarmed by the spread of the protests. Mojtaba Zolnour, a mid-ranking cleric serving as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative to the elite and powerful Revolutionary Guard, acknowledged widespread unrest around the country.

“There were many [acts of] sedition after the Islamic Revolution,” he said, according to the website of the right-wing newspaper Resala. “But none of them spread the seeds of doubt and hesitation among various social layers as much as the recent one.”

Now, read all about how John Kerry wants to visit Iran. The objections to this plan ought to be obvious:

“We’ve eschewed high-level visits to Iran for the last 30 years. I think now — when the Iranian regime’s fate is less certain than ever — is not the best time to begin,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The wrong message would be sent to the Iranian people by such a high-level visit: The U.S. loves dictatorial regimes,” said Hossein Askari, a professor at George Washington University and former adviser to Iranian governments.

Sadjadpour is not exactly an axis-of-evil type, so his opposition to a Kerry visit is notable. And it is well-placed too; I am for talks with Iran, because I think that we can put a lot of issues on the table that will back the Islamic regime into a corner both amongst the Iranian people, and in the international community as a whole. But Kerry will be in no position to credibly undertake such talks, and his visit to Iran will strengthen the regime, not undermine it.

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