President Obama's Latest Remarks On Iran - Press Conference
President Barack Obama held a news conference today, Jun. 23, at 12:30 PM, EST at the White House to discuss topics ranging from Iran to the energy legislation moving through Congress, clean energy economy, and health care.
Before the Q & A session with the press corp, President Obama spoke at length about Iran to reiterate the fundamental fact that Iran is a sovereign nation. He stressed that, "It is up to the Iranian people and the authority to reach a peaceful and viable solution to address Iranian people's needs and demands."
The President along with the American public have witnessed the courageous actions of Iranian protesters in the face of brutal attacks and adversity. He expressed his outrage at the violence inflicted on the Iranian people by their government.
He emphatically rejected Iran's several attempts to cast blames on the United States for fomenting Iranian internal disputes. The President stated that the United States would not be the tool for the Iranian government and to be blamed for its domestic turmoil since Mr. M. Ahamdinejad was declared winner of their presidential election.
Some excerpts from the President's remarks from the full text, which is also available in Persian and Arabic.
"First, I'd like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran -- some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the election. These accusations are patently false. They're an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran's borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they -- and only they -- will choose."
President Obama concluded his remarks with reminders about specific universal human rights tenets that were stressed in his speech in Cairo.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. That's what Iran's own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.
Several White House reporters asked the President about his position toward Iran and about Iranian dissidents.
The President pointed out that "If the Iranian government seeks respect of international community, it must respect the rights and heed the will of its own people."
President Obama was visibly moved as he talked about the courage of Iranian dissidents, and in particular, the women. "We've seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we've experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death."
Since last week, television news and social media such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and the Internet have shown countless women in hijab and chador who joined the protests, while some defended those protesters from being attacked by the Basijis.
C-Span has the full press conference video here.
Although the White House does not become involved in the events in Iran on a 24/7 basis. Nevertheless, remarkably, the White House has also taken an unprecedented step by tweeting the President's message in Persian and Arabic and joined the Twitter fray by including the hastag #Iranelection.
The White House has released the complete transcript of the President's remarks translated to Persian and Arabic, here.
Among the Iranian American community across the nation, there is a definite split about the role of the United States. In Iran, however, words on the streets or rather among the top Twitter users, they do not want the United States or any other country to become involved in their domestic issue.
The protesters merely want to send their messages to their leadership while informing the world. Those Iranians who choose to comment on the role of the United States tend to be positive while appreciating the position of President Obama.
In the words of several Twitter users from Tehran, "President Obama is doing fine."
Mr. Gary Sick, author of two books on US-Iranian relations, supported President Obama's position.
Mr. Sick served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. He was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.
For the United States, the watchwords should be: Do no harm. The situation in Iran is being exploited for short-term domestic political purposes by those who have been looking for an opening to attack the Obama administration. Wouldn’t it feel good to give full-throated expression to American opposition to the existing power structure in Iran? Perhaps so—but it could also be a fatal blow to the demonstrators risking their lives on the streets of Tehran and it could scotch any chance of eventual negotiations with whatever government emerges from this trial by fire.
The crisis in Iran is an Iranian crisis and it can only be resolved by the Iranian people and their leaders. There is no need to conceal our belief in freedom of speech and assembly and our support for the resolution of political disputes without bloodshed. But we should not be stampeded by domestic political concerns into pretending that our intervention in this crisis could be anything but pernicious.
C-Span has the full press conference video here.