As Iran's youth and reformists continue their compassionate protests on the streets of Tehran and other cities throughout the country, now is the time for the US and the international community to prove their solidarity with the Iranian people--not necessarily against the Islamic Republic, but against Ahmadinejad's alleged coup d'etat and his government's brutal response to the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who continue to protest the results of this election.
The Obama administration should refrain from commenting on Ahmadinejad's re-election and withhold from plans to engage with the Iranian government until the escalating conflict inside Iran is resolved. These are exceptional circumstances that should not be overlooked by the administration in its plans to reach out to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The international community as a whole should follow Germany's lead by expressing its concern over the government's post-election crackdown on demonstrators.
The situation in Iran is quickly becoming more and more explosive. Images reminiscent of the weeks leading up to the Islamic revolution generate a level of uncertainty and fear. Though it is difficult to confirm the number of deaths, there have been numerous eyewitness accounts and videos posted on the internet that show the government's brutal attacks against Mousavi's supporters. There have been several attacks on university dormitories across the country and hundreds of reformists have been arrested and beaten. Despite the government's latest ban on demonstrations, the unrest does not appear likely to quell any time soon.
While foreign journalists have been banned from covering the demonstrations, many of Iran's tech-savvy youth continue to overcome internet filtering to post their own videos and photos online for the world to see. According to an eye-witness account by foreign correspondent James Longley, he and his translator were stopped while reporting on the police reaction to the demonstrations in Tehran. They were taken to the Interior Ministry where his translator was dragged to the basement and ruthlessly harassed and beaten until Longley's persistence finally led to his release. Furthermore, their cameras--along with those of many other foreign correspondents caught filming the protests--were confiscated. Perhaps by cracking down on dissent, restricting the press, and essentially veiling the truth, the Iranian government hopes to prevent allegations of electoral fraud on an international scale.
In Iran, now is the time for change. Ahmadinejad's government, and arguably the Supreme Leader himself, have never appeared as vulnerable as they stand today. With the help of presidential contender Mehdi Karoubi, Mousavi--a man many believed to lack the charisma that the former reformist president Khatami had--has managed to mobilize the reformists and encourage them to continue their peaceful demonstrations. If Ahmadinejad's re-election is deemed legitimate by the US and the international community, the Iranian government will continue to violently suppress the reformists and their supporters; the effects would be detrimental to any hopes for democratization in Iran, and with that, any hopes for regional stability.