White House Wary of Embracing Mousavi's New Rhetoric on Iran Election
July 1, 2009 - 6:58 PMThe Obama administration once again passed on characterizing the Iranian elections as illegitimate, on the same day that Iranian opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for continued protests in the country and for the government to release political prisoners.
Mousavi said “blood was spilled and the youth were beaten” by government security forces after protests erupted in the Iranian streets by reformers who questioned the landslide victory by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – an election that was also questioned by much of the international community.
“A majority of the people — including me — do not accept its political legitimacy,” Mousavi said, adding, “There's a danger ahead. A ruling system which relied on people's trust for 30 years cannot replace this trust with security forces overnight.”
Asked if President Barack Obama accepted the legitimacy and would join the call to release political prisoners, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs referred to the president’s previous statements.
“Let me check and see,” said Gibbs. “Obviously, you’ve heard the president speak on a number of occasions, that the president strongly believes in the right for people to gather and protest without fear of reprisal. Obviously, there are a lot of questions that surround the most recent election.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, meanwhile, said the Basij — known as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's enforcers — sent the chief prosecutor a letter accusing Mousavi of taking part in nine offenses against the state, including “disturbing the nation’s security,” which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, the Associated Press reported.
Fars also reported Wednesday that a total of 1,032 people were detained during post-election unrest. It cited police Chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam as saying most had been released. The AP reported that the rest "have been sent to the public and revolutionary courts" in Tehran.
Obama has faced criticism in the United States for voicing less outrage about the matter than some other world leaders. The president has maintained that it would be inadvisable to give the impression that the United States is meddling in Iran’s political affairs.
However, last week during a news conference, Obama turned up his criticism of Iran, though he has not questioned the legitimacy of the election result, as have some leaders.
“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments [of protesters in Iran] of the last few days,” the president said at the White House news conference. “I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.”
“In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice,” said Obama.
Before Obama made those comments, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "These elections are an atrocity. If Ahmadinejad had made such progress since the last elections, if he won two-thirds of the vote, why such violence?"
Also, last week at the White House, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Iranian votes should be substantiated.
“I would like to underline that the Iranian people need to be given the right to peaceful demonstrations; that the Iranian people have the right to have votes be counted and the election results substantiated; that the rights of human beings, of individuals, of citizens are indivisible the world over, and also apply, therefore, to the Iranian people,” Merkel said standing next to Obama at a joint press conference.
Iran's regime says 17 protesters and eight Basiji were killed in two weeks of unrest that followed the election.