WASHINGTON-- When President Obama strongly condemned the violence in Iran on Tuesday- cranking up his rhetoric, perhaps enough to satisfy critics who said earlier comments were too tentative- he also sent the message to Iran that the U.S. had nothing to do with the Internet-fueled uprisings in Tehran and the fate of the nation was in Iranians¹ hands.
Obama opened his fourth White House press conference by declaring Tuesday
afternoon he was "appalled and outraged" by the Iranian government crackdown
in the wake of a disputed June 12 presidential election.
He said he saw thevideo of the murder of "Neda," the 26-year-old gunned down, presumably by the Iranian government, and said, "It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking.
And I think that anybody who sees it knows that there's something
fundamentally unjust about that."
The president wanted to talk directly to Iran, calling on an editor from the
Huffington Post, Nico Pitney, knowing the Web outlet had been soliciting
questions online from Iranians.
The White House phoned Pitney Monday saying he might be called on and was physically pre-positioned in the crowded White House briefing room by a White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, so the president could find him when his name was called.
But the inside story of how the White House choreographed the Huffington
Post question is overwhelmed by the message Obama wanted to send out to the
Iranian youths on the streets of Tehran, who are witnessing their revolution
play out on the Web.
Even though the Iranian government has tried to curb cell phone videos and
still pictures, Twitter messages and e-mail exchanges, the social networking
tools of the Internet have helped organize demonstrations and send
information out to the world.
"Would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad?" Pitney asked.
"And if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't
that a betrayal of what the demonstrators there are working towards?²
Obama said what¹s important is for the Iranians ‹ not the U.S. ‹ to consider
the election legitimate.
"A sizeable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian
society, consider this election illegitimate. It's not an isolated instance
‹ a little grumbling here or there.
"There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election. And so ultimately the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States," Obama said.
Obama emphasized during his press conference he wants to keep the U.S. out
of the developing story, though of course the world is watching and waiting
for Obama¹s responses, especially if the violence continues.
That¹s a reason, I think, he did not come out forcefully on the side of the
protesters days ago. It¹s important to the Obama team to not be seen as
managing the outcome of this unexpected crisis.
Said Obama, "My role has been to say the United States is not going to be a
foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what's happening on the
streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House, that this is an issue
that is led by and given voice to the frustrations of the Iranian people."