Who killed the Green movement? This is hopefully a question we won’t ever have to answer, because its premise will be false. The Green Movement neither is killed, nor is it dead by any other cause. And hopefully, that is the way it will be in the future as well.
But as an ardent supporter of the Greens – I even campaigned for Moussavi last year while visiting Iran after college – I believe we in the West need to wake up before we accidentally kill this great movement.
There has been plenty of infighting within the Greens. Mohammad Sahimi, in an expose of the behind the scenes activities of some of the exiled Green activists, introduced the idea that there are different shades of Green. Much of it wasn’t new – such as the Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s checkered past or Mohsen Sazegara’s ties to the neo-conservatives. His revelation of the activities of Karim Sadjadpour, however, raised some eyebrows, however. Elsewhere, prominent green figures such as Akbar Ganji and Mohsen Kadivar have had their public spats.
I do not intend to add to this in-fighting. Though disagreements must be able to be aired, my essay here is not about attacking any individuals or to disagree with them. Rather, it is to point out that unless a more professional approach is adopted, activists in exile may help kill the Greens inside Iran. It is not about doubting anyone’s motives, but rather point out that we have to raise our game.
Take for instance Meir Javedanfar’s recent tour in Israel with the known charlatan Caspian Makan, the so-called fiancée of Neda. Javedanfar is an Israeli of Iranian background. He writes for the Guardian in England and has published a book on Ahmadinejad based solely on open-sources. (I would be as interested in an Iranian-written biography of Ariel Sharon based on open sources as I am of an Israel account of Ahmadinejad based on open sources).
But in spite of Javedanfar mediocre writings and analyses, there is few who doubt his genuine interest and affection for the Green movement. If mistakes occur, they are due to lack of experience and expertise, not malice.
But unfortunately, Javedanfar does commit a lot of mistakes. A few weeks back, he helped Caspian Makan tour Israel, including with a high-level visit with Shimon Peres. He acted as Makan’s translator and the trip was presented as the Green movement’s outreach to Israel for assistance. Of course, Makan is nothing but a charlatan – see Iason Athanasiadis’ excellent article on Makan – and needless to say, the right-wingers in Iran had a field day with this. A figure closely associated with the Greens visits Israel – the right-wingers couldn’t have wished for a better opportunity to discredit the Green movement.
Any Iran analyst could have told you how damaging this would be to the Greens. Yet, Javedanfar helped Makan in Israel and deemed it on his facebook as a “favor” to the Green movement.
Of course, this ended up being a favor to Ahmadinejad, not to the Greens. And Javedanfar should know better – though he is a pedestrian analyst, he should nevertheless have been smart enough to understand how Makan’s trip would hurt the Greens.
Bottom line is that the Greens in Iran have very small margins to work within. They will inevitably commit some mistakes – but we on the outside should not commit mistakes for them. And if Israel-Iranians genuinely want to support the Greens, they have to accept that Israel as an entity is inherently discrediting to the green movement. If it’s about helping the Greens – and not Israel – then any Israeli role must be kept at nil.
Karim Sadjadpour is another well-meaning, yet less than competent activist/analyst that must tread carefully not to hurt the Greens. His many statements claiming that the Greens favor sanctions (given incidentally to neo-conservative audiences in Washington DC), have done much to hurt the Greens. In the midst of the fighting in Iran this past summer, Sadjadpour gave a talk to a neo-conservative conference in Washington DC led by John Hannah – Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. There, Sadjadpour said that the Iranian opposition favors sanctions, but that it remains too risky for them to openly state this.
Hannah reveled this in an op-ed in the LA Times, fittingly called “Cripple Iran to save it.”
Again, the rightwing in Iran had a field day. Relying on Sadjadpour’s naiveté and inexperience, they cherished his quote that the Greens actually were seeking Dick Cheney’s help to “cripple Iran” and the Green leadership was forced to defend itself from the accusations of the Ahmadinejad crowd and the idiocy of Sadjadpour.
We need to up our game. We need some discipline. We Greens in exile need to get analysts and activists on the right talking points. If they are too inexperienced, they need to be put aside for now. Too much is at stake to permit novices to be in charge.
Everyone is permitted a mistake or two. But that is only true when the person committing the mistake pays the price for it. In this delicate situation, others pay for our mistakes. So we cannot be permitted to commit any.
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