"The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future," Mr. Obama said in the administration's lengthiest comment to date on Iran. "Some in the Iranian government ... are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the US and others in the West of instigating protests over the elections," he said, calling this "patently false."
Prior to Obama's press conference, Paris-based Iran expert Clément Therme warned of Tehran's creative use of disinformation. "Iran is a special country in the Islamic world," offered Mr. Therme of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). "It uses the USA as a tool to justify its domestic problems. To take a position of distance ... as Obama is doing, pressures Iran's leadership. Why is the supreme leader focusing on Great Britain? Because Obama is not giving him anything to attack. It's a new policy, and it is working."
Some Western columnists have said beleaguered demonstrators would benefit from simply hearing that their cause was understood by a US president that many of them say they admire. Obama's tone today was seen as tougher. He said he was "appalled" by the treatment of protesters, and described the death of Neda Agha-Soltan as "heartbreaking." Ms. Soltan was the young Iranian woman whose death in Tehran was captured on video and seen worldwide.
US too timid?
On Sunday, GOP leaders including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina charged Obama with "timidity" in the face of a new generation of Iranians that voted against the hard-line mullahs. "The president of the US is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it," Senator Graham said.