From Nobel Peace laureate to Nobel Peace laureate.
Shirin Ebadi talked to the Washington Post, offering some advice to President Obama. Although it’s not a mistake to be engaging with the government, she said, “paying so much more attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions than to its trampling of democracy and freedom is a mistake both tactical and moral.”
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “is at the lowest level of popularity one can imagine,” Ms. Ebadi said. “If the West focuses exclusively on the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad can tell his people that the West is against Iran’s national interest and rally people to his cause. But if the West presses also on its human rights record, he will find himself in a position where his popular base is getting weaker and weaker by the day.”
To anyone familiar with internal Iranian politics, this should sound very familiar. For years, NIAC has told policymakers that the nuclear issue is the strongest card in Ahmadinejad’s hand, precisely because he can paint it as a black and white issue in which the world is trying to deprive Iran of its rights.
Human rights, on the other hand, has long been the government’s weakest pressure point. Now that Ahmadinejad faces an unprecedented legitimacy crisis, that vulnerability grows larger every single day.