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From reactive to proactive on Iran

After two years of being mostly reactive to events in the Middle East, there are promising signs that the Obama administration is becoming more proactive.

Both Vice President Biden and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs Friday used the occasion of the revolution in Egypt to focus on the continuing (and now tightening) repression in Iran.

In a speech in Louisville, Ky., …Biden called the events in Egypt “a pivotal moment in history” and said it was time to let the people of Iran speak out freely.

“I say to our Iranian friends: Let your people march, let your people speak, release your people from jail, let them have a voice!” Biden said to loud applause of the University of Kentucky.

Later, speaking in his last news conference as White House press secretary, …Gibbs read from his briefing book to say the Iranian government is “quite frankly scared of the will of its people” in light of the call for democracy in Egypt.

“The Iranian government should allow the Iranian people to exercise the very same right of peaceful assembly and the ability to communicate their desires,” as was demonstrated over the last 18 days in Egypt, Gibbs said.

“This is a major shift,” said Michael Rubin, an expert on domestic politics in Iran and resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “Two things are happening: The administration is starting to be proactive rather than reactive, and the White House may have realized that moral clarity is the new realism. We are in a proxy war for influence with Iran whether we like it or not, and if this freedom wave hits Iran, it will only benefit the situation in the Middle East.”

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported:

A group of Tahrir Square protesters on Thursday called on the Iranian people to revolt against the Iranian Islamic dictatorship.

A group of leaders of Iran’s “Green Revolution” against the Islamic Revolution called for the organization of a demonstration in solidarity with the Egyptian protesters less than a week after comments were made by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling on the Egyptian army to intervene and overthrow the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

In a statement, the Egyptian protesters said, “O Great Egyptians, O sons of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which spread light throughout the world, outsiders are trying to steal your revolution.”

The statement went on to say, “Khamenei and his follower [the leader of Hezbollah] Hassan Nasrallah came out to drive a wedge in the nation’s fabric by talking about an Islamic revolution in an attempt to eliminate our Coptic brothers for our revolution.”

“The great Egyptian people understand these nefarious aims to spread chaos and discord throughout Egypt and its people who carried out the most magnificent and honorable revolution in history and we will not give such people the opportunity to hijack our revolution which will continue until we achieve complete democracy .”

And Wael Ghonim, one of the leading figures in the Egyptian uprising, said: “I would tell Iranians to learn from the Egyptians, as we have learned from you guys, that at the end of the day with the power of people, we can do whatever we want to do. If we unite our goals, if we believe, then all our dreams can come true.”

What the Iranian regime is trying to sell, the Egyptian people aren’t buying.

(Hat tip: Airforce Amazons.)

Update: See also this interview with a young Egyptian celebrating the ousting of Mubarak.

(Via For a democratic secular Iran.)