The latest student-led protests in Iran have taken on greater urgency. Leaders have been distributing CDs and leaflets regarding plans for upcoming demonstrations in the event that authorities cut Internet access. As late as Tuesday, however, reports and video clips of violence were relayed through Twitter and Internet postings.
In addition to anti-government chants, some protests attack Iran's theocracy-based political system. Protesters have burned and stomped on pictures of Ayatollah Khamenei as well Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Thus far, more than 200 people have been arrested. Authorities have promised tough action against opposition protesters, saying there will be no tolerance for people who work against national security. This is not an idle threat considering that five leading activists arrested in June during the largest protests in Iran since the 1979 revolution have been sentenced to death. About 80 others have been given prison sentences up to 15 years. The June demonstrations were waged to protest the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The latest demonstrations are a continuation of the June protests. One young female protester quoted by the Los Angeles Times said she was protesting because she wants change now. "I am fed up with the current situation."
So are many world leaders, who have become increasingly troubled by Iran's recent announcement of its plans for 10 new industrial-scale uranium enrichment plants. Iran insists the uranium is needed to fuel nuclear power plants. Critics say the nuclear material is being processed to develop nuclear weapons, which have the potential to further destabilize the Middle East.
Somehow, the efforts of student protesters need to be supported, if only with a public acknowledgement by President Barack Obama. The Iranian students, some of whom were educated in the United States, need global support. International news coverage of the protests and the reaction of Iranian authorities need to be broadcast and published worldwide.
The United States needs to walk a fine line in its support, however. The current protests were timed to mark the anniversary of three students killed during the 1953 anti-American protest during a visit by then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon's trip was followed by the overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and the re-establishment of the absolute rule of monarch Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi for the next 26 years. The United States' CIA was behind the coup d'etat at the request of and with the support of the British government over mutual concerns about the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.
It will be difficult to convince Iranians who have a long view of history that any overt American support is not yet again another CIA operation. It should be obvious to the world, particularly during the global economic downturn, that the United States cannot bankroll such a coup. But that does not preclude providing moral support through carefully crafted statements of encouragement for the brave actions of student protesters.