If the goal of a press conference is to produce a "big announcement" that makes news and warrants coverage--the usual reason one calls a press conference in the first place--then the Iran Supporters Network failed Friday evening at
A couple videos movingly capturing the struggle for freedom in Iran and abroad were shown before the lights came up and local politicians or representatives sent in their absence addressed the half-full council chambers and later took questions from the public and small media contingent, which was mostly culled from Iranian American television.
No big surprise: everyone was for the freedom seekers in the streets of
Actually, they are wrong according to only three-fifths of the Irvine City Council, according to the first speaker. Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom, who has announced her intention to graduate next year to the congressional seat currently occupied by Rep. John Campbell (
Like Krom, Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) and staffers for Campbell and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), said their peace before quickly exiting for previous engagements, although Richardson, who apparently had to catch a plane for an international flight the next morning, did at least stick around long enough for a half dozen questions from the audience first.
If there was an Iran Supporters Network press conference trouper award, it would go to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who not only said it was his honor to stick it out for the full night, but he allowed himself to be pulled away for a live TV interview. "What you are asking for is that
Among the injustices that had been highlighted in a video opener was Nokia-Siemens having set up for the Iranian government a call center that freedom fighters contend has allowed mobile phones to be tapped, SMS text messages to be scrambled and calls to be interrupted. Former detainees have also said Iranian government interrogators demanded answers about their cell-phone use. Propped up in his introduction as one of the country's leading advocates for human rights around the world, Royce said he has co-authored with his fellow senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) legislation that would give companies like Nokia a choice: "Continue to suppress freedom, and you can no longer do business in the United States."
That was the first statement of the night to draw loud, sustained applause.
It came again when Richardson, who vowed to support the Royce-Sherman bill, insisted that a congressional delegation travel to Iran to witness what is happening in the streets and press the Ahmadinejad government to stop oppressing its own people. Richardson invited Royce to come along for that, too, but the loudest audience eruption came when she indicated she would like to not only serve as a monitor of new Iranian elections, but she'd stick around to oversee the counting of votes as well.
She vowed to share what was happening at the press conference with her "friend," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then later lumped in President Barack Obama as being on her Irvine press conference message list. At one point Richardson accused the U.S. government of not doing enough to force the freedom issue in Iran--to more applause, naturally.
However, Richardson's Iran travel dreams produced the closest thing to an official split during an otherwise congenial, bipartisan gathering. Royce, later asked by an Iranian American television reporter to comment on the remarks of a by-then departed Richardson, said any such trips must be part of an international contingent, not a purely U.S. congressional one. He went so far as to say major moves such as this must come from Clinton working closely with the United Nations.
You read that right: A Republican congressman from Orange County advocating an international coalition, with a Clinton at the forefront, would be best to address the Iranian situation through diplomacy. It makes one wonder where Royce was when the George W. Bush-led GOP scoffed at diplomacy and international-coalition building in the start-up to the Iraq war.
Maybe ol' Ed is going soft on us; he also praised the recent trip to North Korea by Hil's husband, explaining that Laura Ling's mother is a close friend. And like an Obaman, Royce advocated doing everything possible to help those within Iran reform their government from within, with as little bloodshed as possible. It has happened elsewhere in the world thanks to open communication coming in and out of countries wracked by civil war, he said.
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"A regime that resorts to show trial and forced confessions is a weak regime," Royce said. "It had to be weak because it stole an election."
Others present on this Night of a Million Hits Against Ahmadinejad included: Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Santa Ana), Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee John Hanna, Anaheim Union School District trustee Jordan Brandman, Coast Community College Distrist trustees Jim Moreno and Lorraine Prinsky and clergy from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.