Iran presents a serious challenge to the United States and other democratic countries, says U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. In describing that challenge to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Burns drew a sharp distinction between the people of Iran and their clerical rulers:
"Our argument is not with the Iranian people, it is with the Iranian government. It is with that government's threatening and often very irresponsible behavior. And we have made clear repeatedly our concerns regarding the Iranian government's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and long-range [missile] delivery systems; we've made clear our concern about Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, including its direct support of Hezbollah and other Palestinian terrorist organizations; its direct opposition to the existence of the state of Israel."
Mr. Burns says the United States has also made clear its concern about Iran's "appalling human rights and democracy record."
"The regime's human rights record has been abysmal. The government continues to commit numerous, serious abuses, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, and other inhumane treatment":
Under Secretary of State Burns says that the regime in Iran has created a democratic veneer, behind which lies "a perverted process whose integrity is severely compromised by the oppressive oversight exercised by hard-line clerical bodies." One of those bodies, the Guardian Council, recently approved just six out of more than one thousand people who wanted to run as candidates in the country's presidential election, scheduled for June 17th.
While the council subsequently reinstated two reformist candidates, Iran's presidential contest cannot be called democratic. "There is every indication the June election will not result in a meaningful expression of the popular will, because the political process and the media are controlled and manipulated by an unelected few, the clerical elite, and their associates," Under Secretary of State Burns says.
The Iranian people, he says, "ought to have the same right to a democratic and free future that all people should have;" and the United States "supports those who wish to see Iran transformed from a rigid, intolerant theocracy to a modern state."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.