The Iranian government uses torture, arbitrary detention, and excessive force to repress the freedom of speech, association, and religion of citizens. Iran's pursuit and development of weapons of mass destruction have aroused international concern. Iran continues to be the world's foremost state supporter of terrorism through its support of organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad. Elements of the Iranian government have helped members of al-Qaida and Ansar al-Islam travel through and find safe haven in Iran.
As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage points out, the people of Iran long for an end to repressive government. “The Iranian people,” he said, “are engaged in a rich and lively debate about the kind of society they want for themselves and for their children, including their desire for substantial economic and democratic reforms.” As Mr. Armitage said, Iran "is a country in the midst of a tremendous transformation.” The United States, he said, is working to encourage that desire for freedom, while at the same time working to counter the destructive policies of the Iranian government:
“Our policy is to try to eliminate the ability of Iran to carry forward with disruptive policies such as the development of W-M-D [weapons of mass destruction], such as the abandonment of human rights, such as repression against minorities, such as religious oppression against the Baha’is, and to try to get them to eschew [abandon] their state sponsorship of terrorism. And in this regard, our policy is to continue to support, openly and publicly, the aspirations of the people of Iran for transparency, anti-corruption, and democracy.”
The struggle continues between elements of Iran's society and leadership who want to keep the country mired in violence and corruption, and a popular movement that wants a more engaged and modern Iran to emerge. But the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was just awarded to an Iranian citizen, Shirin Ebadi, is a sign of the sweeping desire for change across Iranian society.
As Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said, "The Iranian people should know of our support for their aspirations, but also that the full rewards of that support will only be realized once their government ends its destructive. . .policies. We look forward to the day when the will of the people of Iran prevails.”