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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Defiant Protestors Explode With Rage in Iran; Obama Calls on Iran's Leaders to Stop the Violence Against Iranians.
Aired June 20, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN GUEST HOST: Tonight, breaking news. The turmoil in Iran takes a deadly turn as tear gas, clubs and water cannons are used against defiant protesters exploding with rage. Some of the images even carried on Iranian state TV. Many more have made it out of the country and onto the worldwide television screens.
And America's president calls on Iran's leaders to stop the violence against their own people.
We'll have the very latest next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
(on camera): Good evening. I'm Christiane Amanpour, sitting in for Larry King tonight.
There is chaos and death and that marked a large protest in Iran today. And there are reports of violence ongoing even at this hour.
Let's get the very latest in this update from ITN Channel 4 News' Lindsay Hilsom who's just returned from Iran.
LINDSAY HILSOM, ITN CHANNEL R NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Riot police lined up from early morning. Paramilitarists had also been deployed. The city's main squares were heavily guarded. The penalty for taking photographs like this would be severe.
State television showed the police beating some protesters. Others were arrested. The government wants to play down the scale, but make sure everyone knows the cost of protests.
Mobile phone footage shows burning and what sounds like shooting. We've received video too distressing to broadcast, which shows a young woman dying. We can't verify what happened. But reports suggest she was watching the protests when Basij Militia allegedly shot her.
The protesters threw stones at the Basij and at the riot police, who responded with tear gas. When forced to disperse, protesters ran and regrouped. The question now is will they brave the police day after day.
While skirmishes continued on the streets, the defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, addressed a crowd in south Tehran saying, "we've learned from our fathers that the blood of the innocent will drown the oppressors." He says that if he's arrested, his followers should call a general strike, and he's ready for martyrdom. (END VIDEOTAPE)
AMANPOUR: Lindsay joins me here in our London studio, and Roger Cohen, columnist for the "New York Times" is on the phone from Tehran.
Let me ask you first, Lindsay, you had to leave because, like many reporters, visas expired. How difficult is it for you to have been able to work under the restrictions which were imposed in Iran over the last couple of days?
HILSOM: Well, as of Tuesday, we were told that our visas would continue until their date was up but our press accreditation was being withdrawn. We were told in no uncertain terms that we should not go to demonstrations.
Now I did go to demonstrations to have a look but we did not film because their cameramen were being arrested the whole time. And also there was a danger of being beaten ourselves. So it was extremely difficult. We were just able to get information as we could by ringing people when the phones were still working, which they weren't all the time, and just going to demonstrations and glimpsing what we could.
AMANPOUR: Roger, in Tehran, what did you see today? You know, a lot of the story we've seen coming out on images that have come through social networks, but what did you see today?
ROGER COHEN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I saw thousands of protesters, supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi in the streets around Revolution Street in central Iran. There were continuous clashes with the police who were using batons, sticks, water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse people. The crowds were eddying back and forth. A great deal of violence. Did not myself hear any shots fired. Although, I did, as night fell, hear some gunfire.
This was very different from demonstrations, say, last Monday when there were two to three million people perhaps in the street, and people wearing the color of the Mousavi campaign, and marched silently through the street. After the extreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had raised the stakes, used his supreme authority to in effect say, if you take to the street, are you now confronting the Islamic Republic itself. Clearly, it was a much greater challenge to supporters of Mousavi to go out. but thousands, I would say tens of thousands, did.
AMANPOUR: You said tens of thousands. That sounds like a very large number and would really be a line of "defiance" against Ayatollah Khamenei. You said on the program last night to Larry that things were tense and it looked like a high noon looming there. I mean, is that what you witnessed today and do you think there's any going back?
COHEN: Well, it was extraordinary "defiance" from the people on the street. The forces arrayed against them were enormous. There were militia of various kinds, police, and the tension continues to rise. Last night, as I said, there was gunfire in the distance. Tehran today is an extremely tense city. And it's very hard to say how this is going to evolve. Clearly, as each day goes by, the tension gets greater and the confrontation more severe.
Lindsay, you basically said a couple of days ago, I went to sleep in one country and woke up in another in this pre-election and post- election drama. It's -- nobody expected this to happen.
HILSOM: Nobody expected this had to happen. And I think the person who expected it least of all is Mir Hossein Mousavi, who now finds himself almost al accidental leader of this protest. Because the reason he was allowed to run -- there were four candidates allowed to run for president -- was that none of them were seen as a danger to the state. And the supreme leader said this at Friday prayers that all of these men who ran for president were part of the revolution.
Now, there were people on the streets today shouting death to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, death to the supreme leader. That's a direct challenge to the Islamic Republic to the revolution, to the supreme leader.
And Mir Hossein Mousavi, a man in his early 70s, he used to be prime minister back in the old days in the '80s. He now finds himself the leader, but in fact, the protesters are the leader. They're leading him. And he said today that if necessary, he would achieve martyrdom. That's an extraordinary statement from him.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask Roger, a lot has been attributed to Mir Hossein Khamenei today, statements like Lindsay just said, and others. Was he seen or heard from today?
COHEN: He was not seen by me. He is said to have addressed a crowd in south Tehran. I don't know exactly where that took place. And as I said, I did not myself see him. I did hear his name, of course, being chanted.
And as I said, the "defiance" is pretty extraordinary. As night fell, these cries of Allah, God is great, rose across Tehran, I would say with greater vehemence than in any recent day. And nobody on either side at this point is standing down.
As I was making my way through the streets, protesters fell into me, racing backward from tear gas. We tumbled into people's homes. Everybody in those apartment buildings seemed determined, even if they weren't themselves out on the streets, determined to help those who were in distress. And there seems to me to be a great deal of solidarity through much of Tehran with the protesters. That's sometimes expressed by honking horns, sometimes expressed by people flashing the "V" for victory sign that has become the symbol of the Mousavi campaign.
In all kinds of ways, people are communicating their solidarity with the protesters even, if the number of those protesters, of course, has declined. People are risking their lives if they go out. They are very seriously putting their lives on the line.
AMANPOUR: So what did you notice in terms of pushing back the protesters? What methods? We've heard tear gas canisters, maybe some smoke grenades, water cannons. And particularly, what did you notice from the police? Because there have been many instances where police just don't want to confront their own people.
COHEN: Well, the most extraordinary incident I witnessed was at about 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon. I was in an alley off Revolution Street and this small unit of police stepped forward, perhaps a dozen of them. The commander was at the front. They'd all raised their hands, and the commander was shouting at the protesters, one of whom threw a stone, a rock at him. And what he was saying was, "I have a family. I have children. I have a wife, and I don't want to beat you. So please, please, please go home." He did not want to confront people. I saw other police units just standing around, some police chatting.
The most violent people out on the street are the elite Black Cloud riot police, the police unit I just described, dressed in green, and the plain-clothes Basij. I saw them repeatedly beating protesters, including women, with sticks, with truncheons. I saw women staggering off the main street clutching their faces. I saw a young man who had been hit with what he said was a baton with an electricity shock, carrying an electricity shock. And he was collapsed on the floor being massaged on his leg by a friend. So, that was the main method being used against the protesters. Large fallanks (ph) of police coming forward and beating people.
I also saw units retreating before the rock and stone-throwing crowds. This was eddying back and forth. It wasn't one-way traffic. And my own feeling was that the police in general, to some degree, at least some units of them, were wavering.
AMANPOUR: Roger, thank you.
And Lindsay here in the studio, thank you.
That is what everybody's going to keep their eye on. Much of what we know about the situation in Iran is coming from those social networking sites. We'll talk about that when "LARRY KING LIVE" returns.
AMANPOUR: When we were there and able to report, we were able to bring you the credible and verifiable news of what was going on in Iran. And now, with the increasing restrictions on international journalists, a lot of what we know from inside is coming from the social networking sites.
And CNN Correspondent Ivan Watson, who has reported from Iran numerous times, has been manning our Iran desk in Atlanta to try to tell us there how people are getting the word out.
Ivan, what have you been monitoring all day?
IVAN WATSON, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We've been watching all the web sites. We've been watching Iranian state TV as well, Christiane. I can run you through some of the video that we've pulled out on this day of turmoil and violence in Tehran.
First, a piece of YouTube video that came out, a long section of video. Let's take a look at that right now. First, to see these demonstrators in streets and let's listen to the gunshots here.
WATSON: And you hear the crowd there chanting, "Death to the dictator." That's a real defiant statement against the Islamic regime. And this video goes on to show, Christiane, the crowd gathering -- confronting security forces in the distance. And then what we see is a wounded man being carried out from the melee. You can see him on the ground here. We've seen a number of images like this throughout the course of the day coming over these social networking sites. And then the crowd yelling, some of the people in the background yelling, "They are killing our brothers." Very disturbing images, just to give you a sense of the turmoil in the streets today.
I want to bring you to another piece of video that we saw from Facebook. Now, this is from a different location, a different city, Shiraz. This is outside Shiraz University. And here you see police beating these women dressed in black shador. And take a listen to the man yelling in the background for a minute here, Christiane.
WATSON: He's yelling, "You bastards. Don't hit her. Don't hit the old woman." Those images coming from Shiraz, a city outside of the Iranian capital. And we had reports of unrest in the city of Isfahan and in the northwest province of Azerbaijan as well.
And take a look at this. This coming from Iranian state TV, a woman trying to protect what appears to be a pro-government militia man. A pro-government militia man has been knocked off his motorcycle by the crowd, which are just running in to beat this man.
We have seen other images like this over the course of the past week. These are just some of the images that we've seen over the course of the day today coming from Iran over the social networking sites and even from Iranian state TV, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Ivan, I mean, you and I know that this is one of the most frustrating things to have to rely on other people's videos, their pictures, their words and not be able to verify it. And there certainly has been a lot that's been attributed to Mir Hossein Mousavi on Facebook sites and other web sites. How are we able to be sure that some of the things attributed to him are true? Can you give us any insight into that?
WATSON: We can't. We haven't been able to confirm that. We haven't been able to get through to his aides the way we have been able to in the past. Our reporting team on the ground, their hands are tied right now, Christiane. They've been given the order from the Iranian authorities today not to do any reporting without prior permission. As a result, we can't do the normal work that we would do, especially when a country as important and as big as this is facing such a historic series of events. It's incredibly frustrating.
I know that you and I would trade places in a heartbeat, leave the safety of the studio to try to be there on the ground, but the fact is, the Iranian regime does not want journalists like us in there. They've been sending journalists out, revoking their visas.
I haven't been able to go back in since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected. I've made at least eight applications to get in there. So we're trying to get information.
I talked to an Iranian-American friend in New York today. He's convinced, according to these social networking sites, that Mir Hossein Mousavi addressed the crowd. That gives you a sense of how this information is spreading out and disseminating. We still can't confirm it, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Ivan, what is state television been showing because you'd think they wouldn't show any of this and yet they have. I've seen some pictures on there. What's the extent that they've shown?
WATSON: They have shown the Basiji and the police detaining protesters, clubbing them even. And then another very important point, an event that seems to have taken place today. This explosion -- what has been described in the state media as a suicide bomb at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This is a huge deal in a country like Iran, with reports of injuries and deaths, as well. A huge deal, as you well know. Is he revered as a saint in that country? And Iranian state TV showed images of that as well. Of course, our reporters couldn't go to the scene.
AMANPOUR: Ivan, thank you very much.
President Obama weighed in today on the violence in Iran. We'll have his remarks in 60 seconds from now.
AMANPOUR: President Obama has measured his words very carefully when it comes to the crisis in Iran. Here's a look at how his position has evolved beginning with the campaign. Take a look.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We should not just talk to our friends. We should be willing to engage our enemies as well. That's what diplomacy is all about. (APPLAUSE).
We should take an approach with Iran that employs all of the resource at the United States' disposal and that includes diplomacy.
The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we've seen on the television over the last few days. And what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation.
It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.
How they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and is not.
AMANPOUR: The White House released a statement on Iran from President Obama earlier today. The statement says in part, that "The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected. And the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights."
We'll have more on the crisis in Iran after this.
AMANPOUR: You're watching "LARRY KING LIVE." I'm Christiane Amanpour.
We asked the Obama administration and the Iranian government to take part in tonight's program. Those invitations were declined.
But joining us in London is Jamie Ruben, who served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs during the Clinton administration.
And also joining us in Washington is Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California. He's with us, and he's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On Friday, he voted in favor of a House resolution which expresses support for the Iranian protesters and condemns the Iranian government's crackdown.
Quick disclaimer, that Mr. Ruben is also my husband.
Let me ask you this since you were in the Clinton administration, which before President Obama, had the most direct reach-out to Iran back in 2000. How do you think President Obama is dealing with this right now? Is it wise, his method right now?
JAMIE RUBEN, FORMER CLINTON ADMIN. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, so far, I think he's handle it had about right. You have to remember that, on the subject of Iran, the U.S. government is at a disadvantage compared to its western allies. All of whom who have embassies there, diplomats who served there in and out, can get a feel for a place on the ground. And as we've seen today and as we've seen all week, this is a place where getting a feel for the politics of Iran -- there is no substitute for that.
And we have other capabilities. We have intelligence capabilities. Perhaps the U.S. government would know precisely or more or less how many people are on the ground today during these demonstrations. But when it comes to the politics of Iran, there's a real disadvantage. That was true back in the Clinton administration. It's been worried by the Bush administration. Now they've brought in some new people in the Obama administration. That's a help, but it's very, very hard when you really don't have the normal workings of government at your advantage of capabilities, technology and knowledge.
AMANPOUR: Congressman Royce, you supported that resolution. And you've seen the measured tones of President Obama. Given what he said, which is the history of U.S. meddling in Iran, and that it's wise not to do that right now, would you not agree with that?
REP. ED ROYCE, (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think our concern with the comment that the president made, and had he some criticism from the press for what he told "The New York Times," the comment he made that there would be very little difference from the standpoint of either the election of Ahmadinejad or his opponent in terms of U.S. national security. That was perceived as undercutting the opposition in Iran. And I think that's -- that was ill advised and the president was criticized for that.
I think that the reason he's been reticent is because of his desire to engage the regime in Iran. But I think, at this point in time, it's necessary to take a stronger position. And that is what the House of Representatives did. And we did it specifically because, at this point, it's clear that the people in Iran are seeking international support. It's also clear we need to do more right now in terms of Internet and public diplomacy, broadcasting to get information into Iran because the Iran state media is attempting to shut off all forms of information in the country.
So the United States needs to be decisive now as Reagan was in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in broadcasting in to the country and allowing surrogate television and surrogate information.
AMANPOUR: Is this Eastern Europe, 1980?
RUBIN: I think one of the mistakes that the last administration made was to think that Iraq was Rumania, that Saddam Hussein was Ceausescu, that if he just fell, democracy would sweep in. We fought a long war for six long years, going still in Iraq, because people misunderstood the differences between the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
And I think there is some good news for the United States here. The good news is that just 18 months ago, people thought Iran was on the ascendency in Lebanon, in Iraq, in terms of Ahmadinejad traveling around the region getting support and applause. Now we have a new president in the White House, Barack Obama. He's the one getting the applause around the world. He's the one bringing the United States the advantages and the pluses of public diplomacy. While I think after today's events and all the events of the last week, Ahmadinejad is not going to get the reception that he's got innocent past.
AMANPOUR: Congressman Royce talked about President Obama's desire to have ties with Iran and that may cause some reticence. Is it possible under these circumstances to pursue ties, diplomatic ties with Iran?
RUBIN: Well, let me say the congressman speculated as to what was behind President Obama's statements. And I don't know the answer to why President Obama made that statement about Mousavi and Ahmadinejad having the same -- I think his aides have recollected it since and made clear that obviously they have both said Iran should be able to enrich its uranium and have nuclear energy. But not necessarily I think since that time suggested that the overall foreign policy effect would be different. So I don't know the answer to that.
As far as engagement with Iran is concerned, look, it's going to be a lot harder. The argument for engagement was a national security argument. It's going to be a lot harder to make because of what we've seen today.
CHRISTIANE ARMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Congressman Royce, that argument for engagement, being a national security argument, would you agree with that if you hadn't seen any of this -- what was going on?
REP. ED ROYCE (R) CALIFORNIA: Well, the point that I think could be made, if we did contrast this with our attempts in the past to affect situations and totalitarian governments, was that Reagan certainly was engaged with Eastern Europe, was engaged with the former Soviet Union, but at the same time, we attempted to speak out forcefully.
He spoke out forcefully as president, and we attempted to broadcast information into the country, into the society, and, in this particular case, I think there is a very real need for us to ramp up, a, the criticism, point out the obvious, make it clear to the students and the women and the -- those who are having their rights violated as we watch it -- that we are in their corner.
The United States is a democratic country and has always stood for individual liberty, and I think it is very, very important that the international community right now be forcefully speaking out. And that is the reason the House of Representatives took this position, and that is the reason that I am advocating, more in the way of Internet, more in the way of broadcasting into the country around the clock to get information to offset state-run radio and television.
Very, very important right now that we reach the average Iranian and that Persians learn about what the Basaji (ph) Youth - they are behaving like Hitler Youth, pulling students out of university and beating them, beating them virtually to death, and it is very, very important that this information be understood by every Iranian so they get a true picture.
AMANPOUR: Congressman, we will be back with you and Jamie when we come back, also two guests who know Iran and its people well. You are watching LARRY KING LIVE.
AMANPOUR: We are joined now by journalist Robin Wright in Washington. She has traveled to Iran almost every year since 1979, the revolution there, and she has interviewed President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I think, back when he was president of Iran. Her latest book is "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East."
And from Dubai joining us is Jim Sciutto, the senior foreign correspondent for ABC News. Jim was in Iran, like all of us, until Wednesday covering the elections and their aftermath, and he is the author of "Against Us: The New Face of America's Enemies in the Muslim World."
Jim, let me go to you first in Dubai there. You left, I guess, when your visa, your work permit expired, and you were doing quite a lot of social networking, weren't you? What happened with your site out there?
JIM SCIUTTO, SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Well, particularly on Twitter, both in terms of getting the news out from there just a great tool, but also learning what was going on in and around Tehran and other cities in the country.
And what happened earlier in the week was that someone, a pro- government Twitter page, in effect hijacked my Twitter page, "re- Tweeting" things, saying that I said, that when in fact I didn't say them, things like "MoussaviMoussaviMousavi is giving up," or that the protests are over, they're useless - real propaganda, obvious propaganda, and I didn't know that it was happening because the page changes so quickly, as you know -- so many updates -- but a few of my followers on the page noticed this and said this doesn't sound like what would come out of Jim's Twitter page.
So we looked at it, and it was one of the users - his name was "Persian Guy" -- and he turned out to be on a list of users who were acting like opposition Twitter pages when in fact they were pro- government, possibly tied to the government.
So I was hijacked for a moment, but we found them out.
AMANPOUR: Let me turn to Robin Wright in Washington. Robin, you have covered Iran and know it extensively. We all know that there was a red line -- no matter how much people wanted to protest or complain about the government or whatever, that the Ayatollah Khamenei was untouchable. And yet now we see defiance in the streets, direct defiance against him and even people calling out against him.
Is this the point of no return, or how do you see it now?
ROBIN WRIGHT, JOURNALIST: Oh, the Supreme Leader is now fighting for his political life. This is a crisis that is no longer centered just on who the next president in Iran will be. It is about the system of government, and whether God's law or man's law is supreme -- and "God's law" being represented by the Supreme Leader, who has ultimate veto power.
He is the infallible political pope, and by putting his name, his reputation, his powers on the line, he now becomes the focus -- and we've seen the evolution of the chants today where it is no longer about Pro Mousavi. It is increasingly about "Death to the dictator," "Death to Khamenei," challenges to the Supreme Leader. AMANPOUR: So, you have been there a lot. You have analyzed it, you have felt it. What does your gut tell you about where this is going in the next day, weeks?
WRIGHT: I think the first week we saw the political confrontation. Today it became a physical confrontation. And this is going to polarize Iranians much more deeply. They are going to be angry about the way brutality has been used, and for those of us who covered the revolution, many of the things that happened today mirror the early stages of the revolution.
Now, this is not a counter-revolution. We have to remember that they are not calling for an end of the Islamic Republic. They're actually trying to put in power one of the original revolutionaries. But it is about something that is much broader, and I think that it will be very hard -- change has begun to happen. It is only a question now of how long it takes.
We may see the New Right prevail. We may see Ahmadinejad manage to hold on for a second term. We may even see four very tough years as the theocracy becomes a "thugocracy," but it is clear that the Iranian will has been publicized by every media outlet in the world, and we now know what Iranians really want.
AMANPOUR: So, Jim, for the final question this segment, what -- do you agree we have now seen what Iranians really want and this is going to be impossible to put back into the bottle?
SCIUTTO: Well, I think what we are seeing on the streets is really a reflection of a deep division in the upper political classes. You have the Rafsanjani-Mousavi camp against the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad camp.
I was interviewing Mehdi Karroubi, one of the presidential candidates, earlier in the week, and the way he put it is that on their side, they are the people who want to keep the republic in the Islamic Republic, keep democracy as part of this government -- and that's what you are seeing expressed on the streets.
I think that there are people on the other side. There are certainly still people in Iran who believe in Ahmadinejad. I met them while I was there in this last week, and they feel equally fervent. You see them in the streets, certainly on Tuesday, other times when there were pro-Ahmadinejad protests.
So you have your people who think that way. So there is a real division, and I think that is what you are seeing expressed in the streets right now.
AMANPOUR: We are going to talk about that point, the pro-Ahmadinejad folk and more, when we are back with our guests right after this.
AMANPOUR: We are back with our guests, Representative Ed Royce in Washington and also Robin Wright, author and journalist, in Washington, D.C. In Dubai, Jim Schiutto, the senior foreign correspondent for ABC News just out of Iran, and here in London, Jamie Rubin, former assistant secretary of state under the Clinton Administration.
Representative Royce, what would happen if President Obama got muddled up in all of this as you are suggesting? Wouldn't it just simply make it much more untenable for the United States and for the administration to conduct its foreign policy?
ROYCE: Well, I think that is the position that the president is advancing -- that because he wants to be a broker with Ahmadinejad on the nuclear weapons issue, that hence his reticence on speaking out about this issue. The point I would make - it's - it's...
AMANPOUR: But isn't that the most important issue that America is concerned about?...
ROYCE: ... But he is very...
AMANPOUR: ... It's only about the nuclear issue?
ROYCE: But I don't think anyone really believes that Ahmadinejad is going to cut a deal with the president and give up developing his nuclear weapons. So, in a way, I think we are off on a subject which is no longer germane.
I think that the issue at hand is really the human rights issue. It was, in some ways -- you know, if we remember President Carter speaking out about human rights and opposing the shah and calling -- basically pushing for the removal of the shah, you contrast now that with the president's position, you know, where he has been very reticent to move forward. That was an oddity, I think. But I think the bottom line...
AMANPOUR: But let me ask you --
ROYCE: ... the international community clearly now is coming together and speaking out, and one of the things the Iranian people have been asking for is for support worldwide from the international community. I think that is now forthcoming. The president was forthcoming today.
AMANPOUR: Robin, Representative Royce reminds us of what happened under Jimmy Carter's rule, which in fact ushered in the Islamic Republic. There is obviously a dilemma, and that is standing up for human rights and people's freedom fights and trying not to meddle in other governments' internal affairs.
From the best of your knowledge, what are Iranians saying about that?
WRIGHT: I think the Iranians have sent the United States many messages over the years, as you know better than anyone -- that because of our intervention in 1953 in ousting a democratically elected government and putting the shah back on the throne, there is deep suspicion about what American intentions are. And I think the president has taken a very wise stand, very cautious, letting it play out at home and not allowing what is a domestic crisis to become redefined as one between the United States and the Islamic Republic, which would be, I think, very dangerous and would make those taking -- putting their lives on the line in the streets even more vulnerable because then the regime can pick them up and charge them with being agents or spies or whatever of the United States.
AMANPOUR: Jamie, what would be the consequence? Again, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state, was the first to acknowledge and practically apologize -- but not quite -- for the '53 coup that got rid of the elected or referendumed Mosaddeq (ph) prime minister.
What would be the consequence for the U.S. today if the president followed Congressman Royce's advice?
RUBIN: Well, I think, number one, the congressman has made a judgment that there is nothing to negotiate with Iran. There is no engagement that can serve any purpose.
I think the president has made a different judgment, and it is a judgment that he made very clear to the American people before the election -- that he was going to pursue the nuclear engagement with Iran, and he was elected on that basis when that was a big issue. So I think the public has given him the benefit...
AMANPOUR: But isn't it more difficult now with this contested election?
RUBIN: ... of the doubt.
It is absolutely more difficult. But I think, secondly, one standard we used to have was "Don't be holier than the pope," whether it is Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or dissidents in Eastern Europe.
The Iranian people who are leading these demonstrations are not calling for the United States to do more, and today President Obama stated very clearly that human rights must be respected and the world is watching.
But I think this idea that the Iranian leaders of the revolution, or whatever it is going to be there, the opposition, are calling for the president to engage the way they were in those other cases that the congressman mentioned just isn't true. We need to learn to look at specific countries with their own context and not have a uniform solution to every problem. Iraq taught us that.
AMANPOUR: Unfortunately, we are running out of time. I just want to quickly ask Jim Schiutto, what impression did you get of the Iranians during the election in terms of what they were looking for from the U.S., if anything?
SCHIUTTO: Well, I think this is an important point.
Opposition groups - I have been talking to them for a number of years - they are very sensitive to explicit expressions of American support because they know that that makes it very easy for the Iranian government to portray them as tools of Western powers, and that is a line that the Iranian government has been pursuing this week, trying to portray these protests as being influenced from outside, being influenced by the Western media. So it is something that we have to be very conscious of, and certainly this week a number of opposition leaders have told me the same thing. They are still concerned about that association.
AMANPOUR: Congressman, Robin, Jim and Jamie, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
And next, the Iranian ex-pat community -- their point of view after the break.
AMANPOUR: According to the most recent census data, the United States is home to some 414,000 Iranians - and joining us are some of them.
Rudi Bakhtiar is the director of public relations for the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans.
Azita Shirazi is the Iranian-born host of "Until We Meet Again," which airs in the United States and internationally on the Iranian Television Network, and Hossein Hedjazi is the Iranian-born host of "Golgash,"(ph) a political news show which is on Pars Television.
Mr. Hedjazi, how are you reporting this to the world? Clearly you come from, along with all our guests there, the Iranian exile community, which has its own political view about the Islamic Republic. How are you reporting, or what is the kind of viewer feedback that you are getting?
HOSSEIN HEDJAZI, PARS TV HOST: Well, what I am reporting on, I have been trying to report it when I was on the radio, but now that I'm in this TV station, to just inform the people about the real happenings and whatever we see and we have confirmed that they are coming through very reliable resources.
And right now what we see is something that all the world are seeing, and what is concerning me too much is this division that has been created between our people here and in Iran. That is a big concern to us, and we are trying to unify the people and show them that --
AMANPOUR: What do you mean, "division"?
HEDJAZI: Division as far as the, you know, making the people group of monarchist group, of communist group, all kind of ideological issues that have made a big division between us.
And as far as I have been witnessing in Iran, the division between the people, as far as they are Shiites or Sunnis and also Bahajis (ph), Zoroastrians, all those religious people who -- this government, and this regime has been so --
AZITA SHIRAZI, IRANIAN-BORN TV HOST : Yes, dear? AMANPOUR: Sorry to interrupt. Azita, how difficult is it to get reliable information out of Tehran? What sort of resources are you trying to plumb?
SHIRAZI: Well, of course, we are trying to get from Reuters and other big news agencies, but at the same time, the way that it is going - and, as you know, they don't let the right news come out of the country -- we try to rely on whatever we can get from inside the country via e-mail, via telephone, cell phone, however they can give us information.
I guess that's the only way we can have the same thing that you guys are doing at the moment.
AMANPOUR: And, Rudi, who also used to work for CNN some years ago, what is it that you are looking to and the community is looking to in the United States from the administration?
RUDI BAKHTIAR, PUBLIC AFFAIRS ALLIANCE OF IRANIAN AMERICANS: Well, Christiane, obviously, the community is horrified at the pictures that are coming out from inside of Iran.
Yesterday we heard the Ayatollah Khamenei say that if anybody goes to the streets, there will be blood. He has delivered on that promise, and we are getting images that are just heartbreaking of our youth, 22, 23-year-olds who are going out to protest peacefully, being shot at, being stabbed randomly. The tear gas is just a minor thing compared to everything else that we are seeing.
And what is important to note here is that this is not something that has started in the past two weeks. This is something that the Islamic Republic has been doing for the past 30 years.
They have been basically taking away, stripping Iranians of human rights for 30 years, ever since they took power in '79. They have been imprisoning people because they are speaking out against the government, they have been killing them, they have been assassinating them.
And now they have quite a conundrum on their hands because for the first time in this 30-year history, they are actually challenging the Ayatollah Supreme Leader himself. This has never happened. I have never seen such a thing. I have never seen the crowd so united.
And we here as Iranian-Americans are just trying to support the people back home. We understand that here in the United States...
AMANPOUR: We'll be back.
BAKHTIAR: ... there's not much we can do.
AMANPOUR: We will be back right after this. You are watching LARRY KING LIVE.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) AMANPOUR: This has been the most extraordinary two weeks in Iran's recent history. Hundreds of foreign journalists were invited into Iran and given work permits to cover these elections -- and the pre- election campaigning and the debates were unprecedented, vigorous and robust, happening on street corners and in people's homes and all the way to the historic outpouring at the polls last Friday.
And then came the disputed election, and people taking their political protests onto the streets. We are going to be watching to see how this all turns out.
Thank you for joining us. Now CNN's continuing coverage of the situation in Iran on the news. Here's Don Lemon in Atlanta.