Obama's approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president's words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic's Islamic authority in its 30-year history.
One senior administration official with experience in the Middle East said, "There clearly is in the region a sense of new possibilities," adding that "I was struck in the aftermath of the president's speech that there was a connection. It was verysweeping in terms of its reach."
These administration officials spoke off the record so presumably they were speaking out of turn. Yet, it strikes me as peculiar that the president says that he wants to stay out of the way as much as possible while administration officials privately tell reporters that they believe their man is responsible for the whole thing.
Does the administration believe that the Mullahs won't get wind of this statement? Do these anonymous administration officials not follow the president's lead? Wouldn't this undermine his policy of distancing? Does this mean the White House is going to find the leak and deal with them harshly?
After all, if the White House wants to maintain a low profile, they can't have staffers leak anonymously to the press that the president is really responsible for all this. This whole thing smells of duplicitous opportunism. The president comes out weakly in the aftermath of the demonstrations. He claims he doesn't want to rock the boat. Then, his staff proclaims he's responsible for the whole thing. That's cynicism at its highest.