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Friday, June 19, 2009

Navigating the Treacherous Geopolitical Waters on Iran

First, here is an update of the latest in Iran. The Grand Ayatollah Khomenia certified the election results and warned any further protesters that they would face serious repercussions if the continue to protest.

Iran's supreme leader said Friday that the country's disputed presidential vote had not been rigged, sternly warning protesters of a crackdown if they continue massive demonstrations demanding a new election.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sided with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and offered no concessions to the opposition. He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election an "absolute victory."


It must be determined at the ballot box what the people want and what they don't want, not in the streets," he said. "I call on all to put an end to this method. ... If they don't, they will be held responsible for the chaos and the consequences."

At the same time, protests are planned for 4PM local time tomorrow and they will be spearheaded by the opposition candidate Ali Mousavi.

Meanwhile, the House voted 405-1 (with Ron Paul opposing) in favor of a resolution that shows solidarity with the protestors though the resolution was softened so that Democrats would back it.

Finally, the president continues to slowly ratchet up his language. He now says that he is "very concerned about the regime's tone". (H/T to Ben Smith)

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These days, it seems there are very few pundits supporting the measured response of the president to the protests in Iran. The right has been merciless. Charles Krauthammer sums up most people's thoughts on the right with this column.

Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.

And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued "dialogue" with their clerical masters.

Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with -- which inevitably confers legitimacy upon -- leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging.

Even liberal thinkers like the Nation are unhappy.

President Obama's tepid response to the evidence the Iranian election was stolen from the people of that country by current president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his thuggish allies is disappointing.

The president gets mixed grades on his promises of transparency: good to the public and the press, not so good to the other two branches.

This president does not need to make threats to champion democracy. It was Tom Paine, ink-stained wretch and citizen of the world, who first roused American patriots to action.

The United States has no military role to play with regard to Iran. In fact, too many threats in the past have made it hard for the United States to speak effectively--and have raised fears that a strong statement from Washington would simply give Ahmadinejad an foreign "enemy" to rally against. But Obama must recognize that he is not George Bush. He has credibility that his predecessor lost, and the world wants to hear him speaking as the leader of a great country that stands on the side of democracy.

The United States does not need to make threats to explicitly and unequivocally champion democracy and the right of peoples in countries around the world to advance the cause of their own freedom. Such championship requires truth-telling and blunt language. Unfortunately, Obama is avoiding hard truths and speaking far too softly.

Finally, moderate David Ignatius, who earlier in the week was supportive, is now criticizing Obama's policies.

In fact, these days one of the only people still defending Obama's policies toward Iran's revolution is Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly's reasoning is interesting. Sometime in early 2007, Moqtada Al Sadr was pulled back into Iran. His thugs have effectively stopped perpetrating acts of terror in Iraq ever since. Furthermore, so far the Iranians have NOT meddled in Afghanistan. If President Obama encourages the protesters too much, the Iranians can put down the protests and then let Sadr loose in Iraq and change their stance in Afghanistan. This is a rather nuanced approach to geopolitics.

The problem is that you never make deals with the devil. I don't know why Sadr stopped terrorizing Iraq, and it might have been due to a deal made by the U.S. and Iran. Selling out is never a good idea, and more than that, it's never necessary. First, there's a way for President Obama to side with the people of Iran without appearing to meddle.

Second, and far more importantly, President Obama can still insure that Iran doesn't retaliate if they do put down the protesters. President Obama has an ace in the hole, a hammer even, that he needs to use toward Iran. That hammer is Israel. If I were President Obama, I would make an unequivocal Reagan like statement of support for the protesters. I would condemn the elections, the violence against the protesters, and make it clear that freedom, liberty, and the right to peacefully speak and assemble is a human right open to all. Second, I would make it clear through our proxies the Swiss (who act as our reps in communications with Iran) that if there is any retaliation, be it in Iraq or Afghanistan, we would give the Israelis the green light to take out their nuclear sites and back them in any military action.

Rather than making deals with the devil, I would stand up for democracy and make sure that our enemies know that we still hold the important cards.


Anonymous said...

Kissinger still supports Obama, make of that what you will.

Anonymous said...

You claim very few people support Obama's muted stance on Iran. You are wrong and giving your readers a false impression.

While you have selectively quoted...

A Rasmussen poll finds more people support than oppose his stance.
43% for vs 35% against

mike volpe said...

First of all, you mislead on the very same Iran poll that you claim shows that I was misleading. There were after all, three potential answers and so a majority were unhappy with his performance.

I did however change my language slightly.