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Friday, June 26, 2009

The President Comes Full Circle On Iran

If the president doesn't want to meddle in Iran, and make himself the story, then, given his behavior over the last couple days, I'd hate to see what he'd do if he were trying to meddle. It started a couple days ago when he cancelled invitations by U.S. embassies to their counterparts in Iran for Fourth of July celebrations.

This was a somewhat inconsequential though noticeable first step in the president's evolution of his stance toward the Iranian regime. After all, the whole idea was kooky to begin with. It was unlikely that any Iranian diplomat would take us up on the offer. If they did, we could only imagine how uncomfortable that scene would be. Rescinding the offer was really merely fixing an error.

Then, the president responded to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest accusation that the U.S. was meddling in Iran's internal affairs.

President Obama said Friday that he doesn't take Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's demand for an apology seriously after the Iranian president accused him of interfering in the country's affairs.

"The United States has gone out of its way not to interfere with the election process in Iran, and I'm really not concerned about Mr. Ahmadinejad apologizing to me," Obama said in a joint White House appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after they conferred privately.

"I would suggest Mr. Ahmadinejad think carefully about the obligations he owes to his own people, and he might want to consider looking at the families of those beaten, shot or detained. That's where Mr. Ahmadinejad and others need to answer their questions," he said.

If the president was looking to maintain a diplomatic stance, this mix of Alinsky like mockery as well as righteous indignation toward the Iranian regime was likekly not the best approach.

President Obama then made a statement that was seconded by Angela Merkel.

Today we speak with one voice," Obama said. "The rights of the Iranian people to assemble, to speak freely, to have their voices heard -- those are universal aspirations. And their bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice. The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. And despite the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it, and we condemn it."

He finished by stating the obvious about future diplomatic relations.

There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks," Obama told a White House news conference, adding: "We don't yet know how any potential dialogue will have been affected until we see what has happened inside of Iran."

So, the president who only days ago continued to speak cautiously and carefully so as not to appear to take sides has come full circle. He spoke with a clarity that has been lacking for nearly two weeks. He didn't mince words in the way he had the previous two weeks. Finally, he made no equivocations or morally relative statements like he had in the past.

The president was no longer worried about meddling or choosing sides. Instead, he condemned the violence in no uncertain terms and the regime perpetrating it. Many of us would have liked to have seen him make this evolution a bit quicker, but as the old saying goes, better late than never.

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