Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Views on Iran and Obama's Distance

Both articles below are worth the full read, imo, especially for those who are still weighing their own views on the matter and debating what may result if the movement fails and we did too little, or if doing too much dooms it to failure.

The first is from BBC News and takes a more favorable view of Obama's caution:

Despite some debate within the administration and vocal criticism of President Obama by Republicans accusing him of being weak for failing to taking a strong moral stand, there is generally a sense the White House has chosen the right tone so far - one it has carefully developed based on close consultations with Iran experts, inside and outside the administration.

The challenge has been threefold:

  • keeping faith with the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who have taken to the streets without undermining their credibility in a country where the US is routinely called the "great Satan"
  • condemning the violence used to quell the protesters without cutting off all chances of talks with Iran should the current leadership remain in power
  • maintaining a cautious tone in referring to the protesters without ending up on the wrong side of history should the opposition emerge on top at the end of the struggle

The measured approach and offer of talks, which was repeated this week, may have also been highly unnerving for Iran's hardliners, who are more used to hostility from the West and whose positions were solidified during the Bush administration, which included Iran in the "axis of evil".

"In offering negotiation and conciliation, [President Obama] has put the region's extremists on the defensive," wrote Senator John Kerry in the New York Times on Thursday.

The article went on to give Obama partial credit for the creation of a situation where the Iranian people had a stronger opportunity to unite against the regime:

Authoritarian regimes often use outside threats, real or perceived, to rally their people around and silence internal dissent.

President Ahmadinejad's core appeal as the man defending Iran and standing up to the West was suddenly undermined by Washington's repeated calls for dialogue and gestures such as President Obama's message for Iranian New Year and invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend 4 July celebrations held by US embassies around the world.

''Whereas the Bush administration united Iran's disparate political factions against a common threat, Obama's overtures have accentuated the deep divisions and incongruities among Iran's political elites,'' said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

An interesting opposing view on the situation comes from Dr. Walid Phares of Fox News:

But how will the Khomeinist “war room” break up the uprising? What is their plan?

One would assume that after a thorough review of the real opposing forces on the ground, and after having secured what they believe is a solid allegiance by the Pasdaran and Bassij commanders along with assurances they may have obtained that Iran’s armed forces will remain distant from the crackdown, the regime will proceed in several directions:

- Put pressure on Musavi and the leading reformer figures such as Rafsanjani and Khatemi

-Deploying the militias and security forces across the capital and in other cities

- Taking back Tehran block after block while trying to avoid an international media backlash

- Arrest and neutralize student and civil society leaders; and at the same time, insure that Western Government, particularly the United States would remain distant from “meddling in Iran’s business.”


But is it true that a strong U.S. position in favor of the Iranian democracy movement would create a backlash against America? The reality is that those who are advancing this argument are in fact trying to shield the Iranian regime in the West. The Khomeinist propaganda machine is unleashing all doubts possible about international support to the demonstrators. In fact, the tipping point against the ayatollahs’s militias is precisely a world outcry in defense of the uprising. Presently there are no neutral Iranians who could be irritated by American or Western verbal support to democracy in Iran. The argument is inserted in the debate to confuse the public and mollify outside solidarity. What can shift the ground against the oppressive Pasdaran is precisely this, if a wide majority of Iranians feel the international community is, at least morally, on their side.

As for myself, I personally feel that both views have at least some validity but without a better understanding of the variables at hand (made nearly impossible with the media clamp down) it's difficult to say which is the most accurate gauge of the situation and thus recommends the wiser approach.


Vigilante said...

Ahmadinejad is the main and immediate issue. His early departure would be just the first step in untying the knot in the Middle East. We must understand that Iranians want his ouster for reasons different than ours. (I am not especially hopefull.) With him gone, nuclear energy in Iran assumes a different profile.

The optimal official American position is on the sidelines. Our new president has started the rebuilding of United States' moral and political leadership after its demise during the Busheney years. But we have not yet restored that credibility. President Obama is a mature student of statesmanship who understands that his grasp should not exceed the reach of American foreign policy.

But as Americans, we do not and should not remain on the sidelines. We need to demonstrate our active vigil and witness, together with the rest of the world, on a people to people basis. Technology permits and encourages that now, more than ever before.

Glock21 said...

Well I remain on the fence as to whether our official stance should be a bit more supportive than our current one, but I generally agree that doing so risks undermining both the movement and also our credibility in respecting their sovereignty.

I definitely agree with your last statement though and wrote something similar a few posts back:

"Regardless of the official US stance though I believe the American people should stand in solidarity with Iranians who want something closer to self-government, a concept that exists at the very foundation of our national heritage."

Vigilante said...

I'll go back and read....