Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran So Far Away

Oh my. What a scene over in Iran, the protests in reaction to the election results in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad apparently won handily, even in areas heavily populated by opposition supporters. There are many talking heads calling for President Obama to speak more "forcefully" on the matter, lest he prove that he is indeed soft and weak on foreign policy.

McCain said, "He should speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election and that the Iranian people have been deprived of their rights."

Various rightie blogs are calling on him to stop giving aid and comfort to the Iranian regime. Various leftie blogs are calling on him to fully support the protesters so as to enhance their position.

But this from George W. Bush's chief diplomat in Iran: “President Ahmadinejad would like nothing better than to see a very aggressive series of statements by the United States that would try to put the U.S. in the center of this, and I think President Obama is avoiding that quite rightly...This is not a dispute for the U.S. to be the center of; it’s up to Iranians to decide who Iran’s future leaders will be. He said he respects Iran’s sovereignty. I think it was important to do that.”

I think Obama has this situation sussed, as well as one can. He's playing the long game:

Obama noted that Iranian policy would not be much different under Mousavi, particularly since the real rulers of Iran are the clerics, headed up by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "It's important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, in terms of their actual policies, may not be as great as has been advertised...either way we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons."

This is a man who understands the situation, the history, the stakes. Contrast that--those of you who wonder what foreign policy under President John McCain might have been like--with the immediate reaction of the Senator from Arizona. The neocons are angling for a fight with Iran, want to avoid direct talks, and generally can't envision a future without some kind of conflict between our two countries. That conflict may come, but Obama knows well enough to let it play out of its own volition, rather than inserting the US and our baggage into the current crisis.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

Excellent analysis!

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 hopeful.) 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. Our 'social network' technology permits and encourages that now, more than ever before.