Barack Obama's proclivity to talk endlessly, particularly on television, has earned the mockery of supporters such as Bill Maher. But on what may be the most important evolving events in a generation, Obama is silent.
As hundreds of thousands of Iranians protest fraudulent elections, and demand reform, Obama and his administration have been eerily silent. Even as protesters have sought a sign of support from the United States, the administration creates the appearance of leaving the protesters to the devices of the brutal Iranian regime. While it is a fair point that Obama should not be seen to meddle, a few words of support could make all the world of difference.
A less militant Iran, and an opening of Iranian society to the West, could make all the difference in the coming decades. A chance not only to avoid a confrontation over Iran's nuclear weapons program, but also a decline in the divisive influence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and their proxies, throughout the world.
But upsetting the status quo, in the short run, may cause more disruption. I cannot help the feeling that the Obama administration seeks stability abroad above all else, so that domestic priorities can be pursued. Even if that means throwing Iranians under the bus along with Venezuelans.
Additional Thoughts, in no particular order:
- The argument that silence is best, is not irrational; I just don't agree with it. There is a middle ground between silence and creating a provocation to be exploited by the regime. We elect a President to make that hard call, at 3 a.m. or whenever.
- Those who contend that the election was valid ignore the widespread belief in Iran that the election was tainted. Contray to an article in Politico, Ahmadinejad won. Get over it, we are not relying on the tainted opinions of "American Iran Experts." And by the way, the author of that article is an advocate of a "grand bargain" with Iran which would maintain the current state of the Iranian regime in perpetuity. This "grand bargain" theory ignores that the Iranian mullahtocracy is anti-democratic, hostile to the U.S., and can survive only by oppressing its own people. If the Iranian people voluntarily and freely choose such imprisonment, that is their choice; but the current turmoil indicates that is not what a large percentage of Iranians want.
- Iraq: I think what you are seeing is the inevitable pressure that a free Iraq is placing on Iranian society. I'll post more on this later, hopefully.
- Those who argue that the Iranian election makes no difference because the opposition candidate was approved by the Mullahs, and has a hard line history, ignore the present. Much like peaceful revolutions in other repressive countries, once the forces of reform and openness are released in a repressive society, the reaction is hard to control. That is what the Mullahs fear most from the opposition and the protests.
UPDATE: Obama made a statement early this evening in the course of meeting with the Italian Prime Minister. I will post the text when I have it. Obama made the point that "the world is watching" and specifically reached out to the students in Iran. Obama specifically noted that he could not remain silent in light of the violence he has seen on the television.
Here are the relevant portions of the transcript:
Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football -- or discussions with the United States.
Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they're, rightfully, troubled....
And particularly to the youth of Iran, I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected.