Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 16, 2009

“And the Revolt Began”

Tehran Bureau posted a telephone interview with a woman in Iran who witnessed the Basij militia opening fire with live bullets on demonstrators. The unarmed demonstrators then fought back with their hands.

Tehran Bureau posted a telephone interview with a woman in Iran who witnessed the Basij militia opening fire with live bullets on demonstrators. The unarmed demonstrators then fought back with their hands.

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Everything but a Workable Plan

David Brooks sketches out the path to victory in the healthcare debate for Obama: feel-good dog-and-pony shows, Congressional wrangling, and a “set of all-night meetings at the end of the Congressional summer session when all the different pieces actually get put together.” What in this scenario is missing? Substance — the same central deficiency of  Obama’s non-existent healthcare plan.

For starters, there really is no “Obama plan.” Yes, he sent a letter to Congress suggesting he’d be open to this idea or that suggestion, but on his single most important initiative, we don’t know what he wants in any great detail, let alone in legislative language. In large part, that is because what he wants is unattainable: universal healthcare that saves money, run by the government. (And a unicorn on the South Lawn?) In the real world of Congress, Democratic healthcare sponsors have come up with a wall of opposition to a public plan, which critics rightly have called the camel’s nose under the tent for socialized medicine. And then there comes the cost. Yuval Levin explains that CBO analyzed the healthcare plan, not including the public option:

Just the parts they did analyze would cost about a trillion dollars, the CBO concludes, and for all that money would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by about 16 million by 2019. In other words, having spent a trillion dollars, displaced millions of families who now have employer-based insurance, and created a vast new health care bureaucracy whose costs would continue to balloon, we will still have about 37 million uninsured people—or about the same number as in 2000.

If the government did nothing new, CBO says the uninsured would be 19% of the non-elderly population in 2019. If they implemented the Democrats’ proposal, the uninsured would be 13% of the non-elderly population.

So Obama has some fundamental problems starting with there not being a funding mechanism for a hugely expensive plan that doesn’t accomplish much. We’ll see if given all that, Brooks’s rosy scenario pans out.

David Brooks sketches out the path to victory in the healthcare debate for Obama: feel-good dog-and-pony shows, Congressional wrangling, and a “set of all-night meetings at the end of the Congressional summer session when all the different pieces actually get put together.” What in this scenario is missing? Substance — the same central deficiency of  Obama’s non-existent healthcare plan.

For starters, there really is no “Obama plan.” Yes, he sent a letter to Congress suggesting he’d be open to this idea or that suggestion, but on his single most important initiative, we don’t know what he wants in any great detail, let alone in legislative language. In large part, that is because what he wants is unattainable: universal healthcare that saves money, run by the government. (And a unicorn on the South Lawn?) In the real world of Congress, Democratic healthcare sponsors have come up with a wall of opposition to a public plan, which critics rightly have called the camel’s nose under the tent for socialized medicine. And then there comes the cost. Yuval Levin explains that CBO analyzed the healthcare plan, not including the public option:

Just the parts they did analyze would cost about a trillion dollars, the CBO concludes, and for all that money would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by about 16 million by 2019. In other words, having spent a trillion dollars, displaced millions of families who now have employer-based insurance, and created a vast new health care bureaucracy whose costs would continue to balloon, we will still have about 37 million uninsured people—or about the same number as in 2000.

If the government did nothing new, CBO says the uninsured would be 19% of the non-elderly population in 2019. If they implemented the Democrats’ proposal, the uninsured would be 13% of the non-elderly population.

So Obama has some fundamental problems starting with there not being a funding mechanism for a hugely expensive plan that doesn’t accomplish much. We’ll see if given all that, Brooks’s rosy scenario pans out.

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Let Us Not Comfort Cruel Men

There is a debate breaking out in this country over President Obama’s extremely cautious and passive statements about what is unfolding in Iran; his assertion that he is “deeply troubled” by the violence there without mentioning who the perpetrators of the violence are; and the comment by his State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, who refused to say whether the administration was willing to use the word “condemn” against the Iranian regime. Some people, like Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, argue that “Obama speaking out on behalf of Iran’s liberals would help the regime to discredit them as foreign agents.”

That is one way to look at it. Another way is to recall Ronald Reagan’s words in 1983, when, in speaking about the Soviet Union, he said this:

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness — pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world…. I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.

Reagan’s speech — at the National Association of Evangelicals, no less — caused the liberal establishment to go into a tizzy. His words were said to be provocative, incautious, and unhelpful; they would make the Soviet leadership more intransigent and increase repression among Soviet dissidents. We might not like the Soviet Union, it was said, but we had no choice but to get along with them; and by using such aggressive language, Reagan was setting back the prospects for peace and liberation movements.

That’s not how the Soviet dissidents saw it. Consider this account, courtesy of Natan Sharansky:

It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell’s Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union. It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s “Great October Bolshevik Revolution” and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution — Reagan’s Revolution.

Inmates developed their own type of Morse code to communicate the exhilarating news to one another, even tapping on toilets to send their messages. It was a moment of jubilation that spelled the end of the Soviet regime.

Natan Sharansky attributes the collapse of the Soviet Union largely to President Reagan’s efforts. He ascribes Reagan’s strong inner conviction to two traits: moral clarity and courage: “He had the moral clarity to understand the truth, and the courage both to speak the truth and to do what needed to be done to support it. There was more to Reagan than rhetoric. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, to the legacy he leaves behind, we now know that totalitarianism can be beaten and that freedom can come to anyone who wants it.”

It is a useful contrast, I think, between how Reagan approached brutal and terror-sponsoring regimes and how Obama does. For Obama, there may even be a tendency to place more public pressure on our allies than our adversaries (see Bret Stephens’s powerful Wall Street Journal column today).

G.K. Chesterton once referred to “easy speeches to comfort cruel men.” Leaders like Reagan (and his contemporary, Margaret Thatcher) were not terribly interested in providing comfort to cruel men. They instinctively identified with the victims of oppression rather than the oppressors — and they were, more often than not, willing to give those views public voice. What we are dealing with is a cast of mind, a disposition toward words, their power and meaning, and their capacity to shape events.

As between Reagan and Obama, I side with the former. It helps that events have vindicated him and his approach. We’ll see whether Obama can one day say the same thing.

There is a debate breaking out in this country over President Obama’s extremely cautious and passive statements about what is unfolding in Iran; his assertion that he is “deeply troubled” by the violence there without mentioning who the perpetrators of the violence are; and the comment by his State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, who refused to say whether the administration was willing to use the word “condemn” against the Iranian regime. Some people, like Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, argue that “Obama speaking out on behalf of Iran’s liberals would help the regime to discredit them as foreign agents.”

That is one way to look at it. Another way is to recall Ronald Reagan’s words in 1983, when, in speaking about the Soviet Union, he said this:

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness — pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world…. I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.

Reagan’s speech — at the National Association of Evangelicals, no less — caused the liberal establishment to go into a tizzy. His words were said to be provocative, incautious, and unhelpful; they would make the Soviet leadership more intransigent and increase repression among Soviet dissidents. We might not like the Soviet Union, it was said, but we had no choice but to get along with them; and by using such aggressive language, Reagan was setting back the prospects for peace and liberation movements.

That’s not how the Soviet dissidents saw it. Consider this account, courtesy of Natan Sharansky:

It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell’s Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union. It was one of the most important, freedom-affirming declarations, and we all instantly knew it. For us, that was the moment that really marked the end for them, and the beginning for us. The lie had been exposed and could never, ever be untold now. This was the end of Lenin’s “Great October Bolshevik Revolution” and the beginning of a new revolution, a freedom revolution — Reagan’s Revolution.

Inmates developed their own type of Morse code to communicate the exhilarating news to one another, even tapping on toilets to send their messages. It was a moment of jubilation that spelled the end of the Soviet regime.

Natan Sharansky attributes the collapse of the Soviet Union largely to President Reagan’s efforts. He ascribes Reagan’s strong inner conviction to two traits: moral clarity and courage: “He had the moral clarity to understand the truth, and the courage both to speak the truth and to do what needed to be done to support it. There was more to Reagan than rhetoric. Thanks to Ronald Reagan, to the legacy he leaves behind, we now know that totalitarianism can be beaten and that freedom can come to anyone who wants it.”

It is a useful contrast, I think, between how Reagan approached brutal and terror-sponsoring regimes and how Obama does. For Obama, there may even be a tendency to place more public pressure on our allies than our adversaries (see Bret Stephens’s powerful Wall Street Journal column today).

G.K. Chesterton once referred to “easy speeches to comfort cruel men.” Leaders like Reagan (and his contemporary, Margaret Thatcher) were not terribly interested in providing comfort to cruel men. They instinctively identified with the victims of oppression rather than the oppressors — and they were, more often than not, willing to give those views public voice. What we are dealing with is a cast of mind, a disposition toward words, their power and meaning, and their capacity to shape events.

As between Reagan and Obama, I side with the former. It helps that events have vindicated him and his approach. We’ll see whether Obama can one day say the same thing.

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A Recount Won’t Cut It

Iran’s Guardian Council says it will “recount” the votes, though they were never counted at all and likely won’t ever be counted. The BBC says the opposition may not accept this, and they’re probably right. A “recount” isn’t one of the seven demands. The first demand is the removal of Khamenei, and the second is the removal of Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s Guardian Council says it will “recount” the votes, though they were never counted at all and likely won’t ever be counted. The BBC says the opposition may not accept this, and they’re probably right. A “recount” isn’t one of the seven demands. The first demand is the removal of Khamenei, and the second is the removal of Ahmadinejad.

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Faith, Hope, and Charity for Terror

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Department of the Treasury belatedly woke up to the fact that a number of Islamist terror groups have been using the United States as a base from which to raise money for their activities abroad. The result was that organizations like the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group, were eventually shut down. In some cases, those running these so-called charities were prosecuted.

But not everybody is happy with this outcome. The American Civil Liberties Union has just issued a report contending that the federal government’s efforts to stem the flow of funds to terror groups violate the civil rights of American Muslims. The report describes the Treasury’s actions as impinging on the religious freedom of Muslims who have a religious obligation to give to charity. The upshot, according to the ACLU and a New York Times article on their report, is that the government crackdown has a chilling effect on all Muslim charities and impeded the ability of American Muslims to give zakat – one of the five pillars of their religion.

This is a view that was seemingly echoed by President Obama in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world. He apologized for the fact that “rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslim to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

What exactly the president will do to act on this promise is unclear but there are a few major problems with this conclusion.

The first is the willingness of both the ACLU and the Times to accept that giving to groups that funnel money to terrorist organizations is a reasonable definition of charitable activity. Though terrorism is the word that dare not be spoken aloud by both the president and everybody else in his administration these days, it is at the heart of this issue. In some cases, the money raised here by Islamist groups was going to needy people — the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. American money was being used to fulfill the promise that terror groups made to murderers. Other funds went to pay for the social services those groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, provide for the poor in order to bolster their reputation and support among the population. The purpose was essentially to fund the budget of a terror group. While not every donor to such a group was completely aware of this fact, those who solicited the funds certainly were.

Second, as the Times reports, the downturn in Islamic giving has not affected all groups.

Paradoxically, two of the largest mainstream Arab-American charities — Access and Islamic Relief USA — say they have benefited from aggressive enforcement of antiterrorism laws. Islamic Relief USA, an aid organization with affiliates around the globe, has seen annual donations rise to about $25 million last year from roughly $7 million at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, with an additional $50 million in in-kind gifts, said the group’s spokesman, Mostafa Mahboob.

In other words, those groups with no ties to terror have been unaffected by the crackdown and have prospered.

But while legitimate Muslim charities have benefited from enforcement of the laws, many of the groups that pose as the leaders of American Muslims are still tied to the pro-terror agenda of institutions like the Holy Land Foundation. For example, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) continues to be put forward in the media as a legitimate representative of Muslim opinion despite the fact that the Holy Land prosecution revealed CAIR to have been founded as a Hamas front. Moderate anti-terror Muslims are still being crowded out of the public square while those who continue to rationalize the actions of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are treated as respectable players. If this trend is reinforced by the president it will be a setback for both America’s anti-terror actions and the efforts of genuinely moderate American Muslims who hope to break free of groups like CAIR and their terrorist partners.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Department of the Treasury belatedly woke up to the fact that a number of Islamist terror groups have been using the United States as a base from which to raise money for their activities abroad. The result was that organizations like the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group, were eventually shut down. In some cases, those running these so-called charities were prosecuted.

But not everybody is happy with this outcome. The American Civil Liberties Union has just issued a report contending that the federal government’s efforts to stem the flow of funds to terror groups violate the civil rights of American Muslims. The report describes the Treasury’s actions as impinging on the religious freedom of Muslims who have a religious obligation to give to charity. The upshot, according to the ACLU and a New York Times article on their report, is that the government crackdown has a chilling effect on all Muslim charities and impeded the ability of American Muslims to give zakat – one of the five pillars of their religion.

This is a view that was seemingly echoed by President Obama in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world. He apologized for the fact that “rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslim to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

What exactly the president will do to act on this promise is unclear but there are a few major problems with this conclusion.

The first is the willingness of both the ACLU and the Times to accept that giving to groups that funnel money to terrorist organizations is a reasonable definition of charitable activity. Though terrorism is the word that dare not be spoken aloud by both the president and everybody else in his administration these days, it is at the heart of this issue. In some cases, the money raised here by Islamist groups was going to needy people — the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. American money was being used to fulfill the promise that terror groups made to murderers. Other funds went to pay for the social services those groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah, provide for the poor in order to bolster their reputation and support among the population. The purpose was essentially to fund the budget of a terror group. While not every donor to such a group was completely aware of this fact, those who solicited the funds certainly were.

Second, as the Times reports, the downturn in Islamic giving has not affected all groups.

Paradoxically, two of the largest mainstream Arab-American charities — Access and Islamic Relief USA — say they have benefited from aggressive enforcement of antiterrorism laws. Islamic Relief USA, an aid organization with affiliates around the globe, has seen annual donations rise to about $25 million last year from roughly $7 million at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, with an additional $50 million in in-kind gifts, said the group’s spokesman, Mostafa Mahboob.

In other words, those groups with no ties to terror have been unaffected by the crackdown and have prospered.

But while legitimate Muslim charities have benefited from enforcement of the laws, many of the groups that pose as the leaders of American Muslims are still tied to the pro-terror agenda of institutions like the Holy Land Foundation. For example, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) continues to be put forward in the media as a legitimate representative of Muslim opinion despite the fact that the Holy Land prosecution revealed CAIR to have been founded as a Hamas front. Moderate anti-terror Muslims are still being crowded out of the public square while those who continue to rationalize the actions of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are treated as respectable players. If this trend is reinforced by the president it will be a setback for both America’s anti-terror actions and the efforts of genuinely moderate American Muslims who hope to break free of groups like CAIR and their terrorist partners.

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Engagement Rethink

Another liberal has been mugged by Iran’s unpleasant reality; Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

It’s time for President Obama to rethink his policy of “engagement” with Iran.

Given the near-certainty that Iran’s election was fixed and the documented fact that protesters are being brutalized, there is no way that Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could go to Tehran and shake hands with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, much less to expect that any talks would be worthwhile.

He’s absolutely right. The question is how long it will take Obama & Co. to realize that. So far they are still sticking to their pre-election “we look forward to negotiating with any Iranian government” stance. If they don’t adjust their position, the obscenity of talks with the current regime will be too much even for stalwart liberals like Kaplan.

Another liberal has been mugged by Iran’s unpleasant reality; Fred Kaplan writes in Slate:

It’s time for President Obama to rethink his policy of “engagement” with Iran.

Given the near-certainty that Iran’s election was fixed and the documented fact that protesters are being brutalized, there is no way that Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could go to Tehran and shake hands with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, much less to expect that any talks would be worthwhile.

He’s absolutely right. The question is how long it will take Obama & Co. to realize that. So far they are still sticking to their pre-election “we look forward to negotiating with any Iranian government” stance. If they don’t adjust their position, the obscenity of talks with the current regime will be too much even for stalwart liberals like Kaplan.

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Don’t Look Down!

It was always going to be a challenge for the Obama administration to maintain a policy of engagement with regimes and actors who so obviously have no interest in being engaged. While many may look at engagement as a tactical maneuver for delaying adverse consequences (North Korea) or extracting unilateral concessions (the Palestinians) there has been precious little evidence that these players are interested in adopting fundamental changes (e.g. giving up nuclear capability, recognizing a Jewish state, etc.) — which is the desired end result of engagement. But in the last few weeks the veneer of plausibility has been chipped away, country by country.

North Korea was the first to go. Obama entered office bent on carrying out his predecessors’ ill-conceived Six Party talks. He gave a lofty speech on non-proliferation — which was greeted by a missile launch. And then a nuclear test. And then missile launches. And then the snatching and conviction of two Americans. And then lots of talk about nuclear war. What’s left of engagement? Nothing.

Then we had Israel and the Palestinians. Happy talk toward the “Muslim World” and harsh words for Israel. The Palestinians balk when the Israeli Prime Minister reminds them this is all about recognizing a Jewish state. What’s changed? Who is to be engaged? Well there’s a head-scratcher. In the meantime, Obama can pester Israel about settlements.

Then comes Iran. It always had the aura of a Road Runner cartoon. The Obama team running off the cliff of reality, running as fast as they can without looking down to see it is only their imaginations keeping them aloft. It is all patently ridiculous, especially since we have seen the blood, violence, and death. As Mona Charen writes:

The Obama approach looks much less appealing following the sham election of June 12. The bromides and promises of respect look increasingly tawdry as the regime’s goons speed through Iran’s streets on motorcycles beating demonstrators with batons, as Internet sites are closed, as opposition leaders declare the election stolen, as dissidents including political leaders, students, and journalists are jailed, and as violence spills into the streets.

Just as the Soviets let the mask of “peaceful coexistence” slip when they invaded Afghanistan, the mullahs have revealed themselves for what they are. It has suddenly become much more difficult to pretend that by engaging with this junta you are not betraying the Iranian people. The Obama foreign policy — hope leavened with helium — must now come down to Earth.

One senses the Obama team is longing to hold on to the shreds of their tattered engagement vision. Yes, it’s more important than ever to engage the regime, they assure themselves. Actually it’s more important than ever to get real and get a Plan B. The world is proving to be very unreceptive to group therapy. It is time for a new approach that does not entail self-delusion and doesn’t require historical distortion.

Moreover, the pipe dream that engagement could keep the world at bay and conflicts quiet, allowing the president to concentrate on what he loves best — expanding government and nationalizing healthcare — is proving unrealistic, as it usually does for American presidents. The world has a way of disturbing the calm, of upsetting the best-laid plans to focus on “the problems here at home.” The world lives up to its reputation as a dangerous place — and the president will have to deal with it as it is, not as he wished it would be.

It was always going to be a challenge for the Obama administration to maintain a policy of engagement with regimes and actors who so obviously have no interest in being engaged. While many may look at engagement as a tactical maneuver for delaying adverse consequences (North Korea) or extracting unilateral concessions (the Palestinians) there has been precious little evidence that these players are interested in adopting fundamental changes (e.g. giving up nuclear capability, recognizing a Jewish state, etc.) — which is the desired end result of engagement. But in the last few weeks the veneer of plausibility has been chipped away, country by country.

North Korea was the first to go. Obama entered office bent on carrying out his predecessors’ ill-conceived Six Party talks. He gave a lofty speech on non-proliferation — which was greeted by a missile launch. And then a nuclear test. And then missile launches. And then the snatching and conviction of two Americans. And then lots of talk about nuclear war. What’s left of engagement? Nothing.

Then we had Israel and the Palestinians. Happy talk toward the “Muslim World” and harsh words for Israel. The Palestinians balk when the Israeli Prime Minister reminds them this is all about recognizing a Jewish state. What’s changed? Who is to be engaged? Well there’s a head-scratcher. In the meantime, Obama can pester Israel about settlements.

Then comes Iran. It always had the aura of a Road Runner cartoon. The Obama team running off the cliff of reality, running as fast as they can without looking down to see it is only their imaginations keeping them aloft. It is all patently ridiculous, especially since we have seen the blood, violence, and death. As Mona Charen writes:

The Obama approach looks much less appealing following the sham election of June 12. The bromides and promises of respect look increasingly tawdry as the regime’s goons speed through Iran’s streets on motorcycles beating demonstrators with batons, as Internet sites are closed, as opposition leaders declare the election stolen, as dissidents including political leaders, students, and journalists are jailed, and as violence spills into the streets.

Just as the Soviets let the mask of “peaceful coexistence” slip when they invaded Afghanistan, the mullahs have revealed themselves for what they are. It has suddenly become much more difficult to pretend that by engaging with this junta you are not betraying the Iranian people. The Obama foreign policy — hope leavened with helium — must now come down to Earth.

One senses the Obama team is longing to hold on to the shreds of their tattered engagement vision. Yes, it’s more important than ever to engage the regime, they assure themselves. Actually it’s more important than ever to get real and get a Plan B. The world is proving to be very unreceptive to group therapy. It is time for a new approach that does not entail self-delusion and doesn’t require historical distortion.

Moreover, the pipe dream that engagement could keep the world at bay and conflicts quiet, allowing the president to concentrate on what he loves best — expanding government and nationalizing healthcare — is proving unrealistic, as it usually does for American presidents. The world has a way of disturbing the calm, of upsetting the best-laid plans to focus on “the problems here at home.” The world lives up to its reputation as a dangerous place — and the president will have to deal with it as it is, not as he wished it would be.

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First Obama, Now Brown

Gordon Brown tries his hand at Liberty for Dummies, and fails: “This is not a pro-West versus an anti-West competition in Iran, it is a competition to reflect the will of the Iranian people and I think that we have to hold fast to that point.” Therefore, according to Brown, we must not “take sides.”

We’ve come to a strange point indeed when England and America think they have no dog in a fight between consensual government and fascism. The supposed realists have fashioned a definition of “pro-West” narrow enough to match their own conception of Western interests. Do citizens who risk their lives to oppose a dictator really need to wave American flags for us to recognize a kindred passion for political freedom.

And for Gordon Brown’s information, Iran’s state media is reporting on Ahmadinejad supporters who have gathered outside British and French embassies chanting anti-American slogans. Even if the regime cooked this up (in fact, because the regime may have cooked this up), it’s evidence of the very competition Brown refuses to recognize. If England and the U.S. can no longer come down on the side of liberty against tyranny then there’s scarcely a “West” for others to emulate.

Gordon Brown tries his hand at Liberty for Dummies, and fails: “This is not a pro-West versus an anti-West competition in Iran, it is a competition to reflect the will of the Iranian people and I think that we have to hold fast to that point.” Therefore, according to Brown, we must not “take sides.”

We’ve come to a strange point indeed when England and America think they have no dog in a fight between consensual government and fascism. The supposed realists have fashioned a definition of “pro-West” narrow enough to match their own conception of Western interests. Do citizens who risk their lives to oppose a dictator really need to wave American flags for us to recognize a kindred passion for political freedom.

And for Gordon Brown’s information, Iran’s state media is reporting on Ahmadinejad supporters who have gathered outside British and French embassies chanting anti-American slogans. Even if the regime cooked this up (in fact, because the regime may have cooked this up), it’s evidence of the very competition Brown refuses to recognize. If England and the U.S. can no longer come down on the side of liberty against tyranny then there’s scarcely a “West” for others to emulate.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Richard Cohen makes a critical point: “James W. von Brunn was quickly segregated from the American mainstream and designated the crackpot he is. In the Middle East, though, he would be no such thing — not some sort of reptilian vestige of the past but an ordinary man and therefore an extraordinary threat to the future.” He explains that “anti-Semitism is now a part of Middle Eastern culture. It has infiltrated textbooks; it is recited in mosques. It is aired on television — for instance, the broadcast of a play produced at Gaza’s Islamic University in which Jews were portrayed as drinking Muslim blood.” You can understand why the idea of a Jewish state is unthinkable to many of Israel’s neighbors — and why some of us think there are bigger fish to fry than settlements.

First it was the A.M.A., now it’s hospitals balking at ObamaCare.

And the doctors boo Obama.

You remember all the happy faces on the healthcare industry players at the White House summits and meetings — what happened? “Three months later, disagreement has turned to discord over a key element of Obama’s health care prescription: his insistence on a ‘public plan’ to compete with private insurers. America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, is joined by the American Medical Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others that have expressed misgivings about greater government involvement.”

Lots of conservatives (40% of the electorate) and not so many Republicans (28% vs. 36% Democrats) according to Gallup. Maybe Obama is creating more conservatives?

Ben Smith spotted the contradiction which the Iranian uprising has exposed: Obama can’t be both an inspirational idealist and a cold-hearted realist. It is one of the choices that really isn’t false at all.

The Washington Post argues maybe there wasn’t fraud at all in the Iranian “election” — although it “looks suspicious.” This is the wrong analysis of course — the “election” with pre-selected candidates wasn’t real and the thuggery afterward has revealed the nature of the regime. But we could clear this up with outside election inspectors, right? Well, unless the mullahs destroy the ballots and lock up the Mousavi supporters and all the relevant witnesses. But we’re way past voting now.

John McCain demanded Leon Panetta retract his accusation that Dick Cheney was rooting for a terrorist attack. Before the end of the day Panetta sort of did.

John Bolton on the gobbledygook coverage of Iran: “The media’s endlessly incorrect narrative about struggles between ‘moderates’ and ‘hard-liners’ within the Islamic Revolution of 1979 will doubtless continue, because abandoning it now would be admitting the intellectual poverty of three decades of Western reporting. It would have been easier if outsiders had from the outset understood the debate between the regime’s moderates and hard-liners this way: Hard-liners like Ahmadinejad want to continue Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and boast about ‘wiping Israel off the map.’ By contrast, the moderates want to continue Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but remain silent, thus more effectively deluding many willing Westerners.”

The perfect excuse, if one is needed, for Obama to flip-flop on his prior opposition to the South Korea free trade agreement: “that was before North Korea began its current aggressive campaign, the probable goal of which is dividing Seoul and Washington.” How about we’re in an awful recession and increasing rather than closing off free trade is the only reasonable economic approach?

Richard Cohen makes a critical point: “James W. von Brunn was quickly segregated from the American mainstream and designated the crackpot he is. In the Middle East, though, he would be no such thing — not some sort of reptilian vestige of the past but an ordinary man and therefore an extraordinary threat to the future.” He explains that “anti-Semitism is now a part of Middle Eastern culture. It has infiltrated textbooks; it is recited in mosques. It is aired on television — for instance, the broadcast of a play produced at Gaza’s Islamic University in which Jews were portrayed as drinking Muslim blood.” You can understand why the idea of a Jewish state is unthinkable to many of Israel’s neighbors — and why some of us think there are bigger fish to fry than settlements.

First it was the A.M.A., now it’s hospitals balking at ObamaCare.

And the doctors boo Obama.

You remember all the happy faces on the healthcare industry players at the White House summits and meetings — what happened? “Three months later, disagreement has turned to discord over a key element of Obama’s health care prescription: his insistence on a ‘public plan’ to compete with private insurers. America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, is joined by the American Medical Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others that have expressed misgivings about greater government involvement.”

Lots of conservatives (40% of the electorate) and not so many Republicans (28% vs. 36% Democrats) according to Gallup. Maybe Obama is creating more conservatives?

Ben Smith spotted the contradiction which the Iranian uprising has exposed: Obama can’t be both an inspirational idealist and a cold-hearted realist. It is one of the choices that really isn’t false at all.

The Washington Post argues maybe there wasn’t fraud at all in the Iranian “election” — although it “looks suspicious.” This is the wrong analysis of course — the “election” with pre-selected candidates wasn’t real and the thuggery afterward has revealed the nature of the regime. But we could clear this up with outside election inspectors, right? Well, unless the mullahs destroy the ballots and lock up the Mousavi supporters and all the relevant witnesses. But we’re way past voting now.

John McCain demanded Leon Panetta retract his accusation that Dick Cheney was rooting for a terrorist attack. Before the end of the day Panetta sort of did.

John Bolton on the gobbledygook coverage of Iran: “The media’s endlessly incorrect narrative about struggles between ‘moderates’ and ‘hard-liners’ within the Islamic Revolution of 1979 will doubtless continue, because abandoning it now would be admitting the intellectual poverty of three decades of Western reporting. It would have been easier if outsiders had from the outset understood the debate between the regime’s moderates and hard-liners this way: Hard-liners like Ahmadinejad want to continue Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and boast about ‘wiping Israel off the map.’ By contrast, the moderates want to continue Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but remain silent, thus more effectively deluding many willing Westerners.”

The perfect excuse, if one is needed, for Obama to flip-flop on his prior opposition to the South Korea free trade agreement: “that was before North Korea began its current aggressive campaign, the probable goal of which is dividing Seoul and Washington.” How about we’re in an awful recession and increasing rather than closing off free trade is the only reasonable economic approach?

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A Whole New World

James Taranto and others have remarked on the eye-opening effect the Iranian regime’s brutality has had on the Left punditocracy. Ah, now they get it! The mullahs are brutal thugs who share none of our values nor desire for peace. But Taranto correctly notes:

The bad news that Iran is still ruled by a vicious, lunatic regime that not only abuses its own people but threatens Israel with annihilation and the entire region with a nuclear arms race. This is very bad, though it’s news only to regime apologists like [Roger] Cohen–and, as we noted Friday, it would have been true even had challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi prevailed in the vote.

But one wonders what if anything the members of  Obama’s national security team have learned. Have they figured out that there is no deal to be had with a regime of this nature? Does this give them any concern about their self-assurances that we can “contain” a nuclear-armed Iran? Well it should. As Taranto’s colleague Bret Stephens notes:

Now a presidency that’s supposed to be all about hope is suddenly in cynical realpolitik mode — the only “hope” it means to keep alive being a “grand bargain” over Iran’s nuclear program. This never had much chance of success, but at least until Friday’s sham poll it wasn’t flatly at odds with the interests of ordinary Iranians. Not anymore….

Rarely in U.S. history has a foreign policy course been as thoroughly repudiated by events as his approach to Iran in his first months in office. Even Jimmy Carter drew roughly appropriate conclusions about the Iranian regime after the hostages were taken in 1979.

Candidate Obama bashed George W. Bush for not recongnizing soon enough changed realities on the ground in the Iraq war. Will President Obama be blind to changed circumstances in Iran or will he adjust his national security approach? Let’s hope Obama can glance up from his domestic plans to nationalize healthcare  just long enough to realize that strategic calculations underlying his Middle East policy are crumbling. Do you think he has noticed?

James Taranto and others have remarked on the eye-opening effect the Iranian regime’s brutality has had on the Left punditocracy. Ah, now they get it! The mullahs are brutal thugs who share none of our values nor desire for peace. But Taranto correctly notes:

The bad news that Iran is still ruled by a vicious, lunatic regime that not only abuses its own people but threatens Israel with annihilation and the entire region with a nuclear arms race. This is very bad, though it’s news only to regime apologists like [Roger] Cohen–and, as we noted Friday, it would have been true even had challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi prevailed in the vote.

But one wonders what if anything the members of  Obama’s national security team have learned. Have they figured out that there is no deal to be had with a regime of this nature? Does this give them any concern about their self-assurances that we can “contain” a nuclear-armed Iran? Well it should. As Taranto’s colleague Bret Stephens notes:

Now a presidency that’s supposed to be all about hope is suddenly in cynical realpolitik mode — the only “hope” it means to keep alive being a “grand bargain” over Iran’s nuclear program. This never had much chance of success, but at least until Friday’s sham poll it wasn’t flatly at odds with the interests of ordinary Iranians. Not anymore….

Rarely in U.S. history has a foreign policy course been as thoroughly repudiated by events as his approach to Iran in his first months in office. Even Jimmy Carter drew roughly appropriate conclusions about the Iranian regime after the hostages were taken in 1979.

Candidate Obama bashed George W. Bush for not recongnizing soon enough changed realities on the ground in the Iraq war. Will President Obama be blind to changed circumstances in Iran or will he adjust his national security approach? Let’s hope Obama can glance up from his domestic plans to nationalize healthcare  just long enough to realize that strategic calculations underlying his Middle East policy are crumbling. Do you think he has noticed?

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Extraordinary Bravery

Take a look at these photos from the AP and AFP of unarmed Iranian demonstrators attacking a base of the fanatical Basij militia.

Take a look at these photos from the AP and AFP of unarmed Iranian demonstrators attacking a base of the fanatical Basij militia.

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No Recognition

North Korea’s Kim Jong Il congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his “election victory” in Iran, as did Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Syria’s Bashar Assad is bound to follow if he hasn’t already.

Meanwhile, Iranian students in Iran asked a CNN correspondent to pass on a message to the United States. If President Obama accepts the “election” result, they told him, “we’re doomed.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BcFx380pFA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fhotair%2Ecom%2Farchives%2F2009%2F06%2F14%2Fcnn%2Dproducer%2Diranian%2Dstudents%2Dsay%2Dtheyre%2Ddoomed%2Dif%2Dobama%2Daccepts%2Dthe%2Diranian%2Delection%2F&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

North Korea’s Kim Jong Il congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his “election victory” in Iran, as did Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Syria’s Bashar Assad is bound to follow if he hasn’t already.

Meanwhile, Iranian students in Iran asked a CNN correspondent to pass on a message to the United States. If President Obama accepts the “election” result, they told him, “we’re doomed.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BcFx380pFA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fhotair%2Ecom%2Farchives%2F2009%2F06%2F14%2Fcnn%2Dproducer%2Diranian%2Dstudents%2Dsay%2Dtheyre%2Ddoomed%2Dif%2Dobama%2Daccepts%2Dthe%2Diranian%2Delection%2F&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

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A Revolutionary Mass in the Streets of Tehran

Michael Ledeen published a must-read analysis:

To start with, the BBC, long considered a shill for the regime by most Iranian dissidents, estimates between one and two million Tehranis demonstrated against the regime on Monday. That’s a big number. So we can say that, at least for the moment, there is a revolutionary mass in the streets of Tehran. There are similar reports from places like Tabriz and Isfahan, so it’s nationwide.

For its part, the regime ordered its (Basij and imported Hezbollah) thugs to open fire on the demonstrators. The Guardian, whose reporting from Iran has always been very good (three correspondents expelled in the last ten years, they tell me), thinks that a dozen or so were killed on Monday. And the reports of brutal assaults against student dormitories in several cities are horrifying, even by the mullahs’ low standards.

[…]

What’s going to happen?, you ask. Nobody knows, even the major actors. The regime has the guns, and the opposition has the numbers. The question is whether the numbers can be successfully organized into a disciplined force that demands the downfall of the regime. Yes, I know that there have been calls for a new election, or a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinezhad. But I don’t think that’s very likely now. The tens of millions of Iranians whose pent-up rage has driven them to risk life and limb against their oppressors are not likely to settle for a mere change in personnel at this point. And the mullahs surely know that if they lose, many of them will face a very nasty and very brief future.

If the disciplined force comes into being, the regime will fall.

Michael Ledeen published a must-read analysis:

To start with, the BBC, long considered a shill for the regime by most Iranian dissidents, estimates between one and two million Tehranis demonstrated against the regime on Monday. That’s a big number. So we can say that, at least for the moment, there is a revolutionary mass in the streets of Tehran. There are similar reports from places like Tabriz and Isfahan, so it’s nationwide.

For its part, the regime ordered its (Basij and imported Hezbollah) thugs to open fire on the demonstrators. The Guardian, whose reporting from Iran has always been very good (three correspondents expelled in the last ten years, they tell me), thinks that a dozen or so were killed on Monday. And the reports of brutal assaults against student dormitories in several cities are horrifying, even by the mullahs’ low standards.

[…]

What’s going to happen?, you ask. Nobody knows, even the major actors. The regime has the guns, and the opposition has the numbers. The question is whether the numbers can be successfully organized into a disciplined force that demands the downfall of the regime. Yes, I know that there have been calls for a new election, or a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinezhad. But I don’t think that’s very likely now. The tens of millions of Iranians whose pent-up rage has driven them to risk life and limb against their oppressors are not likely to settle for a mere change in personnel at this point. And the mullahs surely know that if they lose, many of them will face a very nasty and very brief future.

If the disciplined force comes into being, the regime will fall.

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Tehran in Color

Boston.com is hosting some extraordinary high-resolution photographs of the uprising in Iran. (Thanks to Michael Moynihan at Reason for the pointer.)

Boston.com is hosting some extraordinary high-resolution photographs of the uprising in Iran. (Thanks to Michael Moynihan at Reason for the pointer.)

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Seven Demands

Demonstrators in Iran distributed seven demands in print yesterday.

1. Dismissal of Khamenei for not being a fair leader
2. Dismissal of Ahmadinejad for his illegal acts
3. Temporary appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as the Supreme Leader
4. Recognition of Mousavi as the President
5. Forming the Cabinet by Mousavi to prepare for revising the Constitution
6. unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
7. Dissolution of all organs of repression, public or secret

Demonstrators in Iran distributed seven demands in print yesterday.

1. Dismissal of Khamenei for not being a fair leader
2. Dismissal of Ahmadinejad for his illegal acts
3. Temporary appointment of Ayatollah Montazeri as the Supreme Leader
4. Recognition of Mousavi as the President
5. Forming the Cabinet by Mousavi to prepare for revising the Constitution
6. unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners
7. Dissolution of all organs of repression, public or secret

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The Third Worldists Are Back

Laura Secor in The New Yorker takes aim at the Orientalism of fools:

A sort of pernicious cliché has entered our discussion of Iranian politics, namely that the Western press cannot be trusted because American reporters are too lazy to leave North Tehran and too dazzled by the appearance of a vocal minority of upper-class Iranians who are congenial to our self-image. We believe Iran is overrun with people who think like we do, the argument goes, because these are the people who talk to us. It is true that the movements of American reporters in Iran are controlled and curtailed to the point where Tehran is the main, if not the only, point of access, apart from the hard-line holy city of Qom. I cannot speak for all American journalists who report from Iran, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is acutely aware of, and frustrated by, the lack of insight into the rural heartland this affords us. The best that we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the full spectrum of urban life, across class and cultural boundaries. Most Iranians, after all, live in cities, of which Tehran is only the most gigantic.

It is from this reporting that I have written, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the urban poor had ceased to be a reliable constituency for Ahmadinejad.

I will never forget the similar line peddled about Lebanese in March and April of 2005. I was there when the “March 14” revolution was in full swing, and I heard from even some Western expats who lived in Beirut that the demonstrators were mostly liberal and “bourgeois” Christians from the “Gucci” class.

It was wrong, and it was contemptible. What ignited that revolution was the assassination of a Sunni prime minister. Around a million people – more than a fourth of the entire country – demonstrated in Martyr’s Square and demanded the ouster of the occupying Syrian military dictatorship. There aren’t a million liberal “bourgeois” Christians in all of Lebanon. In any case, the Christians as a community have proven themselves far less reliably anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah than the Sunnis.

The Westerners I’ve met personally who believe and write this sort of thing suffer from a condescending Third Worldism and a barely concealed contempt for Middle Eastern people whom they don’t think are “authentic.” Arabs and Muslims (and presumably now Persians) aren’t supposed to hate terrorists or yearn for democracy like Americans do. They’re supposed to be in thrall to “resistance” and every other morally and politically bankrupt ideology that attracted the afflicted expats to the region in the first place.

Laura Secor in The New Yorker takes aim at the Orientalism of fools:

A sort of pernicious cliché has entered our discussion of Iranian politics, namely that the Western press cannot be trusted because American reporters are too lazy to leave North Tehran and too dazzled by the appearance of a vocal minority of upper-class Iranians who are congenial to our self-image. We believe Iran is overrun with people who think like we do, the argument goes, because these are the people who talk to us. It is true that the movements of American reporters in Iran are controlled and curtailed to the point where Tehran is the main, if not the only, point of access, apart from the hard-line holy city of Qom. I cannot speak for all American journalists who report from Iran, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is acutely aware of, and frustrated by, the lack of insight into the rural heartland this affords us. The best that we can do is to familiarize ourselves with the full spectrum of urban life, across class and cultural boundaries. Most Iranians, after all, live in cities, of which Tehran is only the most gigantic.

It is from this reporting that I have written, in this magazine and elsewhere, that the urban poor had ceased to be a reliable constituency for Ahmadinejad.

I will never forget the similar line peddled about Lebanese in March and April of 2005. I was there when the “March 14” revolution was in full swing, and I heard from even some Western expats who lived in Beirut that the demonstrators were mostly liberal and “bourgeois” Christians from the “Gucci” class.

It was wrong, and it was contemptible. What ignited that revolution was the assassination of a Sunni prime minister. Around a million people – more than a fourth of the entire country – demonstrated in Martyr’s Square and demanded the ouster of the occupying Syrian military dictatorship. There aren’t a million liberal “bourgeois” Christians in all of Lebanon. In any case, the Christians as a community have proven themselves far less reliably anti-Syrian and anti-Hezbollah than the Sunnis.

The Westerners I’ve met personally who believe and write this sort of thing suffer from a condescending Third Worldism and a barely concealed contempt for Middle Eastern people whom they don’t think are “authentic.” Arabs and Muslims (and presumably now Persians) aren’t supposed to hate terrorists or yearn for democracy like Americans do. They’re supposed to be in thrall to “resistance” and every other morally and politically bankrupt ideology that attracted the afflicted expats to the region in the first place.

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Re: Yes, Obama Is Going To Accept This Result

Abe, your take is exactly right. In fact, Obama’s statement was so so divorced from the reality of violence and murder we see via Twitter and BBC coverage and so ungrounded in what is unfolding (i.e. the potential overthrow of a despotic regime) that one has to ask: Did he intend it to be so awful? After all, even as a grammatical matter, why say he was “deeply troubled by the violence” — a completely passive construction designed to obfuscate who is being violent? There are three possibilities.

First, he asked the striped pants boys in Foggy Bottom to help craft a public statement. He told them: “Americans are horrified so throw a few bones, but these kids in Tehran might not have a chance — and I’m not sure I want so much upset since I need someone to engage — so don’t put in anything that could give a moment’s pause to the regime or make it more difficult for me to get my deal if it the regime survives.” If that was the direction, the statement was the precise one he was looking for.

A second alternative: No one in CIA, State, NSC or anywhere else in the U.S. government has a clue what is really going on in Iran. Can the security forces flip? Is there an internal schism among the clerics developing? No one knows and Obama only wants to talk healthcare. So stall and don’t foreclose any option. If that was the situation, the statement also met its intended purpose.

A third option: Obama is a savvy operator, has read the situation, understands precisely what the protestors want, has cleverly disregarded stray messages pleading for signs of overt support from the U.S. and is protecting the protestors from the appearance of being American stooges. If that was the situation, the statement almost met its intended purpose — because, of course, it could to a large degree wind up emboldening the mullahs (since Obama never said he was troubled by them) and send a shiver up the spines of the Tehran college kids trying to decide if they really want to risk their lives in the streets for another day.

I suspect it’s the first option, but could well understand it might be the second option.  We’ll find out in the days that follow whether this will be regarded as a defining error –a moment of lost opportunity to help spread panic among the mullahs and shift the moral prestige of the U.S. from the despots to the protestors — or a cunning diplomatic maneuver. I think I know which, but hope I am wrong.

Abe, your take is exactly right. In fact, Obama’s statement was so so divorced from the reality of violence and murder we see via Twitter and BBC coverage and so ungrounded in what is unfolding (i.e. the potential overthrow of a despotic regime) that one has to ask: Did he intend it to be so awful? After all, even as a grammatical matter, why say he was “deeply troubled by the violence” — a completely passive construction designed to obfuscate who is being violent? There are three possibilities.

First, he asked the striped pants boys in Foggy Bottom to help craft a public statement. He told them: “Americans are horrified so throw a few bones, but these kids in Tehran might not have a chance — and I’m not sure I want so much upset since I need someone to engage — so don’t put in anything that could give a moment’s pause to the regime or make it more difficult for me to get my deal if it the regime survives.” If that was the direction, the statement was the precise one he was looking for.

A second alternative: No one in CIA, State, NSC or anywhere else in the U.S. government has a clue what is really going on in Iran. Can the security forces flip? Is there an internal schism among the clerics developing? No one knows and Obama only wants to talk healthcare. So stall and don’t foreclose any option. If that was the situation, the statement also met its intended purpose.

A third option: Obama is a savvy operator, has read the situation, understands precisely what the protestors want, has cleverly disregarded stray messages pleading for signs of overt support from the U.S. and is protecting the protestors from the appearance of being American stooges. If that was the situation, the statement almost met its intended purpose — because, of course, it could to a large degree wind up emboldening the mullahs (since Obama never said he was troubled by them) and send a shiver up the spines of the Tehran college kids trying to decide if they really want to risk their lives in the streets for another day.

I suspect it’s the first option, but could well understand it might be the second option.  We’ll find out in the days that follow whether this will be regarded as a defining error –a moment of lost opportunity to help spread panic among the mullahs and shift the moral prestige of the U.S. from the despots to the protestors — or a cunning diplomatic maneuver. I think I know which, but hope I am wrong.

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The End of Something

Ramin Ahmadi, co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, makes a convincing case in Forbes that no matter what happens in Iran at this point, the Islamic Republic regime will never be the same again.

The elite clergy are up in arms about these developments. Secret negotiations are under way to make face-saving deals for both sides, but it may be a little too late for a compromise. There are reports of the armed forces firing on student protesters and at least one death. People are back on their rooftops screaming, “God is great,” along with anti-regime slogans reminding everyone old enough of the 1979 revolution. Ahmadinejad supporters are calling for the arrest of former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, accusing them of treason. Returning the genie to the bottle looks increasingly difficult.

There are at least two possible outcomes for the current crisis. If the Ahmadinejad’s coup is successful, we will witness another post-1968 Prague spring, crushing the reform movement and including a military attempt at “normalizing” society. Mousavi will be forced to appear on television and play the role of an Iranian Dubcek, expressing regrets and calling on people to stop resisting the military regime.

If this coup fails, on the other hand, Tehran may experience the Prague spring of 1989, and the country will be wide open to the possibility of substantial reforms and liberalization, well beyond what was seen in the Khatami era. In either case, the Islamic Republic we have known for the last three decades is gone.

Ramin Ahmadi, co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, makes a convincing case in Forbes that no matter what happens in Iran at this point, the Islamic Republic regime will never be the same again.

The elite clergy are up in arms about these developments. Secret negotiations are under way to make face-saving deals for both sides, but it may be a little too late for a compromise. There are reports of the armed forces firing on student protesters and at least one death. People are back on their rooftops screaming, “God is great,” along with anti-regime slogans reminding everyone old enough of the 1979 revolution. Ahmadinejad supporters are calling for the arrest of former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, accusing them of treason. Returning the genie to the bottle looks increasingly difficult.

There are at least two possible outcomes for the current crisis. If the Ahmadinejad’s coup is successful, we will witness another post-1968 Prague spring, crushing the reform movement and including a military attempt at “normalizing” society. Mousavi will be forced to appear on television and play the role of an Iranian Dubcek, expressing regrets and calling on people to stop resisting the military regime.

If this coup fails, on the other hand, Tehran may experience the Prague spring of 1989, and the country will be wide open to the possibility of substantial reforms and liberalization, well beyond what was seen in the Khatami era. In either case, the Islamic Republic we have known for the last three decades is gone.

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