Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 17, 2009

Why We Should Support the Green Revolution

I do not believe it likely that the people of Iran will overthrow the Revolutionary regime in the next few weeks. This is not one of the goals of the Green revolution. Its explicit demands, however, do include not only the resignation of Ahmedinejad in favor of the popular reformist Mousavi, but also the resignation of the Supreme Leader, Khameni, who has supported Ahmedinejad. Contrary to what some overly intelligent analysts think, it seems clear that we should all be rooting for them to get what they want.

Westerners, including many Israelis, often find the Middle East to be a baffling place, and as a result they find themselves saying things that in any other context would sound absurd. One of my favorites is the argument that goes: “It’s better if something really bad happens, because then people will understand how bad it really is.”I heard this in defense of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza.

The obvious flaw in the argument is that less actual terror, with ambiguous world support, is still better than more actual terror with worldwide sympathy. Sympathy evaporates eventually; lives lost can never be returned. Predictably, what happened with Gaza was that Israel ended up losing on both counts. On the one hand, Hamas took over and built a massive terror infrastructure that enabled it to start taking the fight into Israel’s urban centers in the South. On the other hand, international support was short-lived. When Israel dared fight back, it was subjected to a brutal international outcry.

The same arguments are surfacing today with regard to the Iranian demonstrations since the election. For several days we’ve been hearing both Israeli and American officials saying we’re better off having Ahmedinejad win rather than the reformer Mousavi. (Today it comes from the head of the Mossad.) True, it’s unlikely that an explicit supporter of the Islamic revolution in Iran will suddenly become pro-Israel. It’s not even clear that he’ll stop Iran’s nuclear program. And it’s also true that there’s a limit to how much change a reformer can affect when he’s under the thumb of the Mullahs setting foreign policy. And yet, I still cannot imagine that having Ahmedinejad remain as president is somehow a desirable outcome.

This, for a few reasons.

1. The logic according to which it is “better have an extreme leader than a reformist one” is flawed. It is always better for things to be better than for them to be worse. The actual reality of life in Iran is the most salient reason — there is something perverse about wishing for the continued oppression of Iranians because of its possible PR advantages for us Westerners. But there are other reasons as well:

2. A Mousavi victory sends a stunning rebuke to the most extreme anti-democratic, pro-fascistic forces in the region. It puts a sudden stop to the momentum of extremism, which until now was threatening not only the citizens of Israel and the West, but pro-Western Arab regimes like Egypt. It is easy for us to say that we’d rather wait for the “real” revolution, i.e., a pro-West democratic one. What’s more likely to happen if Mousavi fails is that Iranians will conclude that they’re better off just accepting their rulers than trying to overthrow them.

3. A Mousavi victory creates a dynamic of reform — a dynamic which, once begun, may go much further than Mousavi himself may have intended. The image of Mikhail Gorbachev comes to mind, who was brought in to save the Soviet system by allowing a measure of reforms known as Glasnost and Perestroika. This opened the door for a popular revolt by a population that had long ago stopped believing in Communism as an ideology. We may not know who will play the role of Yeltsin, but looking back, it seems silly to prefer Brezhnev and Andropov and Chernenko over Gorbachev, just because it made Cold Warriors more comfortable to have a more unambiguously despicable enemy.

For days now, Mousavi’s revolt is gaining steam. It is being handled wisely, minimizing violence from the side of the protesters, garnering the quiet support of major Iranian figures like Khatami and Rafsanjani. According to journalists on the ground, yesterday’s rally brought together over a million people, and they are just getting angrier with every killing by the pro-government militias. The military has stepped in — to protect the demonstrators, rather than stop them. Iranians had come to expect a certain measure of self-rule by being able to choose their own leaders, at least to a point. Today they feel they were robbed. If they get to have their freedom, even in limited amounts, they may well end up wanting more.

I do not believe it likely that the people of Iran will overthrow the Revolutionary regime in the next few weeks. This is not one of the goals of the Green revolution. Its explicit demands, however, do include not only the resignation of Ahmedinejad in favor of the popular reformist Mousavi, but also the resignation of the Supreme Leader, Khameni, who has supported Ahmedinejad. Contrary to what some overly intelligent analysts think, it seems clear that we should all be rooting for them to get what they want.

Westerners, including many Israelis, often find the Middle East to be a baffling place, and as a result they find themselves saying things that in any other context would sound absurd. One of my favorites is the argument that goes: “It’s better if something really bad happens, because then people will understand how bad it really is.”I heard this in defense of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza.

The obvious flaw in the argument is that less actual terror, with ambiguous world support, is still better than more actual terror with worldwide sympathy. Sympathy evaporates eventually; lives lost can never be returned. Predictably, what happened with Gaza was that Israel ended up losing on both counts. On the one hand, Hamas took over and built a massive terror infrastructure that enabled it to start taking the fight into Israel’s urban centers in the South. On the other hand, international support was short-lived. When Israel dared fight back, it was subjected to a brutal international outcry.

The same arguments are surfacing today with regard to the Iranian demonstrations since the election. For several days we’ve been hearing both Israeli and American officials saying we’re better off having Ahmedinejad win rather than the reformer Mousavi. (Today it comes from the head of the Mossad.) True, it’s unlikely that an explicit supporter of the Islamic revolution in Iran will suddenly become pro-Israel. It’s not even clear that he’ll stop Iran’s nuclear program. And it’s also true that there’s a limit to how much change a reformer can affect when he’s under the thumb of the Mullahs setting foreign policy. And yet, I still cannot imagine that having Ahmedinejad remain as president is somehow a desirable outcome.

This, for a few reasons.

1. The logic according to which it is “better have an extreme leader than a reformist one” is flawed. It is always better for things to be better than for them to be worse. The actual reality of life in Iran is the most salient reason — there is something perverse about wishing for the continued oppression of Iranians because of its possible PR advantages for us Westerners. But there are other reasons as well:

2. A Mousavi victory sends a stunning rebuke to the most extreme anti-democratic, pro-fascistic forces in the region. It puts a sudden stop to the momentum of extremism, which until now was threatening not only the citizens of Israel and the West, but pro-Western Arab regimes like Egypt. It is easy for us to say that we’d rather wait for the “real” revolution, i.e., a pro-West democratic one. What’s more likely to happen if Mousavi fails is that Iranians will conclude that they’re better off just accepting their rulers than trying to overthrow them.

3. A Mousavi victory creates a dynamic of reform — a dynamic which, once begun, may go much further than Mousavi himself may have intended. The image of Mikhail Gorbachev comes to mind, who was brought in to save the Soviet system by allowing a measure of reforms known as Glasnost and Perestroika. This opened the door for a popular revolt by a population that had long ago stopped believing in Communism as an ideology. We may not know who will play the role of Yeltsin, but looking back, it seems silly to prefer Brezhnev and Andropov and Chernenko over Gorbachev, just because it made Cold Warriors more comfortable to have a more unambiguously despicable enemy.

For days now, Mousavi’s revolt is gaining steam. It is being handled wisely, minimizing violence from the side of the protesters, garnering the quiet support of major Iranian figures like Khatami and Rafsanjani. According to journalists on the ground, yesterday’s rally brought together over a million people, and they are just getting angrier with every killing by the pro-government militias. The military has stepped in — to protect the demonstrators, rather than stop them. Iranians had come to expect a certain measure of self-rule by being able to choose their own leaders, at least to a point. Today they feel they were robbed. If they get to have their freedom, even in limited amounts, they may well end up wanting more.

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Khomeini’s Arabization of Persia

The Arab-Israeli conflict is often thought of as a Muslim-Israeli conflict, although it is not. Israel has normal relations and even alliances with a number of Muslim-majority countries – with Turkey, Albania, Azerbaijan, and some others. Kurdistan, if it existed as a sovereign nation, would instantly align itself with Israel against the Arabs. A number of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government officials told me they are not-so secretly friends with Israel now.

Iran used to have normal relations with Israel. I met Israel’s last ambassador to Iran in Jerusalem in 2006. He was posted in Tehran before the old regime of the Shah was overthrown by the Khomeinists. His very existence reminded me that hostile relations between Israel and Iran need not be eternal. A post-Khomeinist Iran, whether it comes into being now or later, might resume normal relations with Israel or at least dial down the hostility to a lower volume.

In his new book The Persian Night, Iranian author and COMMENTARY contributor Amir Taheri describes how and why the Khomeinists imported an alien Arab ideology and its attendant grievances into a land of Persians, Azeris, and Kurds:

Despite the presentation of the Jew by the Khomeinist regime as the ultimate “other” and object of hatred, anti-Semitism has failed to find a wide audience in Iran. Leaving aside what one might call “vulgar anti-Semitism,” there is no evidence that hatred of the Jews has any echoes in contemporary Persian literature or art. Part of this is because the overwhelming majority of Iranian writers, poets, and other “producers of culture” reject Khomeinism as a form of anti-Iranian fascism. The main reason, however, is that the average Iranian, though he may sympathize with the Palestinians, cannot identify with the Arabs, whom he regards as an ancestral foe. The fact that the only major war that Iran has fought in the past three hundred years was started by an Arab nation – Iraq under Saddam Hussein – makes it hard for most Iranians to contemplate an Irano-Arab front against Israel.

So, why has the Khomeinist regime tried to present itself as an advocate of the most radical anti-Israel, not to say anti-Jewish, strategy? The answer lies in the regional and even global ambitions of a regime in search of hegemony and empire. If Iran were to use Iranian culture and the Persian language as vehicles for projecting those ambitions, the regime would have to tone down its Islamic pretensions, thus losing its principle claim to legitimacy.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is often thought of as a Muslim-Israeli conflict, although it is not. Israel has normal relations and even alliances with a number of Muslim-majority countries – with Turkey, Albania, Azerbaijan, and some others. Kurdistan, if it existed as a sovereign nation, would instantly align itself with Israel against the Arabs. A number of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government officials told me they are not-so secretly friends with Israel now.

Iran used to have normal relations with Israel. I met Israel’s last ambassador to Iran in Jerusalem in 2006. He was posted in Tehran before the old regime of the Shah was overthrown by the Khomeinists. His very existence reminded me that hostile relations between Israel and Iran need not be eternal. A post-Khomeinist Iran, whether it comes into being now or later, might resume normal relations with Israel or at least dial down the hostility to a lower volume.

In his new book The Persian Night, Iranian author and COMMENTARY contributor Amir Taheri describes how and why the Khomeinists imported an alien Arab ideology and its attendant grievances into a land of Persians, Azeris, and Kurds:

Despite the presentation of the Jew by the Khomeinist regime as the ultimate “other” and object of hatred, anti-Semitism has failed to find a wide audience in Iran. Leaving aside what one might call “vulgar anti-Semitism,” there is no evidence that hatred of the Jews has any echoes in contemporary Persian literature or art. Part of this is because the overwhelming majority of Iranian writers, poets, and other “producers of culture” reject Khomeinism as a form of anti-Iranian fascism. The main reason, however, is that the average Iranian, though he may sympathize with the Palestinians, cannot identify with the Arabs, whom he regards as an ancestral foe. The fact that the only major war that Iran has fought in the past three hundred years was started by an Arab nation – Iraq under Saddam Hussein – makes it hard for most Iranians to contemplate an Irano-Arab front against Israel.

So, why has the Khomeinist regime tried to present itself as an advocate of the most radical anti-Israel, not to say anti-Jewish, strategy? The answer lies in the regional and even global ambitions of a regime in search of hegemony and empire. If Iran were to use Iranian culture and the Persian language as vehicles for projecting those ambitions, the regime would have to tone down its Islamic pretensions, thus losing its principle claim to legitimacy.

The only theme that the Khomeinist regime might use to find an audience among the Arabs is one that has resonated with at least some of them since the 1950s: hatred of Israel. Israel has all the qualifications to become the scapegoat for the Arab audience that Ahmadinejad seeks. To start with, Israel is Jewish and thus presumed heir to the “Jews who made Muhammad suffer in Medina.” Israel is also the “outsider” because millions of its citizens, though perhaps no longer a majority, have Western backgrounds. Being a democracy also makes Israel the exact opposite of the despotic Khomeinist system. Having adopted a capitalist market economy, Israel is perceived as a challenge to the Islamo-fascistic populism that Khomeinists present as their political ideology. In any case, Israel must be doomed because it has already had a woman as prime minister, and, as Muhammad is supposed to have said, a nation ruled by a woman is bound to perish.

[…]

The Khomeinist regime hopes to achieve a number of objectives by adopting the destruction of Israel as its cause. It will attract the attention of the Arab intelligentsia, a good part of which has built its utopian vision of the world around deep hatred of Israel. Hatred of Israel also provides a bond between the Islamic Republic and the broader Arab masses who are suspicious of Iran’s Shiism. The same is true of the remnants of the left in the Middle East, to whom an anti-Israel stance is part of a broader anti-imperialist strategy that Khomeinism, too, claims to espouse.

[…]

Ahmadinejad’s message to the Arabs is simple: Forget that Iran is Shiite, and remember that today it is the only power capable of realizing your most cherished dream, the destruction of Israel. The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood promised you it would throw the Jews into the sea in 1948, but failed. Pan-Arab nationalists, led by Nasser, ushered you into one of your biggest defeats in history, enabling Israel to capture Jerusalem. The Baathists under Saddam Hussein promised to “burn Israel,” but ended up bringing the American infidels to Baghdad. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian “patriots” promised to crush the Jewish state, but turned into collaborators on its payroll. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda never gave two hoots about Palestine, focusing only on spectacular operations in the West to win publicity for themselves. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Hamas did all they could to destroy Israel but lacked the power, like flies attacking an elephant. The only force now willing and able to help realize your dream of a burned Israel and drowning the Jews is the Islamic Republic as created by Khomeini.

[…]

It is not easy to present Israel as a threat to Iran, let alone a Muslim world of 1.3 billion people. There is no history of enmity between Iranians and Jews. On the contrary, most historical narratives on both sides radiate with genuine warmth and affection. Ancient Persians helped save the Jews from extermination in Babylon. Jews always remained loyal to Iran, fighting and dying for it whenever given an opportunity. Even when Israel was reborn as a state, few Iranian Jews were prepared to choose it over Iran. Iran and Israel do not face any of the problems that set one nation-state against another. There is no border dispute between them. They are not competing over access to rare natural resources or markets. They do not suffer from a collective memory of hatred and war. Any Western visitor to Iran would quickly realize that Iranians do not hate Jews and would not be prepared to sacrifice them for the Arabs. This lack of a popular base for a policy of hatred and war may well prove to be the ultimate check on Ahmadinejad’s messianic illusions.

Before Ahmadinejad wiped Israel off the map, moreover, he would have to deal with the third “other” in the Khomeinist demonology: the American Great Satan, which, although weakened by its internal squabbles and surrounded by squeamish allies, remains the world’s sole superpower. Between Ahmadinejad and the light of day stands the shadow of a heavily armed foe that has all but encircled the Islamic Republic, and, its tergiversations notwithstanding, remains capable of doing quite a bit of mischief.

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It’s Change, Alright

Robert Kagan writes that Obama’s fixation on finding a “Grand Bargain” with Iran is being put to the test. He writes that Obama’s meek response has been “widely misinterpreted as reflecting concern that too overt an American embrace of the opposition will hurt it, or that he wants to avoid American ‘moralizing.'” No, argues Kagan –this is all about sticking to his game plan:

Whatever his personal sympathies may be, if he is intent on sticking to his original strategy, then he can have no interest in helping the opposition. His strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the side of the government’s efforts to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, not in league with the opposition’s efforts to prolong the crisis.

It’s not that Obama preferred a victory by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He probably would have been happy to do business with Mir Hossein Mousavi, even if there was little reason to believe Mousavi would have pursued a different approach to the nuclear issue. But once Mousavi lost, however fairly or unfairly, Obama objectively had no use for him or his followers. If Obama appears to lend support to the Iranian opposition in any way, he will appear hostile to the regime, which is precisely what he hoped to avoid.

Well that’s a bit chilling for the inspirational One, isn’t it? Indeed, this is the realism that has Chas Freeman applauding:

If you find all this disturbing, you should. The worst thing is that this approach will probably not prevent the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. But this is what “realism” is all about.

What does the Left in America do about that? And there there is the glaring flaw in the whole endeavor — Islamic totalitarians are not the sort to give up their weapons or to be deterred from using them (MAD only works when your opponents think mass killings of their own people in service of an ideological cause is a bad thing). As Stephen Hayes explains:

Either Obama believes that he can engage in meaningful negotiations with Ahmadinejad, in which case he’s a fool, or he believes that his spurned good-faith attempts at those negotiations will win him credit from our allies in Europe and elsewhere, good will that he can use to gain support for tough sanctions. In that case, he’s fooling himself.

Moreover, Obama’s engagement-no-matter-what fetish presupposes that there will be domestic patience and international support for what will surely be open-ended talks with the mullahs. After the events of this week, that assumption may be faulty.

Well, the country voted for “change” but perhaps it didn’t count on so ruthless and preposterous a foreign policy vision. Ironically, it appears as if the U.S. government is now firmly on the side of the status quo — standing with a fascistic theocracy that has shocked even the most gullible defenders of that regime. It remains to be seen whether the president’s eyes can be opened and whether he understands the implications, both domestic and international, that flow from helping prop up an evil regime.

Robert Kagan writes that Obama’s fixation on finding a “Grand Bargain” with Iran is being put to the test. He writes that Obama’s meek response has been “widely misinterpreted as reflecting concern that too overt an American embrace of the opposition will hurt it, or that he wants to avoid American ‘moralizing.'” No, argues Kagan –this is all about sticking to his game plan:

Whatever his personal sympathies may be, if he is intent on sticking to his original strategy, then he can have no interest in helping the opposition. His strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the side of the government’s efforts to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, not in league with the opposition’s efforts to prolong the crisis.

It’s not that Obama preferred a victory by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He probably would have been happy to do business with Mir Hossein Mousavi, even if there was little reason to believe Mousavi would have pursued a different approach to the nuclear issue. But once Mousavi lost, however fairly or unfairly, Obama objectively had no use for him or his followers. If Obama appears to lend support to the Iranian opposition in any way, he will appear hostile to the regime, which is precisely what he hoped to avoid.

Well that’s a bit chilling for the inspirational One, isn’t it? Indeed, this is the realism that has Chas Freeman applauding:

If you find all this disturbing, you should. The worst thing is that this approach will probably not prevent the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. But this is what “realism” is all about.

What does the Left in America do about that? And there there is the glaring flaw in the whole endeavor — Islamic totalitarians are not the sort to give up their weapons or to be deterred from using them (MAD only works when your opponents think mass killings of their own people in service of an ideological cause is a bad thing). As Stephen Hayes explains:

Either Obama believes that he can engage in meaningful negotiations with Ahmadinejad, in which case he’s a fool, or he believes that his spurned good-faith attempts at those negotiations will win him credit from our allies in Europe and elsewhere, good will that he can use to gain support for tough sanctions. In that case, he’s fooling himself.

Moreover, Obama’s engagement-no-matter-what fetish presupposes that there will be domestic patience and international support for what will surely be open-ended talks with the mullahs. After the events of this week, that assumption may be faulty.

Well, the country voted for “change” but perhaps it didn’t count on so ruthless and preposterous a foreign policy vision. Ironically, it appears as if the U.S. government is now firmly on the side of the status quo — standing with a fascistic theocracy that has shocked even the most gullible defenders of that regime. It remains to be seen whether the president’s eyes can be opened and whether he understands the implications, both domestic and international, that flow from helping prop up an evil regime.

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The Emergence of an “Obama Doctrine?”

It’s still very early in the Obama administration, but a pattern is beginning to emerge in how the president deals with foreign nations. And it isn’t a very pretty one.

Thus far, it seems that the guiding principle of this administration is summed up in a single, concise phrase: “Treat your enemies like friends, and your friends like enemies.” It’s doubtful the plan was envisioned as such, but that is the impression they’re giving so far.

Others here have already discussed at length how the Obama administration is dealing with Israel, so no recap is necessary — but  the statements made thus far on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do fit quite nicely into the theme.

Regarding North Korea and China, Obama seems almost eager to offer a hand in friendship to those who have wasted no time in offering insults, offenses, and threats against the U.S.

On the other hand, Obama seems almost eager to alienate Great Britain. And at one point, Obama’s rush to boost the American economy led him to push for some very protectionist, almost jingoistic measures — which royally irritated Canada, who pointedly reminded him that such measures violate long-standing trade agreements with our neighbor to the north.

There is a plausible — if simplistic — explanation for this. Our relations with hostile nations need a great deal of attention and effort in order to improve. On the other hand, our friends already like us; they don’t need much hand-holding and reassuring.

This gives the impression that we take our friends for granted and don’t care about slighting them in favor of those who have been — to put it mildly — far less obliging and amicable.

Do we really want to lose some of the affection and respect we enjoy from some nations in exchange for the dim prospect of others not hating us quite so much? That’s a very, very poor trade-off.

It’s still very early in the Obama administration, but a pattern is beginning to emerge in how the president deals with foreign nations. And it isn’t a very pretty one.

Thus far, it seems that the guiding principle of this administration is summed up in a single, concise phrase: “Treat your enemies like friends, and your friends like enemies.” It’s doubtful the plan was envisioned as such, but that is the impression they’re giving so far.

Others here have already discussed at length how the Obama administration is dealing with Israel, so no recap is necessary — but  the statements made thus far on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict do fit quite nicely into the theme.

Regarding North Korea and China, Obama seems almost eager to offer a hand in friendship to those who have wasted no time in offering insults, offenses, and threats against the U.S.

On the other hand, Obama seems almost eager to alienate Great Britain. And at one point, Obama’s rush to boost the American economy led him to push for some very protectionist, almost jingoistic measures — which royally irritated Canada, who pointedly reminded him that such measures violate long-standing trade agreements with our neighbor to the north.

There is a plausible — if simplistic — explanation for this. Our relations with hostile nations need a great deal of attention and effort in order to improve. On the other hand, our friends already like us; they don’t need much hand-holding and reassuring.

This gives the impression that we take our friends for granted and don’t care about slighting them in favor of those who have been — to put it mildly — far less obliging and amicable.

Do we really want to lose some of the affection and respect we enjoy from some nations in exchange for the dim prospect of others not hating us quite so much? That’s a very, very poor trade-off.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest on car nationalization: “Eighty percent (80%) of U.S. voters want the government to sell its stake in General Motors and Chrysler as soon as possible. . . Support for ending the government ownership is so strong that 64% favor a proposal that would force the government to sell the auto companies within a year. Only 26% are opposed.”

Now he tells us: “President Obama says he thinks unemployment will hit 10% this year. . . In January, the incoming administration predicted in a white paper study that without a huge stimulus package, unemployment would reach just over 8%, and would be contained at under 8% with a stimulus package.”

A break in the dam: Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill says the White House didn’t follow the law she drafted in firing an inspector general. Byron York has been following another story of “politicizing” law enforcement.

Obama is very disturbed on Iran, “concerned” on the debt. Too bad he’s not president or he could do something rather than just emote. Oh, wait.

Why was the Palestinians’ reaction to Netanyahu’s speech so over the top? Maybe the Obama Effect: “The harsh response of the PA is the direct result of high hopes that its leaders have pinned on the administration of US President Barack Obama. Reports about a looming crisis between the administration and Netanyahu over the future of the Middle East peace process, combined with Obama’s conciliatory approach toward the Arab and Muslim worlds, created the impression in Ramallah that the Israeli government had no choice but to accept all the Palestinian demands. Briefing reporters on the eve of Netanyahu’s speech, some of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s top aides predicted that, in the wake of increased US pressure, Netanyahu would be forced to give in, freezing settlement construction and accepting the two-state solution.”

The Wall Street Journal  editors notice that we have managed to cede the moral high ground to the French on Iran.

Dan Senor and Christian Whiton list all the things we could do if we really wanted to bolster the protesters.

Ever so timidly, the Washington Post editors try to tell the president that “however the crisis ends, it may require rethinking of the administration’s Iran strategy. There is a connection between the regime’s internal character and its external conduct.” Do we think the light bulb has gone on? Not yet.

David Frum: “Among other casualties of the violence in Tehran: President Obama’s foreign policy hopes. If he persists now in his deal-making efforts, he’ll be acquiescing in fraud and violence. What is happening in Iran now is this year’s Tiananmen Square, and if Obama tries do business with the regime afterward, he’ll open himself to exactly the same criticism Bill Clinton meted out to the elder George Bush: of coddling tyrants.” But as Frum points out there is no “Plan B,” so coddle he must.

Obama said yesterday that North Korea “has a track record of proliferation that makes it unacceptable for them to be accepted as a nuclear power.” So now we can tell a country it can’t have nuclear weapons? That’s a far cry form his pussy-footing around with Iran, most recently in Cairo. Then he was saying no country has a right to tell another it can’t have nukes.  It seems the only constant rule in operation is: don’t annoy the mullahs.

The latest on car nationalization: “Eighty percent (80%) of U.S. voters want the government to sell its stake in General Motors and Chrysler as soon as possible. . . Support for ending the government ownership is so strong that 64% favor a proposal that would force the government to sell the auto companies within a year. Only 26% are opposed.”

Now he tells us: “President Obama says he thinks unemployment will hit 10% this year. . . In January, the incoming administration predicted in a white paper study that without a huge stimulus package, unemployment would reach just over 8%, and would be contained at under 8% with a stimulus package.”

A break in the dam: Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill says the White House didn’t follow the law she drafted in firing an inspector general. Byron York has been following another story of “politicizing” law enforcement.

Obama is very disturbed on Iran, “concerned” on the debt. Too bad he’s not president or he could do something rather than just emote. Oh, wait.

Why was the Palestinians’ reaction to Netanyahu’s speech so over the top? Maybe the Obama Effect: “The harsh response of the PA is the direct result of high hopes that its leaders have pinned on the administration of US President Barack Obama. Reports about a looming crisis between the administration and Netanyahu over the future of the Middle East peace process, combined with Obama’s conciliatory approach toward the Arab and Muslim worlds, created the impression in Ramallah that the Israeli government had no choice but to accept all the Palestinian demands. Briefing reporters on the eve of Netanyahu’s speech, some of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s top aides predicted that, in the wake of increased US pressure, Netanyahu would be forced to give in, freezing settlement construction and accepting the two-state solution.”

The Wall Street Journal  editors notice that we have managed to cede the moral high ground to the French on Iran.

Dan Senor and Christian Whiton list all the things we could do if we really wanted to bolster the protesters.

Ever so timidly, the Washington Post editors try to tell the president that “however the crisis ends, it may require rethinking of the administration’s Iran strategy. There is a connection between the regime’s internal character and its external conduct.” Do we think the light bulb has gone on? Not yet.

David Frum: “Among other casualties of the violence in Tehran: President Obama’s foreign policy hopes. If he persists now in his deal-making efforts, he’ll be acquiescing in fraud and violence. What is happening in Iran now is this year’s Tiananmen Square, and if Obama tries do business with the regime afterward, he’ll open himself to exactly the same criticism Bill Clinton meted out to the elder George Bush: of coddling tyrants.” But as Frum points out there is no “Plan B,” so coddle he must.

Obama said yesterday that North Korea “has a track record of proliferation that makes it unacceptable for them to be accepted as a nuclear power.” So now we can tell a country it can’t have nuclear weapons? That’s a far cry form his pussy-footing around with Iran, most recently in Cairo. Then he was saying no country has a right to tell another it can’t have nukes.  It seems the only constant rule in operation is: don’t annoy the mullahs.

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More from the “Words Matter” Administration

At yesterday’s State Department press conference, Spokesman Ian Kelly — who the day before had pointedly said he was unwilling to use the word “condemn” about events in Iran — said about the protesters killed that “of course, we condemn any acts of violence that led to the deaths of these demonstrators.”

His condemnation produced this colloquy:

QUESTION: Why are you not condemning more broadly any acts of violence against the demonstrators, period, not just those that happened to have led to deaths?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. That’s a fair question. And I would say that any use of violence against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.

QUESTION: And something you condemn?

MR. KELLY: As I said before, I – we find this unacceptable. I’m not going to get into the semantics.

In other words, asked to “condemn” all acts of violence against demonstrators — not just deadly ones — Kelly was comfortable only with calling such acts “unacceptable.”  Asked a second time to condemn them, he repeated his use of “unacceptable.”  Actual condemnation was a bridge he was not prepared to cross.

The term “unacceptable” is the characterization Barack Obama has given to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Assuming he is using that term in State Department parlance, it means he disagrees with Iran’s pursuit of such weapons but is not prepared to condemn them — unless, of course, someone is actually killed by them.

As he told the entire Muslim world, “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.”  That would be unacceptable.

At yesterday’s State Department press conference, Spokesman Ian Kelly — who the day before had pointedly said he was unwilling to use the word “condemn” about events in Iran — said about the protesters killed that “of course, we condemn any acts of violence that led to the deaths of these demonstrators.”

His condemnation produced this colloquy:

QUESTION: Why are you not condemning more broadly any acts of violence against the demonstrators, period, not just those that happened to have led to deaths?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. That’s a fair question. And I would say that any use of violence against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable.

QUESTION: And something you condemn?

MR. KELLY: As I said before, I – we find this unacceptable. I’m not going to get into the semantics.

In other words, asked to “condemn” all acts of violence against demonstrators — not just deadly ones — Kelly was comfortable only with calling such acts “unacceptable.”  Asked a second time to condemn them, he repeated his use of “unacceptable.”  Actual condemnation was a bridge he was not prepared to cross.

The term “unacceptable” is the characterization Barack Obama has given to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Assuming he is using that term in State Department parlance, it means he disagrees with Iran’s pursuit of such weapons but is not prepared to condemn them — unless, of course, someone is actually killed by them.

As he told the entire Muslim world, “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.”  That would be unacceptable.

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What Just Happened?

Nearly lost in all the media coverage of protests and people power in Iran is what one faction of the divided Iranian regime establishment just did to the others.

A few days ago at RealClearWorld, Kevin Sullivan called it a coup.

Iran hawks prefer to label the Iranian police state as simply “The Mullahs,” but the legitimate clerics in this dispute are the ones standing with Mir-Hossein Mousavi against ONE Mullah and his secular police apparatus. If the election has been rigged in such a fashion, then what you are in fact seeing is the dropping of religious pretense in the “Islamic” Republic of Iran. This is a secular police state in action.

Yesterday, Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh at the American Enterprise Institute published a piece in the New York Times detailing how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spent the last four years placing Revolutionary Guard officers in positions of power all over the country. He and “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei heeded warnings by Guard commanders that the Islamic Republic might eventually succumb to a “soft regime change” or an “orange revolution” if hardliners weren’t firmly in control of the country.

“In the most dramatic turnabout since the 1979 revolution,” they wrote, “Iran has evolved from theocratic state to military dictatorship.”

If this analysis is correct – and right now, it looks like it is – the White House may need to start over from scratch. Iran is the same country it was a week ago, but it no longer has quite the same government.

Some will argue that Mr. Ahmadinejad may be in a conciliatory mood because he needs talks with the United States to underscore his own legitimacy, but that can only be read as a self-serving Washington perspective. Meanwhile, the Iranian people will have suffered the consolidation of power by a ruthless regime and the transformation of a theocracy to an ideological military dictatorship. That Iran neither needs nor wants accommodation with the West.

Nearly lost in all the media coverage of protests and people power in Iran is what one faction of the divided Iranian regime establishment just did to the others.

A few days ago at RealClearWorld, Kevin Sullivan called it a coup.

Iran hawks prefer to label the Iranian police state as simply “The Mullahs,” but the legitimate clerics in this dispute are the ones standing with Mir-Hossein Mousavi against ONE Mullah and his secular police apparatus. If the election has been rigged in such a fashion, then what you are in fact seeing is the dropping of religious pretense in the “Islamic” Republic of Iran. This is a secular police state in action.

Yesterday, Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh at the American Enterprise Institute published a piece in the New York Times detailing how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spent the last four years placing Revolutionary Guard officers in positions of power all over the country. He and “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei heeded warnings by Guard commanders that the Islamic Republic might eventually succumb to a “soft regime change” or an “orange revolution” if hardliners weren’t firmly in control of the country.

“In the most dramatic turnabout since the 1979 revolution,” they wrote, “Iran has evolved from theocratic state to military dictatorship.”

If this analysis is correct – and right now, it looks like it is – the White House may need to start over from scratch. Iran is the same country it was a week ago, but it no longer has quite the same government.

Some will argue that Mr. Ahmadinejad may be in a conciliatory mood because he needs talks with the United States to underscore his own legitimacy, but that can only be read as a self-serving Washington perspective. Meanwhile, the Iranian people will have suffered the consolidation of power by a ruthless regime and the transformation of a theocracy to an ideological military dictatorship. That Iran neither needs nor wants accommodation with the West.

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The First Rule of Media Relations

The Iranian government is violating my First Rule of Media Relations, which I came up with after Hezbollah threatened me personally: Be nice to people who write about you for a living.

The BBC reports:

The new restrictions on foreign media require journalists to obtain explicit permission before leaving the office to cover any story.

Journalists have also been banned from attending or reporting on any “unauthorised” demonstration – and it is unclear which if any of the protests are formally authorised.

Press cards have been declared invalid.

Our correspondent says they are the most sweeping restrictions he has ever encountered reporting anywhere.

The Iranian government is violating my First Rule of Media Relations, which I came up with after Hezbollah threatened me personally: Be nice to people who write about you for a living.

The BBC reports:

The new restrictions on foreign media require journalists to obtain explicit permission before leaving the office to cover any story.

Journalists have also been banned from attending or reporting on any “unauthorised” demonstration – and it is unclear which if any of the protests are formally authorised.

Press cards have been declared invalid.

Our correspondent says they are the most sweeping restrictions he has ever encountered reporting anywhere.

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Re: Did Obama Want Ahmadinejad to Win?

John, Obama’s interview with John Harwood suggests Obama doesn’t really care who wins in Iran — so long as his precious engagement strategy isn’t disrupted. Here is the relevant exchange:

HARWOOD: Couple things, quickly, before we run out of time. You took your time reacting to the protests in Iran after the election. What are you watching for in the handling of those protests and in the investigation of the results to–and how will that influence the dialogue that you seek to have with Iran?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think first of all, it’s important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, that 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 some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons. And so we’ve got long-term interests in having them not weaponize nuclear power and stop funding organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. And that would be true whoever came out on top in this election. The second thing that I think’s important to recognize is that the easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the US that is encouraging those reformers. So what I’ve said is, `Look, it’s up to the Iranian people to make a decision. We are not meddling.’ And, you know, ultimately the question that the leadership in Iran has to answer is their own credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people. And when you’ve got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they’re having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election. And my hope is that the regime responds not with violence, but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed. Am I optimistic that that will happen? You know, I take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, it’s important for the United States to engage in the tough diplomacy around those permanent security concerns that we have–nuclear weapons, funding of terrorism. That’s not going to go away, and I think it’s important for us to make sure that we’ve reached out.

You can see the wheels turning: remind them these are two peas-in-a-pod. (Hmm. I thought we were told this was a robust election and sign of progress.) Promote the assumption that regime change is not a possibility. Obama hopes the regime doesn’t respond with violence, but what will be will be.

Get the sense he doesn’t give a fig about which way it turns out? Get the sense all he cares about is preserving the hope of dealing with the regime (a fascistic regime prepared to kill its own people to maintain a fraudulent election)?

No hope. No change.  It never dawns that this might be a game changer — either a regime change and/or a complete discrediting of the notion that these are people with whom one can do business. No sense that the American people and the world at large might, because of this, mount a credible series of sanctions and/or reject the notion of extended negotiations.

It is clear what’s up. All he wants to do is talk, so he can’t give offense.  Fine — he’ll deal with Ahmadinejad if the regime can crush the protesters. He is an enabler now, a cheerleader against regime change. Shameful.

John, Obama’s interview with John Harwood suggests Obama doesn’t really care who wins in Iran — so long as his precious engagement strategy isn’t disrupted. Here is the relevant exchange:

HARWOOD: Couple things, quickly, before we run out of time. You took your time reacting to the protests in Iran after the election. What are you watching for in the handling of those protests and in the investigation of the results to–and how will that influence the dialogue that you seek to have with Iran?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think first of all, it’s important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, that 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 some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons. And so we’ve got long-term interests in having them not weaponize nuclear power and stop funding organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. And that would be true whoever came out on top in this election. The second thing that I think’s important to recognize is that the easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it’s the US that is encouraging those reformers. So what I’ve said is, `Look, it’s up to the Iranian people to make a decision. We are not meddling.’ And, you know, ultimately the question that the leadership in Iran has to answer is their own credibility in the eyes of the Iranian people. And when you’ve got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they’re having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election. And my hope is that the regime responds not with violence, but with a recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed. Am I optimistic that that will happen? You know, I take a wait-and-see approach. Either way, it’s important for the United States to engage in the tough diplomacy around those permanent security concerns that we have–nuclear weapons, funding of terrorism. That’s not going to go away, and I think it’s important for us to make sure that we’ve reached out.

You can see the wheels turning: remind them these are two peas-in-a-pod. (Hmm. I thought we were told this was a robust election and sign of progress.) Promote the assumption that regime change is not a possibility. Obama hopes the regime doesn’t respond with violence, but what will be will be.

Get the sense he doesn’t give a fig about which way it turns out? Get the sense all he cares about is preserving the hope of dealing with the regime (a fascistic regime prepared to kill its own people to maintain a fraudulent election)?

No hope. No change.  It never dawns that this might be a game changer — either a regime change and/or a complete discrediting of the notion that these are people with whom one can do business. No sense that the American people and the world at large might, because of this, mount a credible series of sanctions and/or reject the notion of extended negotiations.

It is clear what’s up. All he wants to do is talk, so he can’t give offense.  Fine — he’ll deal with Ahmadinejad if the regime can crush the protesters. He is an enabler now, a cheerleader against regime change. Shameful.

Read Less




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