Commentary Magazine


Obama’s New Historic First: Indifference to Revolution

The Islamic Republic of Iran shares a rare and important trait with both the United States and Israel: it is a country founded on an idea. Moreover the idea is an aspirational one: to spread the Khomeinist interpretation of Shia Islam far and wide. Collective aspiration makes a country potent if not exactly strong. Iranians’ ubiquitous and hallowed enthusiasm for a nuclear bomb is hard to imagine in a country thrown up around bloodlines, like Saudi Arabia, or determined by tribal relations and geography, like Afghanistan. In opposing the mullahs, the challenge is to undermine the country’s founding idea. There is no doubt that the green-clad protesters in the streets of Tehran are doing this, even while they chant Allahu Akbar and embrace a man who will, in all likelihood, not veer from Iran’s nuclear quest.

Consider the movement’s “7-Point Manifesto”:

1. Stripping Ayatollah Khamenei of his supreme leadership position because of his unfairness. Fairness is a requirement of a supreme leader.

2. Stripping Ahmadinejad of the presidency, due to his unlawful act of maintaining the position illegally.

3. Transferring temporary supreme leadership position to Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazery until the formation of a committee to reevaluate and adjust Iran’s constitution.

4. Recognizing Mir Hossein Mousavi as the rightfully elected president of the people.

5. Formation of a new government by President Mousavi and preparation for the implementation of new constitutional amendments.

6. Unconditional release of all political prisoners regardless of ideology or party platform.

7. Dissolution of all organizations – both secret and public – designed for the oppression of the Iranian people, such as the Gasht Ershad (Iranian morality police).

The majority of the points (3, 5, 6, and 7) are fundamentally subversive and haven’t a thing to do with the “elections.” Yet Barack Obama is still talking about recounts and engagement. Pundits speak as if only hawkishness can become dogmatic, but the U.S. is dealing itself out of an anti-Khomeinist revolution because of the administration’s fanatical “realism.”

Since Obama’s featherweight denunciation of “the violence” in Iran, the regime’s brutality has grown ten-fold. Yesterday, Ayatollah Khamenei promised “bloodshed” if riots continue. Today, protesters were bombarded with tear gas and water cannons. Tomorrow, who knows? If Khamenei succeeds in stopping the riots it will be because of the implementation of deadly force. After that, the American administration will return to failed engagement with a regime that’s doubled down on human rights abuse and theocratic tyranny. If there is any truth to the claim that Obama has affected a thaw in American-Muslim relations, it will have evaporated once Iran’s defeated democrats see him praise their tormentors.

And if you want to know just how inept our secretary of state is, here is her most recent (three days ago) contribution to the discussion: “I wouldn’t know a Twitter from a tweeter, but apparently, it is very important.”

Barack Obama told the rioters that the eyes of the world were on them. That was so, until Tehran obstructed our vision by shutting down foreign media and arresting domestic journalists. Dogged followers are still trying to make sense of the scattershot coverage and amateur accounts, but major American networks seem already to be experiencing riot fatigue. As the House and Senate have both passed resolutions condemning Tehran, the eyes of the world are increasingly focused on President Obama. After all, it is an astounding thing to see an administration sleepwalk through a revolution.