In an interview with a Pakastani newspaper, reported by the Hill, Obama says:
We respect Iran’s sovereignty, but we also are witnessing peaceful demonstrations, people expressing themselves, and I stand for that universal principle that people should have a voice in their own lives and their own destiny. . And I hope that the international community recognizes that we need to stand behind peaceful protests and be opposed to violence or repression.
So perhaps, step-by-step, the “no meddling” rule is becoming non-operative. We now know Obama didn’t have double-secret information from Mousavi cautioning him to be quiet. He was just slow in recognizing what was going on, not unlike how he reacted to the invasion of Georgia during the campaign. What happened?
Perhaps more sensible voices in the White House have been reading advice like this from Dan Senor and Christian Whiton:
As for the notion that American action is unhelpful to reformers, this simply contradicts historical experience. Successful movements to alter authoritarian and totalitarian regimes almost always depend on internal dissent backed by strong international support. Those key factors are often required to get a regime’s enablers — including domestic security forces — to lose confidence and eventually succumb. Time and again and around the world — from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 — the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.
Or perhaps those in the White House who keep tabs so closely on the polls and the New York Times op-ed pages saw the winds of popular and elite opinion shifting, and recognized the president was painfully out of step. When you trail even the French in moral indignation something is clearly wrong.
Whatever the reason, the change of heart — if real — is welcome. Let’s see now if Obama can use some of that “smart diplomacy” to rally world opinion and exert pressure on the Iranian regime. At the very least, it seems Plan A — ingratiate himself with the mullahs — is kaput.