Abe, you have it right, and what’s worst, on the day Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sworn in for his second term, Iranian protesters are getting tried, a fact unremarked on by the White House. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:
Maybe President Obama will note that his no-meddling stance hasn’t yielded much in the way of humane restraint or political accommodation. All the more reason, then, for Mr. Obama now to denounce the Stalin-style show trial of some 100 leading reformists accused of seeking to overthrow the regime. The detainees were hauled out of prison in their pajamas, brought to court without the aid of defense lawyers, and in some cases forced to deliver publicly televised confessions.
The Washington Post editors are equally angered by the “contemptible show trials” and by Obama’s fantasy-based policy of engagement with the mullahs. They conclude:
The trials have reinforced the image of a regime whose extremely modest tolerance for public dissent has shriveled as its own grip on power has weakened. Opposition protests continue in the streets of Tehran despite a crackdown by hard-line militias loyal to the regime. Public spats are reported between Mr. Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president who was sworn in Monday. These are dangerous days in Tehran, which only underscores the dilemma the Obama administration faces as it clings to a strategy of engaging Iran to contain its nuclear ambitions: Who is there to talk to?
It is more than a dilemma, of course. It is a travesty — exposing the Obama team’s desperation in dealing with anyone they can find and avoiding the hard choices about how to treat a despotic regime. The Obama administration’s willingness — indeed, eagerness — to proceed, no matter what, only convinces the mullahs that they have the upper hand.
The Senate is moving along a bill on gasoline sanctions, perhaps dragging the Obama administration along grudgingly in realizing that pure engagement unaided by the threat of sanctions is folly. But as former UN Ambassador John Bolton explained in an interview on Fox last night, “This would have been a great idea — six years ago.” Time is running out. Perhaps it already has. The Obama administration’s cowering behavior will not strengthen our hand. And it has, as Abe explained, condemned millions to an increasingly repressive regime.