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Not Even Bearing Witness

Max and I were not alone in noticing the pathetically inadequate remarks on Iran by the president. Obama suggested that we are actually in an improved position with Iran because the mullahs are “isolated,” not mentioning of course that they are less isolated than they would have been had he denied their regime recognition after the June 12 election and refused to spend a year frittering away our time on engagement while the mullahs moved ahead with their nuclear program. His limp admonition that the mullahs will “face growing consequences” certainly will raise cackles of derision in Tehran. John Noonan makes another key point:

What a wasted opportunity. One line mentioning the Iranian democratic movement would have emboldened the Islamic Republic’s freedom fighters to immeasurable proportions. One brief mention, “Iranians, we are with you,” on a soapbox as grand as the State of the Union would have raised the blood and spirits of the protesters beyond their grandest demonstration, and put the Mullahs on the defensive. Instead we were served with a tepid regurgitation of a failed talking point.

Obama did not even offer up his latest “bearing witness” formulation. Perhaps he feared the room might erupt in guffaws. At Oslo he tiptoed toward more robust human-rights language, raising the expectations of some eager analysts who so hoped he was turning the corner. But alas, those human-rights and democracy advocates are back under the bus. Obama has got no time, inclination to assist, or even words for them. He’s building his new foundation. The Iranians will need to build theirs on their own as far as he is concerned.


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