It is easy to forget that Barack Obama’s gaffe-turned-policy of unconditional dialogue with Tehran presents more than a tactical opportunity for John McCain’s supporters. This misguided approach to national security would advertise the naiveté of its American practitioners and elevate Iranian sophistry to the status of legitimate statecraft. Yet, beyond this there is another outcome to consider. What effect would this unconditional dialogue have on the brave pro-democracy movement inside Iran?
Iranian human rights activists Manda Zand-Ervin & Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi have an open letter to Barack Obama up on Pajamas Media. Before November, Barack Obama should be called upon to respond to the concerns laid out in this document. Here is an important excerpt:
Senator, since 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.
Since you began talking about unconditionally dialoguing with the Islamic regime of Iran, you too have struck absolute fear in the hearts of the Iranian people, both inside and outside Iran. The few Iranian-Americans who support you are well-intentioned individuals who have been swept up in the excitement and fervor of your campaign. But we can wholeheartedly assure you that your comments have landslide opposition within the much greater Iranian heart both inside and outside Iran.
Iranians believe that the only country who has the moral authority and is able to support them is the United States of America, a country whose foundation as a melting pot mirrors the true character of the once great Persian Empire. But the fact is, as John Bolton so aptly puts it: “Negotiation is a tactic, not policy.” Your policy of direct and unconditional negotiation will give the Mullahs of Iran the legitimacy that they need for more oppression. The real losers will be the already weary people of Iran, whose dreams of freedom and democracy will be dashed for a long time to come. If you empower that regime, the mullahs will continue to harm a country that is already totally economically devastated, as well as socially and politically oppressed.
Barack Obama claims he will restore America’s image abroad. Moreover, on his website, he makes a direct appeal to foreign citizens who’ve suffered while America has stood idly by: “And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”
Welcome to the fierce squandering of now. Obama and his supporters are unable to see that the refusal to meet with terrorists and tyrants hasn’t a thing to do with American arrogance or exceptionalism. It has everything to do with minimizing those parties’ destructive capacities, and empowering the forces ranged against them.
Consider these words spoken by the despised unilateral cowboy George W. Bush during his second inaugural address: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you.”
The statement was pointed at pro-democracy elements inside Iran and, as Richard Perle notes, it hit its mark. Let’s hope the President fulfills America’s full obligation in this regard before leaving office.
As gifted as Barack Obama is, he will have a hard time standing up for liberty while sitting down with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.