Posts Tagged ‘meddling’

International Scholar Ajami Explains How Obama Is Failing Re: Iran

June 23, 2009

There is no question that Barack Obama has been widely criticized for offering weak statements on a developing Iranian situation with demonstrators literally risking death to protest what they view as a

While women are being gunned down in the streets, Obama has said he doesn’t want to “meddle” in Iran.  While such women and hundreds of thousands of others are demonstrating and even dying for their vote of Mousavi to be counted against the man whom the Iranian mullahs put in power (Ahmadinejad), Obama has publicly claimed that there is no difference between the two.  And while the Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a progressively harsher and more lethal crackdown on his people, Barack Obama has taken the Ayatollah’s side, claiming:

President Barack Obama says he believes supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has deep concerns about the civil unrest that has followed the hotly contested presidential election there.

Obama repeated Tuesday at a news conference his “deep ir own, concerns” about the disputed balloting. He said he believes the ayatollah’s decision to order an investigation “indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns.”

The Iranian Ayatollah really isn’t that bad of a guy.  You heard it from Barack Hussein first.

It’s not a question as to whether Obama has been tepid in his response to the mass demonstrations in Iran; it is OBVIOUS he has been tepid.  To date, he has delivered three statements on Iran — having been forced to make the third, somewhat more strongly-worded statement, as a result of Congress’ display of unity in its resolve to stand with the Iranian people.  His first statement delivered on June 15 was simply pathetically weak.  Pure and simple.   And even the French and the Germans have shown more moral backbone and more moral indignation than Barack Obama.

When a French president displays moral outrage, while an American president displays political appeasement, it is more than a shame: it is an absolute abdication of leadership.  And, even worse, when an American president is behind Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in exhibiting moral courage, it is truly a sign of the last pathetic gasps of a fading republic.

No, the question isn’t whether Obama is being tepid; it’s merely a matter of asking why he is being so incredibly tepid.

The reason, from all accounts, is that Obama (cynically if realistically) expects the Iranian leadership to prevail in this current struggle, and he doesn’t want to antagonize the Iranian regime in a way that might undermine his subsequent efforts at the direct negotiations he campaigned on.  That, and he doesn’t want to be accused by the Iranians of “meddling” when that has already been proven absurd: the Iranians have ALREADY accused us of meddling whether we have been or not.

I would argue that Ronald Reagan’s “meddling” when he called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” and when he  said, “Mr. Gorbachev: tear down this wall!” are what is in order.  It isn’t “meddling” to call a spade a spade.  It is hardly “meddling” to decry in the strongest of terms the absence of liberty and freedom in support of a demonstrating people who clearly yearn for them.

We can never know what would have happened had we only done something that we were too timid to do.  It is right to stand with the Iranian people against an evil and unjust system; it is wrong to cynically play realpolitic in the faint hope of having that same evil and unjust system offer a diplomatic bone down the road.

But, getting back to the main point, are Obama’s concerns that he might undermine future negotiations with Iran valid?

I would argue that Obama’s whole project of attaining success through diplomacy with Iran was a fool’s project to begin with.  We are talking about a regime that has based itself for over 30 years on conflict with and opposition to “the Great Satan”, America.

At no time during the Obama presidency have they demonstrated any willingness to cease their efforts toward nuclear weapons.  They simply have no reason to do so.  And there is virtually no reason to believe that Barack Obama will be able to give them one.

By any realistic expectation, Obama’s policy of diplomacy and negotiation with Iran has ALREADY FAILED, as even the New York Times recognizes.  There is nothing left in terms of hopes of future negotiation breakthroughs to hope for.  If nothing else, how is Obama going to personally meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the Ayatollah Khamenei, when the fundamental legitimacy of their government is in such open question?

An insightful article by one of the premier experts on Iran offers insights on precisely how and even why Barack Obama has failed on Iran:

JUNE 22, 2009

Obama’s Persian Tutorial: The president has to choose between the regime and the people in the streets.

By FOUAD AJAMI

President Barack Obama did not “lose” Iran. This is not a Jimmy Carter moment. But the foreign-policy education of America’s 44th president has just begun. Hitherto, he had been cavalier about other lands, he had trusted in his own biography as a bridge to distant peoples, he had believed he could talk rogues and ideologues out of deeply held beliefs. His predecessor had drawn lines in the sand. He would look past them.

Thus a man who had been uneasy with his middle name (Hussein) during the presidential campaign would descend on Ankara and Cairo, inserting himself in a raging civil war over Islam itself. An Iranian theocratic regime had launched a bid for dominion in its region; Mr. Obama offered it an olive branch and waited for it to “unclench” its fist.

It was an odd, deeply conflicted message from Mr. Obama. He was at once a herald of change yet a practitioner of realpolitik. He would entice the crowds, yet assure the autocrats that the “diplomacy of freedom” that unsettled them during the presidency of George W. Bush is dead and buried. Grant the rulers in Tehran and Damascus their due: They were quick to take the measure of the new steward of American power. He had come to “engage” them. Gone was the hope of transforming these regimes or making them pay for their transgressions. The theocracy was said to be waiting on an American opening, and this new president would put an end to three decades of estrangement between the United States and Iran.

But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For the length of three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted — just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power. Iran’s rulers have made their way in the world with relative ease. No White Army gathered to restore the dominion of the Pahlavis. The Cold War and oil bailed them out. So did the false hope that the revolution would mellow and make its peace with the world.

Mr. Obama may believe that his offer to Iran is a break with a hard-line American policy. But nothing could be further from the truth. In 1989, in his inaugural, George H.W. Bush extended an offer to Iran: “Good will begets good will,” he said. A decade later, in a typically Clintonian spirit of penance and contrition, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came forth with a full apology for America’s role in the 1953 coup that ousted nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Iran’s rulers scoffed. They had inherited a world, and they were in no need of opening it to outsiders. They were able to fly under the radar. Selective, targeted deeds of terror, and oil income, enabled them to hold their regime intact. There is a Persian pride and a Persian solitude, and the impact of three decades of zeal and indoctrination. The drama of Barack Obama’s election was not an affair of Iran. They had an election of their own to stage. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — a son of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary order, a man from the brigades of the regime, austere and indifferent to outsiders, an Iranian Everyman with badly fitting clothes and white socks — was up for re-election.

The upper orders of his country loathed him and bristled under the system of controls that the mullahs and the military and the revolutionary brigades had put in place, but he had the power and the money and the organs of the state arrayed on his side. There was a discernible fault line in Iran. There were Iranians yearning for liberty, but we should not underestimate the power and the determination of those moved by the yearning for piety. Ahmadinejad’s message of populism at home and defiance abroad, his assertion that the country’s nuclear quest is a “closed file,” settled and beyond discussion, have a resonance on Iranian soil. His challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a generation older, could not compete with him on that terrain.

On the ruins of the ancien régime, the Iranian revolutionaries, it has to be conceded, have built a formidable state. The men who emerged out of a cruel and bloody struggle over their country’s identity and spoils are a tenacious, merciless breed. Their capacity for repression is fearsome. We must rein in the modernist conceit that the bloggers, and the force of Twitter and Facebook, could win in the streets against the squads of the regime. That fight would be an Iranian drama, all outsiders mere spectators.

That ambivalence at the heart of the Obama diplomacy about freedom has not served American policy well in this crisis. We had tried to “cheat” — an opening to the regime with an obligatory wink to those who took to the streets appalled by their rulers’ cynicism and utter disregard for their people’s intelligence and common sense — and we were caught at it. Mr. Obama’s statement that “the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as had been advertised” put on cruel display the administration’s incoherence. For once, there was an acknowledgment by this young president of history’s burden: “Either way, we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons.” No Wilsonianism on offer here.

Mr. Obama will have to acknowledge the “foreignness” of foreign lands. His breezy self-assurance has been put on notice. The Obama administration believed its own rhetoric that the pro-Western March 14 coalition in Lebanon had ridden Mr. Obama’s coattails to an electoral victory. (It had given every indication that it expected similar vindication in Iran.)

But the claim about Lebanon was hollow and reflected little understanding of the forces at play in Lebanon’s politics. That contest was settled by Lebanese rules, and by the push and pull of Saudi and Syrian and Iranian interests in Lebanon.

Mr. Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo did not reshape the Islamic landscape. I was in Saudi Arabia when Mr. Obama traveled to Riyadh and Cairo. The earth did not move, life went on as usual. There were countless people puzzled by the presumption of the entire exercise, an outsider walking into sacred matters of their faith. In Saudi Arabia, and in the Arabic commentaries of other lands, there was unease that so complicated an ideological and cultural terrain could be approached with such ease and haste.

Days into his presidency, it should be recalled, Mr. Obama had spoken of his desire to restore to America’s relation with the Muslim world the respect and mutual interest that had existed 30 or 20 years earlier. It so happened that he was speaking, almost to the day, on the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution — and that the time span he was referring to, his golden age, covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the American standoff with Libya, the fall of Beirut to the forces of terror, and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Liberal opinion would have howled had this history been offered by George W. Bush, but Barack Obama was granted a waiver.

Little more than three decades ago, Jimmy Carter, another American president convinced that what had come before him could be annulled and wished away, called on the nation to shed its “inordinate fear of communism,” and to put aside its concern with “traditional issues of war and peace” in favor of “new global issues of justice, equity and human rights.” We had betrayed our principles in the course of the Cold War, he said, “fought fire with fire, never thinking that fire is quenched with water.” The Soviet answer to that brave, new world was the invasion of Afghanistan in December of 1979.

Mr. Carter would try an atonement in the last year of his presidency. He would pose as a born-again hawk. It was too late in the hour for such redemption. It would take another standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan, to see that great struggle to victory.

Iran’s ordeal and its ways shattered the Carter presidency. President Obama’s Persian tutorial has just begun.

Mr. Ajami, a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is the author of “The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq (Free Press, 2007).

It is more than fitting that, in an article that is ostensibly about Barack Obama’s poor handling of the Iranian election opportunity, Dr. Ajami should begin and end with Jimmy Carter.  Because we truly have seen much of Barack Obama’s native and failed policies before in the person of Jimmy Carter.

The biggest problem facing Barack Obama is that he is viewed – and I believe very rightly – as weak.

Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” – and he defeated it without even having to fire a shot simply by forceful and continuous confrontation.  George W. Bush called Iraq, Iran, and North Korea “the axis of evil” – and he defeated one of its members and replaced it with a stable democracy (over Barack Obama’s opposition, by the way).

Barack Obama is viewed by rogue regimes as being unwilling to go to war to stand up for American policy or American values.  He will pursue negotiation and diplomacy come what may – and in so doing allow tyrants to take advantage of the United States.

That is why “North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has challenged President Obama more in four months than he did President George W. Bush in eight years.”

Bottom line: with a Reagan, or with either Bush, dictators knew that there was a point beyond which they dared not go, lest the U.S. unleash its might upon them.  They have no such fear about Barack Obama, and for good reason.

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