Thoughts on Obama and Iran

Thoughts on Obama and Iran

By: Michael Barone (external - login to view)
Senior Political Analyst
06/17/09 9:35 PM EDT

For one who has been cautiously optimistic about some of Barack Obama’s important foreign policy decisions—for his refusal to withdraw from Iraq, for his stepping up our efforts in Afghanistan—I have to say I am dismayed by his policy toward Iran. Bloggers on the left as well as the right have been cheering on the Iranians demonstrating not only in protest of what they consider the rigged reelection of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad but against the fundamental features of the mullah regime.

But Obama has been hesitant to comment and has only expressed “deep concern” and then promised not to “meddle” in Iranian internal affairs. This toothless response is not only a contrast with Ronald Reagan’s disciplined expressions of anger at the Soviet-commanded crackdown on Solidarity in Poland in 1981 but also with the measured but unambiguous condemnation by George H. W. Bush of the Tienanmen Square massacre twenty years ago this month.

Obama’s strength as a political leader has been his ability, evident in his campaign, of setting forth a long-range strategy and executing it pretty faithfully. But that is also his weakness as a president. His long-range strategy with Iran, apparent in his July 2007 debate statement that he would meet with Ahmedinejad without “preconditions,” is to mollify evil regimes like Iran’s by expressing respect for them and regret for any number of previous American actions and policies. This may not pay off immediately, he has conceded, but will if he shows persistence. When they see that I’m really a nice guy, he seems to believe, they’ll make concessions in order to be acceptable to the world community—or something like that.

The demonstrations have thrown these calculations into disarray. One of my observations as a campaign consultant and political writer is that the hard part of running a campaign with an intelligent long-range strategy is to distinguish between the nine times out of ten when you should disregard those who say you should change your strategy from the one time out of ten when you should heed that advice. The demonstrations strike me as the one out of ten—even if you agree with the Obama strategy toward Iran, which I certainly don’t.

By propitiating the mullah regime, Obama hopes to get it to abandon its drive to get nuclear weapons—by the end of this year, he says. But the chances of this seem to be very close to zero. Obama’s very restrained comments on the demonstrations—“deep concern,” no “meddling”—have evoked cries of protest from Ahmedinejad. The mullahs have been attacking the United States for thirty years, despite attempts by each American administration in that period to propitiate and negotiate with them. There is nothing—nothing—to indicate that Obama’s attempts at “regime preservation”—the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes’s term—is changing that.

At the same time, Obama’s refusal to espouse the cause (and aid it materially) of the Iranian protesters, as Ronald Reagan did on Poland in 1981, or to at least make it clear that the United States considers its government’s actions illegitimate, as George H. W. Bush did on China in 1989, reduces the chances of achieving the one outcome which would be of enormous benefit to the United States, to our friends in Israel and other parts of the Middle East and Europe within range of Iranian missiles: regime change. I am not saying that the chances that these demonstrations will produce regime change are high; I simply do not know and suspect they are not high. But we do know from the history of the last thirty years that peaceful regime change can come very quickly and unexpectedly. It happened in Poland and all over Eastern Europe, though not in China. It happened, with help from the George W. Bush administration and some European leaders, in Ukraine and Georgia.

Obama is said to be following a realist foreign policy. Don’t worry about human rights; propitiate evil dictators and make deals with them. But if the issue is to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran aiming its weapons at its neighbors, what is realistic? It seems to me Obama is giving up a small but nontrivial chance of advancing regime change for a zero chance of achieving a change in regime behavior. That sounds to me like a rigid adherence to ideology—the ideology in this case being opposition to George W. Bush’s rhetorical and sometimes successful drive to advance democracy and freedom—rather than a pragmatic attempt to take advantage of an unexpected development—the demonstrations against an election result morphing into an existential challenge to an evil regime. From the candidate of hope and change we get a commitment of hopelessness and the status quo. What do all our idealists on the left who cheered candidate Obama and are cheering the Iranian demonstrators think of this?
If the Iranians ever get their mitts on water and make a hydrogen bomb the Jews are pooched.

Stop it from raining and snowing in Persia before it's too late!
Michael Barone

Michael Barone is senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner. A resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he is also a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. His column is published Wednesdays and Sundays.
Obama extended his hand in his speech in Cairo.

He got a fist in return fron Iran.

We'd be well advised to wait until the old jerks, known as AYATOLLAHs - who must have a headgear because they are ashamed of their heads - die or are, hopefully assassinated, for different result.

Did your mom threaten to kill the neighbourhood kids if they didn't come to your birthday party?
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