Protestors and demonstrators in Iran took to the streets defying orders from the Ayatollah Kahmanei to stay off the streets and were heard chanting "Death to Kahmanei".
What most observers who understand internal Iranian politics are saying is that what we are now seeing in Iran is unprecedented. It is the single biggest taboo to challenge the authority of Iran's supreme leader and that is exactly what the demonstrators are doing.
The consensus among those who understand the culture and politics of Iran is the demonstrators have crossed a point of no return. Robin Wright, who has written extensively on Iran for years said on CNN that she believes Kahmanei is fighting for his political life. And she as well as others have said this is no longer about the election. It's become much bigger. It has become what the system of government in Iran is going to be.
And while other European leaders and even the US Congress have made their condemnation of the current government and their actions clear and have voiced clear support for the demonstrators, Obama has chosen to take the " I don't want to be seen as meddling" approach and has watched it all from the sidelines. As events in Iran become more dramatic, Obama's position has gotten to the point where it's becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Iran has already come out and condemned France, Great Britain and Germany for their "meddling" statements. So what does Obama think? That by trying to stay in the good graces of an oppressive and now murderous regime he is somehow going to affect change through negotiation?
Change is occuring within Iran without Obama.With the protestors having crossed a line of no return experts say it is not going to be possible for the ruling mullahs in Iran to hold onto power without unleashing the worst violence against their own people that the middle east has seen since Sadaam used chemical weapons to put down a revolt of the Kurds.
So one of two things are going to happen. Either the demonstrators are going to succeed in overthrowing the current government which has already become destabilized, or the conservatives in Iran will unleash an unprecedented bloodbath against the protestors. Either way Obama's position of trying to stay in their good graces for the sake of negotiation has become obsolete, a situation that neither he nor his advisors have been able to recognize.
The other argument being made for Obama's soft pedaling is he doesnt want to be used as a "foil" or an excuse by the current governement to unleash more violence against the demonstrators.
Is he kidding? All he has to do is warn Iran publicly against doing just that and make it clear publicly that the safety of the demonstrators is the responsibility of the Iranian government and that any attempts to use the United States as an excuse to commit murder or human rights violations against its own people will be just that -- an excuse.
To see and read and hear these fumbling excuses by the Obama Administration and Obama himself as to why he has chosen "not to meddle" in an unprecedented revolution by the moderates and liberals in Iran is too reminiscent of the ineptness of George Bush to be believed.
As events continue to unfold in Iran, Obama's position is becoming more and more absurd each passing minute.
The Congress, in response to what they saw as a tepid response from Obama overwhelmingly passed resolutions of support for the demonstrators and condemnation of the current Iranian government. In response, Obama yesterday decided to issue a statement that was stronger than those of the past few days. But his statement that " the whole world is watching" was still typical Obama -- stating the obvious, borrowing the chants of the anti-war demonstrators in the US in the 1960's and telling us what everyone has known for days and hardly needs to be pointed out --- yes the world is watching.
But Obama's decision to sit on the sidelines in order to preserve some future attempt at negotiating with the current regime has been usurped whether he likes it or not. There are already reports that anywhere from 19 to 150 people have been killed by government police and militia. If this continues and the present government cracks down harder on the demonstrators and the violence increases it will be impossible for Obama to "negotiate" anything with the current Iranian government if they succeed in quashing the revolution. Any outstretched hand to this government after a bloodbath will look like the worst kind of appeasement.
Yet all of this represents a golden opportunity for the United States. If the current government becomes destabilized or even toppled, that, and not Obama's "outstretched hand" to a government that chants "Death to America" would be the best chance of a non-nuclear Iran which would be a benefit to the world.
But so far Obama has not seized the opportunity. He insists on giving legitimacy to the current government..The world seems ready to line up against the current Iranian government and their actions as the statements of condemnation from other European countries have shown. Obama could be the one to rally them. Instead he doesn't want to "meddle".
People are taking their lives into their hands to stand up against a repressive government that poses a threat to the whole world and Obama is worried about Iran's reaction to his own response, which when one thinks about it, doesn't bode well for how Obama would handle negotiations with Ahmedenjad anyway.
It should be clear by now that there is a revolution taking place and so far, Obama's approach in trying to preserve a "negotiating" position with the present oppressive government has made him look weak and foolish. Events in Iran will make any attempts at negotiating with the current government impossible in the future. Instead Obama should try and seize this opportunity to rally and lead the rest of the world to condemn the actions of the Iranian goverment . He could call for new supervised elections. He could do a lot of things but he isn't.
The revolution has started without him. Millions of Iranians are demanding change and putting their lives on the line to try and achieve it. .But so far it doesn't seem like change Obama can believe in.
UPDATE: Not to put too fine a point on this, but today (Sunday June 21) Hillary Mann Levit a former foreign policy advisor to the Bush Administration in an interview with CNN said that Obama's earlier statements and his "not meddling" position was the right one to take. She went on to say that his first statement saying that there was no difference between Ahmedenjad and Mousavi and it made no difference to him who was also the right thing to say.
History has shown that George W Bush was without a doubt the most inept and incompetent President in history. He was wrong on every foreign policy decision he ever made and when you have one his advisors saying that Obama has done the right thing, that alone should give Obama cause to reconsider.
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