Ajami: The education of Mr. Obama; Update: Hot dogs still on the barbie for July 4th, Iran!
posted at 3:45 pm on June 22, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
Fouad Ajami writes today that Barack Obama’s response to the Iranian crisis reveals a shallow depth on foreign policy from our new President that his opponents predicted during the campaign. Obama can’t “lose” Iran — Jimmy Carter already took care of that — but he will lose an opportunity, if he doesn’t learn that the mullahs have no use for American “engagement” Had he paid attention to history before entering the White House, Ajami argues, he’d already know that:
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.
Ajami also slams Obama for his statement on Mousavi:
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.
Obama offers even less to the Iranians than Clinton, Bush 41, or Reagan, who sold them arms (a moment Ajami leaves out of the essay). As during the campaign, Obama expects that face-to-face talks will work miracles without taking into account the nature of the regime in Tehran. They do not want America’s friendship; in fact, they need America as an enemy almost as much as they need Israel as an enemy. They need the great American bogeyman to smear their opponents and to keep internal dissent focused outwards, in regime-approved acts of catharsis on the streets.
They’ll need that even more if these protests fail to dislodge the mullahs. The Guardian Council will have to paint the protesters as spies for Israel and America in order to discredit the movement. They can hardly do that while having tea with Barack Obama or offering any meaningful dialogue on arms reductions — and that assumes they would ever end their nuclear-weapons program, which aims for the extermination of Israel.
Read all of Ajami’s scathing critique of Obama’s foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran.
The United States said Monday its invitations were still standing for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 celebrations at US embassies despite the crackdown on opposition supporters.
President Barack Obama’s administration said earlier this month it would invite Iran to US embassy barbecues for the national holiday for the first time since the two nations severed relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“There’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.
“We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran,” Kelly said. “We tried many years of isolation, and we’re pursuing a different path now.”
They want to have the Iranian regime celebrate Independence Day after brutally repressing a freedom movement in Iran? Sickening.