Does that mean us? The One hasn’t unambiguously supported the movement, although he did feel a frisson of Hopenchange on Mousavi’s behalf the last time he spoke about this. Given Gen. Odierno’s comments today that Iran’s still training and arming fanatics in Iraq, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it does indeed mean us (and Britain, natch).
I don’t want to be an eeyore, but after seven years of nuke kabuki and now a coup by hardliners to cement control, I’m starting to think Iran’s not serious about negotiations.
Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned the regime would seek revenge against states it has accused of fanning pro-democracy demonstrations in the wake of its disputed election.
Mr Ahmadinejad used the attack on Western powers send a defiant message in his first public comments since his controversial re-election was upheld by the electoral authorities on Monday. He said: “We must use all the capacities to break the monopoly of the global powers.”
In fine totalitarian fashion, he went on to blame the uprising on “conspiracies” organized by Iran’s “enemies.” It’s worth starting to think about what Iran would have to do, what line it would or could cross, for The One to finally declare they’ve gone too far and that dialogue is impossible. Tiananmen-style massacre? Invasion of Bahrain to bring the region’s other Shiite-majority country into the fold? If you take Team Barry’s rhetoric serious about how negotiations aren’t a “reward” for Iran but merely an exchange on mutual interests, then presumably neither of those things would be a dealbreaker either. In fact, the worse they behave, the more urgent diplomacy theoretically becomes as a way of “persuading” them to straighten up and fly right. After all, with a military strike off the table and sanctions having already reached the limits of their effectiveness, talking to them is the only chance of reining them in. Such are the options for the most powerful country in the world and its European allies.
Or is there another reason for Obama’s obsession with dialogue? Ever the cynic, Leon Wieseltier says it’s all about the O’s self-image. Gosh, that doesn’t sound like him at all:
Obama’s parsimonious performance in the first weeks of the rebellion in Tehran, the disappearance of his eloquence and his championship of change, was an attempt by the president to impersonate the rest of us, to be just another saddened consumer of tweets and feeds. Hence his refrains about “bearing witness” and “the world is watching.” That is uplift for a demonstration, or a vigil. Witnessing and watching are varieties of passivity. The rest of us witness and watch, because we can do little else. (Hitting “send” is not a muscular form of political action.) Obama seems to think that there is some force in the admonition that the world is watching; but history plentifully demonstrates that when the world is watching, all the world does is watch…
I do not agree that Obama’s diffidence about liberation and human rights is owed entirely to a fear of nuclear proliferation. He has another commitment. He is determined to be the un-ugly American. This excites him. He is consecrated to an engagement with the Muslim world, which is not entirely consistent with a consecration to democracy. Even as the brutality of the ayatollahs was increasing, Obama made a point of referring graciously to “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” as if it would be a slander against Islam or Iran to refer to the regime in a less legitimating manner.
Exit question: Are there any other international crises in the news lately that would support Wieseltier’s thesis? Hmmm.