No, I’m really not kidding about this. The Washington Post has the story:
But Obama’s shades-of-gray approach rejects comparison to an era when Communist bloc dissidents had virtually no access to the Western media and the world was more neatly divided between a pair of superpowers, not complicated by the set of ambitious regional powers such as Iran that the Obama administration is seeking to manage.
Since taking office, Obama has argued that reclaiming America’s moral authority by ending torture and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay provides essential diplomatic leverage to influence events in such strategic parts of the world as the Middle East and Central Asia. The speech he delivered to the Islamic world in Cairo eights days before the June 12 Iranian election sought to do that by providing what the president saw as an unvarnished accounting of U.S. policy in Iran, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We’re trying to promote a foreign policy that advances our interests, not that makes us feel good about ourselves,” said a senior administration official who, like others, declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the issue.
Obama’s approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president’s words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic’s Islamic authority in its 30-year history.
This is the most despicable, self-serving, and arrogant spin I’ve seen yet from this White House, and that’s saying something. Obama gave a speech, and suddenly the people of Iran discovered that they’re being ruled by tyrants? Never mind that two weeks passed between the speech and the uprising, and that the very obvious trigger for the unrest was the incompetent manner in which the mullahs rigged the election for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Never mind the fact that this President took a full week to even sound like a watered-down Nicolas Sarkozy, let alone the leader of the free world.
This is very obviously an attempt at damage control. Obama has gotten hammered for staying behind the curve of Western leaders in the defense of liberty, freedom, and human rights. He has preferred to stay on the sidelines in the hope that silence will make the mullahs like him enough to grant him an audience, while Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and the Brits slam the mullahcracy for its brutal treatment of political opposition. Now, suddenly, Obama wants to claim credit for getting their first with his Cairo speech — which had nothing to do with overthrowing mullahs, and in fact had only a passing mention of democracy as an official US policy in the Middle East.
On the grand scale of things, I’d say that the establishment of democracy in Iraq had more influence on the Iranians than anything Obama’s managed to say, and I wouldn’t go so far to make it a proximate cause, or much more than a tertiary influence, after the stolen election and decades of repression by the mullahs.
Besides, how impressed do you think Iranians are with Obama’s open invitation to the mullahs for a 4th of July BBQ? Think that inspires them to demand liberty?
Despicable, and shame on the Washington Post for not calling them on it.
Update: I meant to write two weeks, not two months, between the Cairo speech (6/4) and the uprising. It’s fixed.
Update II: Jim Geraghty makes a great point:
Remember how it was important to recognize that these protests in Iran were triggered by ordinary Iranians’ response to the election, and it was important for the U.S. government to be quiet, soft-spoken, and understated in its response to evolving events? Remember when the most important thing was that the Iranians, and the world, conclude that this uprising was generated entirely by internal sources?
Yeah, apparently that’s no longer the case.
So now can we get a full-throated cry of support for freedom and liberty from the supposed leader of the Free World?