Thursday, June 18, 2009

Obama and Iran

There are some commentators saying that Obama is letting the side down by not throwing his weight behind the protests in Iran. Surely he could swat the regime like a bug, so what's he playing at being all cautious and inscrutable?

For example, Simon Tisdal in today's Guardian rebukes Obama, saying this hands off approach is at odds with his recent Cairo speech. I'm sorry but I completely disagree. Tisdal quotes Obama's speech;

"America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election... But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things." These included the ability to speak freely and have rulers who did not steal from the people. "These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere."
Tisdal then says "Obama's refusal so far to support Iran's anti-government demonstrators... sits uneasily with his Cairo pledge." So a speech where he is clearly pledging that America will no longer be a heavy handed meddler in Middle Eastern affairs is held up as an example of why he should be meddling in the Iranian election - I don't think so.

Tisdall continues, "The problem with these and other defences of inaction is that a hands-off policy is impractical and will not reap dividends. Obama's apparent wish to stand above the fray is both unrealistic and undesirable".

Au contraire - the idea that the US President's could positively influence events by throwing his weight around beggars belief. It's a complete nonsense that Tisdall doesn't even try to justify.

The moment Obama gives explicit support to the protests is the moment that the regime can unleash a real massacre - and Obama knows it. Far from strengthening pro-democracy tendencies in the protest movement it would help to crush them.

Tisdal puts it down to Obama looking out for the "US national interest" and whilst I'm not saying this more cautious approach is opposed to such interests, Obama has a far wiser and more long termist approach than his predecessor, is it in the interests of Iranian democracy for Obama to make some statement or other supporting the overthrow of Ahmedinejad?

The last thing the protest movement needs is to be labelled as a stooge of Western interests. High profile support from Obama would undermine the arguments of the protesters who want Iranians to have their say in who runs Iran. More than that it hands the state not just a propaganda coup (which I've no doubt they would use to full effect) but legitimises even greater use of force to suppress the remaining protesters.

Simon Tisdal might like to think that posturing is more important than the lives of Iranians fighting for their votes to count but we have an intelligent US President now who sees macho soundbites for the blunt tool that they are. I for one am glad that Obama has a cool head and isn't flouncing about like an over excited teenager putting people at risk in order to feel good about himself.

More general links:

David Zirin: Iran is not a soccer riot.
Seamus Milne: Ahmedinejad is popular.
Robert Fisk: proof election was rigged.
I've really tried: why I'm Green.
Payvand: whose country is it anyway?

Stupidest tweet of the day award goes to:
@STWuk Did Israel use Twitter to destabilise Iran?

Keep following Al Jazeera.

1 comment:

ModernityBlog said...

It is strange, how events in Iran are reflecting in Europe and beyond.

Those stuck in some Cold War mentality (both left and right) are having problems grasping the volatile nature of revolution, and how protests against vote ridding in Iran have unleashed an expression of wider social dissatisfaction with the whole regime.

I am surprised how many would-be "revolutionaries" in the West have been making excuses for the status quo in Iran.

I think we've reached a turning point with the Supreme Leader's speech, would will blink first?