President Obama’s engagement of Iran is coming apart at the seams.
Obama Treats Iran Like a Democracy
Comments | Print friendly | Subscribe | Email Us
Last month, President Obama hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House for what proved to be a very uneasy meeting to say the least. They did manage to put on a cordial enough front to take questions from the media. When President Obama was asked how long his policy of engagement with Iran would last he gave a most remarkable answer:
I think it’s important to recognize that Iran is in the midst of its own elections. As I think all of you, since you’re all political reporters, are familiar with, election time is not always the best time to get business done.
Their elections will be completed in June, and we are hopeful that, at that point, there is going to be a serious process of engagement.
If President Obama had not mentioned Iran he could have very easily been talking about elections in Sweden or even his own election. He spoke of the Iranian “election” as if it was going to take place in any other democratic country including the United States. Yet only 48 hours later, Iran’s Guardian Council barred all women for running in the “election” and nary a word from the White House.
Well, Iran’s “elections” have been completed. In fact, no sooner were the polls closed when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election. This did not sit well with Iranians who have taken to the streets. Their grievances have been rewarded with the government shutting down websites and text messaging systems. They have also been rewarded with violence that has resulted in injury and death with many more likely to come.
While President Obama has bemoaned the violence he is clearly eager to proceed in serious process of engagement with Iran. How else can one explain his acceptance of Iran’s claim it will look into election irregularities at face value? How else can one explain Obama’s admonition that we respect Iran’s sovereignty?
So eager is President Obama to have an audience with Iran’s leaders that he respects Iran’s sovereignty despite a fraudulent election. Yet he doesn’t respect Israel’s sovereignty where it concerns Jewish settlements. Could it be because Obama doesn’t accept Israeli sovereignty on the settlements because of the outcome of Israel’s elections earlier this year which saw Netanyahu brought back to power?
Whatever President Obama’s motivations for favoring Iran over Israel they are troubling. After all, if the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad are prepared to commit violence against their own people what might they be prepared to do to Israel? What could Iran be prepared to do to the United States be it at home or abroad?
It makes one long for the not so recent days of George W. Bush. Whatever his shortcomings, Bush knew better when it came to Iran. Shortly before the Iranian “election” in 2005, which saw Ahmadinejad ascend to the Presidency, Bush said:
Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world. Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.
Outside of the War in Iraq, there is no starker difference between former President Bush and President Obama than when it comes to Iran. To this point, Bush has refrained from criticizing President Obama in public. But if I were to venture to guess should Bush ever break his silence it would be over Obama’s position on Iran. Perhaps those criticisms will appear in his memoirs due out next year.
If decorum prevents Bush from publicly criticizing President Obama there is no such propriety in place where I am concerned. Obama’s Iran policy has been misguided since he declared his intention to seek residence at the White House. When Obama was interviewed by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes in February 2007, the Democratic hopeful said of talking to Iran and Syria:
The notion that this administration has that not talking to our enemies is effective punishment is wrong. It flies in the face of our experience during the Cold War. And Ronald Reagan understood that it may be an evil empire, but it’s worthwhile for us to periodically meet to see are there areas of common interest.
Ronald Reagan engaged with Mikhail Gorbachev. The Gipper did not engage with Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov or Constantine Chernenko. Gorbachev was a genuine reformer. The same cannot be said of Ahmadinejad. The response of Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs bears no resemblance to glasnost or perestroika. Lest we forget its persecution of women, homosexuals and religious minorities like the Baha’i. In fact, Iran’s leading members of the Baha’i faith are awaiting trial. They stand accused of spying for Israel and “insulting religious sanctities.” If convicted they face execution. Suffice it to say Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.
President Obama claims he wants to engage Iran in order to prevent the escalation of a nuclear arms race and exporting its terrorist activities. The best way to do that is prevent Iran from building nuclear arms in the first place. But since Obama is not going to stand in Iran’s way of developing a nuclear weapon what makes him think Iran is going to listen to him anyway? Does he honestly think he can get by on charm with the Iranians? President Obama would be wise not to dismiss Iran’s claims that it has test fired a missile capable of hitting Israel and southeastern Europe as mere electioneering. He would also be wise in listening to Ahmadinejad when he dismisses sanctions:
They said if you don’t stop, we will adopt resolutions… They thought we would retreat but that will not happen. I told them you can adopt 100 sets of sanctions, but nothing will change.
This is not the language of a man amenable to reason. This is not the language of a leader willing to engage. This is not the rhetoric of a leader who is freely and democratically elected. President Obama should stop treating Iran like a democracy.
As it stands President Obama’s engagement of Iran is coming apart at the seams. Of course, Obama has so much vested in engagement as it is the centerpiece of his foreign policy. He cannot jettison it now even if he knows he made a mistake. His vanity is such that it would not allow him to admit such a thing even if it puts the world at jeopardy. Why else would President Obama be still holding out an open hand even though Iran has let his olive branch fall to the ground?
Aaron Goldstein was a card carrying member of the socialist New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP). Since 09/11, Aaron has reconsidered his ideological inclinations and has become a Republican. Aaron lives and works in Boston.