On this website, Michael Ledeen has given us his wise assessment of President Obama’s recent letter to Iran, as well as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s response to it. It would have been nice had Obama drafted TNR assistant editor Jamie Kirchick to write his message, rather than write the one he actually did. Kirchick said what Obama failed to do. He spoke to the Iranian people and not to the regime. Indeed, Kirchick tells Iran that the mullahs are the ones to apologize to the United States, for its terrorism and its attempt to build a nuclear weapon with which they threaten to obliterate Israel. Kirchick also demands the immediate release of the many political prisoners held in jail from what he accurately calls a “criminal regime.”
There is one commentator, however, who is pleased with Obama’s letter. It is- you guessed- the inimitable Roger Cohen, who is so taken with himself that he evidently believes, as he puts it, that “Obama has now taken all the steps I called for.” In his column run on the New York Times website on March 22nd- but strangely absent from the op-ed pages in the paper’s print edition in the “Week In Review,”(which perhaps means that even that paper’s editors are tired of Cohen’s glowing view of the regime of the mullahs) Cohen likes Obama’s letter and reads into it things that others are not so sure Obama means.
First, Cohen says that Obama has “abandoned regime change as an American goal” and has “shelved the so-called military option.” As Ledeen notes, Obama has increased sanctions, and his spokesmen have many times emphasized nothing is off the table should Iran not make positive responses to the United States. But nevertheless, Cohen believes the Obama letter means a reversal of US policy towards Iran, one that is based on “mutual respect.”
Really, does Cohen actually believe we should show respect to a nation that suppresses homosexuals, practices hangings of dissenters and throws them into jails where they are tortured and have no rights? Does he welcome the growing repression of women and journalists and other actions of the regime in the last few months, that have not let up despite President Obama’s election? Is this something for which the United States should now ignore in the name of realism?