Nothing to Do With Us?
President Obama spoke up Friday on Iran to say, again, that the massive rebellion there "is not something that has to do with the outside world."
On Saturday, Obama sort of reversed that, by saying that "the universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected," and "the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights." Except he also sort of reversed his reversal, by illustrating the U.S. role as basically a spectator part, sitting around to bear witness, while Obama assures us that in what Martin Luther King called "the arc of the moral universe," somewhere out there, justice awaits.
So, to translate Obamaspeak into plain English: The current havoc and terror being inflicted on Iranian demonstrators is, for the U.S., still really nothing to do with us. And don't worry, in the long-run, it will all work out.
Ummmm.... OK. And in the long-run, said Keynes, we're all dead. This crisis, with the deaths and beatings and arrests of protesters in Iran, is pretty firmly located right now -- in the short-run.
And if the goal for Obama is a better, safer future, if not for the people of Iran, then at least for the "outside world," a.k.a. the United States of America, then this rebellion in Iran, with its courageous protesters fighting armed security forces, has plenty to do with us. For an America apparently unwilling to use military force to deter Iran's regime from its malignant and terror-based ambitions on the global stage, this rebellion is the best chance that has come along in the 30 years since the Islamic revolution to see the Iranian regime collapse. Which could be a genuine game-changer for peace and progress in the Middle East, in a way that no amount of Obama's speechifying and respect-offering and nuclear-haggling could possibly achieve.
For such a collapse to happen would almost certainly require that Iran's pervasive and armed security forces flip sides, and go over to the demonstrators. That is far less likely to happen as long as major powers, especially the U.S., are busy offering or showing "respect" -- to borrow one of Obama's favorite words -- to the current regime.
For Obama to refer -- as he did this week -- to Iranian tyrant Ali Khamenei by his own preferred title of "Supreme Leader" is to reinforce the very regime that is the source of the problem. For Obama to say, as he did on Friday and again on Saturday, that "I think ultimately the Iranian people will obtain justice," is to address a real and immensely important crisis with words out of la-la land.
This would actually be a very good time for Obama to talk about Ali Khamenei, but by way of scrapping the grotesque titles and offering Ali, with a grand gesture of American magnanimity, a small compound to which he might retire in exile, like Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Since Guantanamo is apparently out (and relocating its current inmates to Bermuda and Palau is already costing U.S. taxpayers multiple millions) -- maybe someplace like Hawaii?
If Obama's aim is to make sure that America is not demonized by the Iranian regime, someone needs to get the message through to him that America has been, is being, and will be demonized by Khamenei & Co. in any event. One of the marks of such tyrannies is that they need to invoke enemies, and -- like North Korea's Kim Jong Il & Co. -- will find ways to do that no matter how zealously Obama might wish them happy new year or stand around with his hand extended. And why is America such a favorite target? Because as long as America is a democracy, especially a democracy prone to defend its creed, and its allies, America is, de facto, a threat to tyrannical regimes. Precisely by way of its virtues, and unless its own freedoms are eroded and blasted away beyond all recognition, America IS their enemy.
An excerpt below from my recent Forbes.com column on "The Green Rebellion," listing just a small sample of the ways in which Iran's government is not only a horror to the Iranians now rebelling in the streets, but -- even before we get to the issue of nuclear weapons -- a broad, deep threat to the U.S.:
Contrary to Obama's current line, Iran's politics are not a strictly internal affair. Iran is run by a malignant and murderous regime, which since its inception in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 has been in the business not only of ruling by terror at home, but of exporting its despotic creed and tactics abroad.
The full record extends across the decades, from the taking of U.S. hostages in Tehran in 1979 to bombings in Beirut, Argentina, and beyond. But for a handy summary of the problem in very recent times--and this is before we even get to the matter of Iran's pursuit of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons--Obama could turn to the latest report of his own State Department on "State Sponsors of Terrorism."
There, one finds not only that Iran in 2008 "remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism," but that "Iran's involvement in the planning and financial support of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia had a direct impact on international efforts to promote peace, threatened economic stability in the Gulf, and undermined the growth of democracy."
The same State Department report notes that Iran has been bankrolling, training and arming Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, "that are implacably opposed to the Middle East peace process." Further, the report states, in 2008, Iran provided the terrorist group Hezbollah with over $200 million in funding and trained over 3,000 Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran.
The report also cites aid provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force to the Taliban in Afghanistan, including training, and the provision to "select Taliban members," over the past two years alone, of small arms, "rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107-mm rockets, and plastic explosives." Plus, there's Iran's responsibility for a long series of lethal terrorist attacks in Iraq.
And then there's Iran's special relationship with al-Qaida, in which "State Sponsors of Terrorism" reports the fascinating nugget that "Iran also continued to fail to control the activities of some [al-Qaida] members who fled to Iran following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan."