News & Politics

Leon Panetta: Obama Should Have Helped 2009 Iran Protesters, 'That's What the U.S. Is All About'

In light of the current Iran protests, former secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN that President Barack Obama should have supported the 2009 Green movement protesters in Iran.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Panetta about the 2009 protests in an interview Tuesday evening. “Do you think the Obama administration dropped the ball by not more aggressively standing with the protesters, whether on its own or in Congress with our European allies and others?”

Panetta, who directed the CIA during the protests and later served as Obama’s secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013, essentially said yes.

“Well, I remember that — that movement. It was a much larger protest than what we’re having today,” Panetta said. “It was based on the Green Party and what happened in the election then.”

“I do think that was an appropriate time for the United States to have sent a clearer message that we stand by those who try to represent the rights of people. That’s what the United States is all about. And it would have been important to have sent that message at the time,” he concluded.

The subtle nature of this rebuke should not obscure the fact that a key Obama staffer essentially attacked the former president — for being insufficiently American. “That’s what the United States is all about,” Panetta said.

He is emphatically correct, and his rebuke underscores the difference between President Donald Trump and former President Obama on Iran. Trump has supported the protesters, rebuking the oppressive Islamic Republic. Obama hedged during the 2009 protest, issued a limited rebuke to the regime after the protest, and later made a horrendous “nuclear deal” with the regime.

Women are leading the protests in Iran, as Stephen Miller pointed out at Female protesters removed veils, waving them as flags in protest against the oppressive Islamist regime, which requires women to cover their faces in public. Women reportedly led the protests in Isfahan.

This pits the calls for women’s rights — at the enter of the Women’s March against Trump — on the same side as President Trump himself. Does this connection explain why liberals have hesitated to embrace the Iran protests? If so, that is disgusting.

Both Obama and current liberals hesitate to back opponents of an oppressive regime that forces women to wear veils in public, restrains the freedom of information, and actively funds terrorism.

Panetta’s rebuke — that failing to stand with the Iran protesters in 2009 made Obama insufficiently American — is significant, and not just because Panetta used to work in Obama’s administration.

Americans should stand for freedom across the world. That may not involve funding protests against governments, but it certainly involves more support than Obama gave the protesters in 2009 — and now Panetta is calling him out on it.