How Should Obama Deal with Iran?

With his recent message to Iran, President Barack Obama is certainly implementing a new style, if not a change, in American foreign policy.  As many commentators have pointed out,  Obama's messages to Iran emphasized America's need to not be arrogant, and stressed the great contributions of Iran to the world's culture.

What the President failed to do is make any statements about what Iran would have to do to deserve respect, such as cease its persecution of religious minorities and cease the repressive cruelty Iran metes out to its enemies---be it whippings, hangings, application of Sharia Law and the like. As Daniel Henninger asks in today's Wall Street Journal, "Will Islam Return Obama's 'Respect'?"  He goes on to treat the issue of how Christians are treated  in Islamic countries. The answer: not so good. "The 'respect' Mr. Obama promised," Henninger points out, "is going only in one direction."

In his message to Iran, Obama might have gone out of his way to single out the brave Iranians suffering in prison for their open espousal of democracy, or their brave decision to merely speak their own  point of view in public, or their practicing a religion of their own choice, not that of the Iranian state. Henninger suggests that Obama make tolerance of Christian sects a basis for arriving at common ground with Islam. Don't hold your breath; were he to do that, his belief that the gap between America and the Islamic countries can be closed will not take place.

Now, a new report from correspondent Anuj Chopra in U.S. News highlights the secrecy and fear in which many Christian converts live with in today's Iran. Her article reinforces the points made by Henninger.  Chopra's chilling article tells of one man, a devout Christian, who publicly has to pretend to be and appear as a devout Muslim. He even has to go to weekly Friday prayers where he joins in chanting "Death to America." He and his family converted a year ago from the Muslim faith, as they were seeking "a faith that offered the reassurances of freedom."

Now the Iranian government has introduced a new law to mandate the death penalty for apostates from Islam, which would drastically change life for anyone who questions the official religious ideology of the regime. Death would be, she writes, "a fixed, irrevocable punishment," which could be applied to not only Christians, but Bahais, Azeris and of course, Jews.