Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama and Iran

President Obama's handling of the Iran uprising has been very tricky. Not surprisingly, the US far right is not happy with his approach. Though it is heartening to see these people stand in solidarity with modern young liberals fighting against a conservative theocracy that wishes to control every aspect of people's private lives. I'm sure the irony will be lost on them.

US meddling in Iran is what helped cause the theocratic revolution in the first place. The CIA-engineered coup which removed Iran's last democratically leader and installed a repressive absolute monarch may have been all the way back in 1953, but it's seared into the Iranian national consciousness... especially when the US lectures on democracy. That makes this situation particularly tricky.

I've been critical of Obama on many things but he's struck the right tone here. Iran's de facto leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies are desperately to paint the uprising in nationalist tones. They are trying to characterize it as being provoked by evil foreigners rather than acknowledging what it really is: oppressed people standing up for themselves against a repressive religious elite.

So far, the theocrats' line hasn't stuck because Obama has criticized the repression without taking sides in the electoral dispute. He is putting his vanity aside in order to not screw things up. That's how real leaders act. They are more concerned with the right outcome than the praise of the ninnies. If the last eight years have shown us anything, a leader without followers is no leader at all.

The second Obama takes the militarists, he hands the initiative to the theocratic oppressors by essentially validating their criticism and in turn discrediting the opposition. There's a reason most of the criticism of Obama's approach is coming from the US far right rather than from the Iranian opposition themselves. One side wants freedom to prevail. The other is more interested in Obama failing if they can't get the war they want. One side actually has to live up close and personal with the consequences of what ends up happening. The other will just sit in their comfortable air conditioned houses and wait for the next crisis to ignorantly beat their chests about and formulate war propaganda.

Only a few weeks ago, Obama's secretary of state green-lighted an unprovoked Israeli military attack on Iran. This followed on the heels of years of by both the Obama and Bush administrations to isolate Iran for pursuing what it calls a civilian nuclear energy program; attempts designed to pave the way for just such a military aggression.

It remains to be seen whether Obama will expand the sensible approach he's taken to the Iranian electoral dispute or whether he will revert back to the kind of belligerent arrogance that has disastrously fostered anti-Americanism all around the world and ultimately cost hundreds of thousands American lives.

Obama is right to reject appeasement of the militarists and focus instead of the success of freedom and democracy. Let's hope he continues this in all areas of his foreign policy.

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