On Obama’s Silence on Iran

Ken AshfordIranLeave a Comment

This is typical of the rightwing reaction to what's happening in Iran — Bill Kristol:

This isn’t September 1939. But the developments in Tehran are a potentially big moment, signaling the possible transformation or at least reformation of the Iranian regime. American principles and American interests argue for support of the Iranian people in this crisis.

And where is the American president? Silent.

Of course he's silent.

What's he going to do? 

Condemn post-election violence?  Can't we take that as a "given"?  Does he need to come out and say this right away?

Tell everyone Mousavi won?  Well, we don't know that.  Not yet.

Express support for the protesters?  No.  The last thing Obama should do right now is come out in favor of the protesters.  As Spencer Ackerman notes, any expression of political support for the protesters would only “instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the United States, whether under [former President George W. Bush] or under Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation” any chance to spread. 

Ultimately, the Iranian people have to choose their destiny.  And we should support them.  But not lead them.  Be two steps behind the reformists; not two steps in front of them.  And, to the extent we get involved, it should be as a somewhat muted member of the international community.

Obama is right to remain silent, and when he speaks on this issue, he should speak on the human rights and violence angle.  Conservative critics of Obama don't seem to think about this: they would rather have a President who shoots from the hip, instead being the President that we elected — a serious man who contemplates the outcomes of his actions.