Friday, June 19, 2009

Response to Iranian Protest: U.S. Support or U.S. Meddling?

No doubt you've read it; you've watched it: Iran is at the threshold of a proverbial tide change. Protesters continue to gather by the thousands to challenge the highly dubious election result; and Ayotollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, has unequivocally come out on the side of the Ahmadinejad, dropping language in the process that seriously smacks of: "Cut it out, or bloodshed shall come to you." The question of the moment is: What does the U S. do?

Media outlets have drawn comparison's between Iran's protests and Burma's "Saffron Revolution," when thousands of monks took to the streets in protest, which led to a violent crack down by the country's ruling junta. Burma is already a bete noire country with little or no diplomatic communication with the U.S., so the choice of response in that case was pretty clear cut: "Let your people go."

Iran is a different animal. If Obama's reaction to the protests is too strong, the regime could easily utilize it for propoganda purposes, rallying a fiercely independent people against an outside aggressor and snuffing out the protests all together. On the other hand, if the president's reaction proves too tepid, protesters who are looking for support and recognition from the international community could be let down, and a moment in history lost to us.

At the moment President Obama has not chosen a side, only saying that he is deeply concerned. Is he right in his reaction? Or does he need to go further? What happens if Iran's regime does use violence against the protesters?

Personally, I think that Obama's reaction so far has been prudent. The rhetoric of democracy and human rights has been so tainted in the past eight years that pell mell use of them is more likely to poison grassroot protests in Iran, rather than inspire them further. However, I acknowledge that if violence breaks out Obama will need to take a more aggressive stance.

A Slate writer said it well: Iran's protest needs to be about Iran and not about America.

Number Two Republican in the House, Eric Canter says: "America has a moral responsibility to stand up for human rights around the world and to condemn the abuses that are occurring in Tehran today."

Democratic Senator, John Kerry says, "With Iran, Think Before You Speak."

What's the right answer?


Dennis said...

I'm glad someone brought this up. I disagree with 90% of President Obama's policy, domestic or foreign, but I agree with how he's been handling the protests in Iran.

Honestly, we have nothing to gain from this situation. From what I've read, the incumbent president and his challenger are really not all that different in their stance towards the U.S. and the western world in general. Correct me if I'm wrong. If we interfere it'll only be seen as more meddling, and I don't agree with interfering with a state's sovereignty unless it is absolutely necessary.

Scotty said...

Were Mousavi even under the suspicion of wanting to brown-nose the US and the West, I don't think anybody would be questioning those election results. Certainly not the way they are now.

This isn't about even really about the candidates, or foreign policy at all - it's about the election itself, about a regime's overzealous attempt to stage a decisive election before the world. The Ayatollah shot himself in the foot, and his veiled threat is a cry of desperation. There's nothing that Obama can or should do, until all hell does indeed break loose.