As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Probably Think This Song Is About You

Watching these Republicans yipping like a bunch of chickadees about revolution in Iran from the safety of their offices in Washington is starting to infuriate me. First off, these people don't have much of a clue about who they are supporting - Mir Hossein Mousavi supports the same nuclear program Ahmadinejad supports, and he is a true heir to the reign of Ayatollah Khomeini (I actually think he would still be an improvement, and could liberalize the Islamic Republic from within - but let's get real, we're not talking about making Dennis Kucinich the leader of Iran, as Obama recognized in an interview yesterday: "The difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual positions may not be as great as has been advertised.") Second, they seem to have no sense of the consequences of their actions, brilliantly summarized by Les Gelb:

"Republican leadership calls for Obama to condemn Iran's election results and speak out for the demonstrators shows no knowledge of Iran whatsoever. If he did so, America would become the issue in Iran, not Ahmadinejad, and we would become the excuse and justification for spilling Iranian blood.

"These sniping remarks by Republican leaders also shows they put pandering to their right wing above American national security. Why can't they listen to their own real foreign policy expert -- Senator Richard Lugar -- and see and say that the U.S. must exercise restraint in our public statements for Iran's sake and our own."

Iran will likely complain about American intervention anyway - but the White House shouldn't give them a reason to do that, instead making them look paranoid and foolish in the eyes of their people. John Kerry gets this right:

Mr. McCain’s rhetoric, of course, would be cathartic for any American policy maker weary of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hostile message of division. We are all inspired by Iran’s peaceful demonstrations, the likes of which have not been seen there in three decades. Our sympathies are with those Iranians who seek a more respectful, cooperative relationship with the world. Watching heartbreaking video images of Basij paramilitaries terrorizing protesters, we feel the temptation to respond emotionally.

There’s just one problem. If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch.

We can’t escape the reality that for reformers in Tehran to have any hope for success, Iran’s election must be about Iran — not America. And if the street protests of the last days have taught us anything, it is that this is an Iranian moment, not an American one.

In other words, Sen. McCain, Rep. Cantor, Rep. Pence, et al: SHUT YOUR PIEHOLES. The best way to help the Iranian people is to stay out of it. And you don't have to believe me, but practically every Iranian dissident and reformer who has had the occasion to say two words about this.

What does Ganji think of President Obama’s statements about Iran? “From my perspective, Obama has so far said he won’t meddle in Iran’s internal situation, and that’s a good, good approach,” Ganji said, but he added, “He cannot stay silent on human rights issues.” Clearly, Ganji thinks the Obama administration isn’t striking the right balance between non-intervention and humanitarian concerns. But that’s not to say that more active American support is welcome:

“Bush’s policies toward Iran and the Middle East were completely wrong. The result of Bush’s policy, it led to Iran gaining strength. Mr. Obama is trying to change the policy. If we can separate two points, we can actually drive to a good policy. First, Iran’s path to democracy and the people’s movement to democracy is for the people of Iran. No foreign country, either America or any other, should get involved in that process.

“Secondly, human rights is an international condition. When a country denies human rights for its own people, the entire world should punish that government. So the people of Iran will not want anyone to get involved in that. But what they expect from the world is to protest an Iranian regime from a human-rights perspective. This is a policy which I stand by.

“The Iranian people are saying the Ahmadinejad government is a coup d’etat government. They’re asking that no government accept the legitimacy of his government. This is what most people want, for no government to work with the Ahmadinejad government.”

We can delineate between being forceful on human rights and overtly calling for the overthrow of a foreign government. We learned the lesson with Bush that his belligerence strengthened the regime to the point that they thought they could get away with a stolen election and a brutal crackdown. The situation in Iran is by no means settled - the government and the Revolutionary Guard could react with extreme violence. But certainly, calls from the peanut gallery in the US aren't exactly helpful.

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