Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why Obama Is Right On Iran

The usual gaggle of right-wing geese have criticized President Obama, honking and squawking at his supposedly tepid response to the events in Iran. Charles Krauthammer, never one to get the main point, avers without citing evidence that the protestors "await just a word that America is on their side" and instead receive only an august presidential "silence" (not true). ("Await just a word" to do what is never made clear.)

It is the case that Obama has not upstaged the protestors by promoting the "freedom agenda" on the international air waves. He plainly stated in a interview with CBS News' Harry Smith that "we believe that the voices of people have to be heard, that that's a universal value that the American people stand for and this administration stands for" and went on to say that
the last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we've already seen. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the Iranian people are seeking to let their voices be heard.
What's more, the president has a point. In Legacy of Ashes, his epic history of the CIA, Tim Weiner lays out in detail the agency-driven coup that toppled the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadeq in August of 1953. Mossadeq had incurred the wrath of the west by threatening to nationalize Iran's oil production and imposing the radically unacceptable condition requiring that his country receive 50% of the revenue produced by a natural resource that it owned 100% of.

Then-President Dwight Eisenhower approved the coup, and the CIA installed Reza Pahlavi as the Shah of Iran (This happened despite warnings from the CIA station chief in Tehran, who predicted that sponsoring a coup would be an historic mistake. His honesty got him recalled.) The CIA helped the create SAVAK, an internal security service. According to Weiner,
The CIA wanted SAVAK to serve as its eyes and ears against the Soviets. The shah wanted a secret police to enforce his own power. SAVAK, trained and equipped by the CIA, enforced his rule for twenty years. (p. 103)
Most pertinent to current events, what was a closely held secret in the United States was common knowledge to Iraqis: Their emerging democracy was now a monarchic police state courtesy of the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency. The chickens came home to roost during the hostage crisis of 1978-79, during which Americans learned for the first time that many Iranians regarded the United States as "the great Satan."

The theocracy headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the shah and imposed a fundamentalist Muslim rule on a society that was becoming increasingly diversified. For an outstanding account of life as Iranian secularist, read Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's excellent graphic novel. (I thought that the film based on the novel was arguably the best picture of 2007.)

Iraq, Iran's secular neighbor to its west led by dictator Saddam Hussein, sought to take advantage of the turmoil caused by the change in regimes. In 1981, Hussein invaded Iraq, touching off an eight-year war that killed millions. Despite the fact that Iraq's population is roughly half of Iran's, Hussein undertook the invasion supported by modern weaponry provided by the United States, a reality not exactly lost on the people of Iran.

Twenty years after the war ended in a futile draw, it's not at all clear that even "just a word" from the President of the United States would be received in Iran without unintended controversy. By affirming American commitment to Iran's sovereignty, by supporting the values of the protestors, and by recognizing that this is a matter for the people of Iran to sort out, the President Obama is doing the right thing...

Harry Smith's complete interview with Obama follows. In addition to Iran, they discuss North Korea, recent remarks by George Bush and Dick Cheney, and the increased regulatory powers of the Federal Reserve:


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The New Orleans Photo Alliance is seeking documentary, fine art and conceptual photographs that explore and interpret the many meanings of the word CALIENTE (Spanish) or HOT (English). More here...

A cool interactive map of the West Wing...

New First Lines today, replacing the first lines of The Beatles' "No Reply"...


Ferries to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard...

9 comments:

Roy said...

What the chicken-hawks and the hardliners don't like about President Obama's approach to Iran is that he's not trying to coopt the iranian peoples' struggle for his own benefit and PR, which is exactly what the First Chimp and Dick "Wanna Go Hunting?" Cheney did all the time. Must be a Republican trait; remember how Ramblin' Ronnie tried to take credit for Gorbachev's quiet takedown of the Soviet aparatchik? And the fall of the Berlin Wall? And Solidarity? Not to mention Vaclav Havel and Czechoslovakia?

I guess they favor self-serving grand delusions over purposeful practicality.

Ima Wizer said...

I think Bush would have just bombed Iran (McCain, too) and be done with it....his "way" of diplomacy!!

Annette said...

I think our president has handled Iran in the correct way and most of the so called smart people do too. It is just the neocons and the war mongers like Bomber McCain who seem to think he is wrong.

Thanks for posting the video I had missed it.

K. said...

The reprehensible thing about the R's is that they know Obama can't say much and criticize him anyway. Once again, they put politics and party over country.

There's little doubt in my mind that Bush and Cheney wanted to bomb and invade Iran. It would have been a worse disaster than Iraq: Iran has double the space and population.

ZenYenta said...

It's really outrageous that this controversy is going on at all. I can't believe that the neocons believe they've been on the right track all this time. But apparently they do.

K. said...

The spectacle of the neoncons claiming expertise on the Middle East is like that commercial where Shaquille O'Neal is a jockey: Comical and grotesque.

Ima Wizer said...

K, I like that Shaquille O'Neal analogy.....at last something is making me chuckle.

Annette said...

It is a good one. I can't believe Bomber is still shooting his mouth off. He just won't quit no matter what.

I think most of it is just hurt feelings as you said. Of course Lindsay is going to speak out Bomber's A** every time he opens his mouth.

Pres. Obama impresses me with his knowledge of the Middle East every time he speaks of it. He knows more about it than Bomber will ever know.

willow said...

Excellent post. I agree that the President is handling the situation wisely.

I had fun wandering around the West Wing!