Category Archives: Iran

Beware the Unspoken Corollary

When Barack Obama was running for President last year, much was made of his statement that he was willing to negotiate with our adversaries.  Some thought he was hopelessly naive, while others (including myself) thought it was preferable to the policies of then-President Bush to reach for the blunderbuss whenever the opportunity presented itself.

In all of the discussions, nobody brought out the corollary of Obama’s position: that in being willing to negotiate with one’s adversaries, one must accept their  policies and actions.  If you say, “I want to talk, but what you’ve done is unacceptable,” you’ve ended the conversation very quickly.

So now we have the Iranian elections, in which the incumbent Ahmadinejad officially won with over 65% of the vote, despite pre-election data suggesting a close race.  President Bush, or any other President in recent memory, would have criticized the Iranian government for trampling the will of the people.

But not Obama.  He has described the election issue as the problem for a sovereign state, which should properly be resolved by that state without our intervention.  He has remarked that he doesn’t want the Iranian government to have any cause to blame us for their situation.

It’s a charming thought, except the Iranians are blaming us anyway.  Truth never stood in the way of good propaganda.

On Friday, the religious leader of Iran called for a halt to demonstrations, or else severe consequences would follow.  A curtain of silence has fallen across the country, as the government has imposed increasing restrictions on the foreign press.  We know that the demonstrations are continuing, and that the authorities are responding.  Whether this is simply riot control, or something darker, is unknown.

But our President can’t say anything about it, lest the Iranians use it against us.

Why Are We So Naive?

Earlier this week, the Iranians held their Presidential elections.  The two major candidates were the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Iran has been troublesome for the United States for many years, and under its Ahmadinejad, those troubles have continued.  He has threatened to destroy Israel, pushed for the development of Iranian nuclear weapons, and Iran has been a sponsor of terrorist groups in the Middle East.

His opponent, Mousavi, wants to improve relationships with the West, improve the economy, and address some of the excesses of the morals police.  To be sure, he couldn’t go that far with it: Iran’s civil government is controlled by its religious leadership, who had to approve all of the candidates.  But at least it was a step in the right direction.

Preliminary polling data suggested that the election would be a close race: those favoring Mousavi, and his efforts for reform, would be closely matched by those favoring Ahmadinejad, his religious perspective, and the Iranian government subsidies provided under his leadership.

But the preliminary data were wrong: the incumbent Ahmadinejad swept the election with over 65% of the vote.

Either the election was rigged, or the Western pollsters and media somehow managed to disregard Ahmadinejad’s political base.

I don’t know which is the case.  I suspect that (a) the Iranians won’t be particularly anxious to investigate the results, and (b) they won’t let others investigate, either.  So we’ll probably never know for sure.

But why did we let ourselves believe that another alternative was possible?