Obama and the Iranian protesters — mutuality of interests but not of spirit, Part Two

President Obama took a step in the right direction yesterday when he condemned “the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens” and called for “the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained.” However, Obama seemed to stop short of a more meaningful position when he expressed his “confidence that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.”
This may be a nice turn of a phrase, but right now the Iranian dissidents need the U.S., not “history,” to take its side. Obama himself had appeared to recognize this when, during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he stated: “it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that [the Iranian protesters] have us on their side.”
To be on the protesters’ side is to stand in opposition to the regime that is being so strongly protested. Yet, Obama cannot seem to make that stand. As far as I can tell, he still pursues his policy of “engagement” with Iran which, if it has any effect at all, serves to bolster the regime. Moreover, as the Washington Post editorial board laments, the administration is not pressing hard enough to get our allies to stop dealing with Iran, to accelerate sanctions against the Iranian National Guard, and to faciliate use of the internet by Iranians for uncensored communication.
The Post’s editors have it right: “it’s time for the United States to do whatever it can, in public and covertly, to help those Iranians fighting for freedom.” But this may be too much to expect from a president who is committed to charming our adversaries, rather than acting against them, and who has found it difficult enough just to talk appropriately about the situation in Iran.


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