Americans are having trouble believing it—their president is not making regrettable statements about the Iranian election.  Millions of facebook networkers, twitter users, and bloggers responded to what was immediately called an unfair election and its brutal aftermath.  Politicians and political junkies on both sides of the aisle chastised the great Obama for not taking a stand on the contested outcome and sequential outcome.  President Obama responded appropriately and thoughtfully.

As a huge Obama fan, I’m unapt to begin criticizing our President without all the facts.  He has responsibilities to his own people, to those who came before him, to the Iranian people, to the world’s people.  Completely isolating and insulting either Mahmud Ahmadinejad or his challengers could prove disastrous later in international affairs.  Illegitimating the unfavorable outcome of the election in Iran, a nation that had so hoped for a fair election, did not really feel right, especially while we were all still a little high on HOPE.  The appalled president condemned the actions of the Iranian government in a timely manner, but did not take the stand that so many Americans still thought was necessary

He still walks a “tightrope,” as CNN called it.[1] Jon Stewart joked that America can’t win and that seems to be true… or at least, Obama can’t win.  He was criticized by almost everyone when he didn’t say much and then was called a meddler and compared to President George W. Bush when he called for the violence to stop.  America got in trouble for meddling in 1953 and again in 1979, and now that we’re not meddling, suddenly we’re not doing enough.

I thought I was crazy or ignorant for being proud that Obama was taking the time to mull things over and react wisely.  My qualms were soothed after attending the June 22 New America Foundation forum on the Iran Election.  Most of the expert panel agreed that Obama was for the most part, doing the right thing:

Panelist Nader Mousavizadeh, whose story in The Washington Post can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/17/AR2009061702800.html, proposed option “Ignore Ahmadinejad,” in which he advises President Obama to acknowledge Iranian’s democratic aspirations but to largely ignore the words and actions of President Ahmadinejad.  The Iranian people wanted hope and democratic change, and they received quite the opposite.  He said that Iran has changed, citing Mir Hossein Mousavi ignoring the Supreme Leader’s ruling, and the world view of Iran has changed; America’s diplomacy with Iran cannot remain the same.

Expert panelist and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, Ken Ballen, focused more on poll numbers but gave valuable insight into the opinions of the Iranian people.  In his CNN article (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/16/ballen.iranian.democracy/index.html?iref=newssearch), poll numbers indicated that a great majority of Iranians want more democracy and freedom.  Those who voted for President Ahmadinejad (most likely a majority, he says) and those who are not protesting wanted a free election.  The government’s actions only serve to isolate more than a majority of the people by completely denying free press and freedoms which should be guaranteed.  He served an important role on the panel, reminding us all that underneath the contested election, the genuinely open-minded Iranians want freedom.  As far as recommendations for America’s new direction, he advised that the Islamic republic of Iran may soon be unraveling with the younger generation holding different values.

Self-proclaimed realist Flynt Leverett seemed to be one of the most controversial on the panel, having written a Politico column with his wife, entitled, “Ahmadinejad won. Get over it” (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23745.html).  He writes with great conviction that Ahmadinejad won and that the Obama administration should engage the existing administration.  He also argued that Iran will not undergo system change nor collapse, a point that he pushed even further in another article “Will Iran be Obama’s Iraq?,” released after the forum, almost directly contradicted Ken Ballen.  Leverett seemed convinced that the “Iran experts,” as well as Mousavi, rushed to declare the election a fraud, without looking at actual public opinion in Iran.  He told the forum attendees that he was writing to an American audience who must accept Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic as legitimate.  Punishing Iran is not the answer.

Panelist Steve Clemons disagreed with Leverett on his quick dismissal of the election protests , but did agree that Iran is not a U.S.-like democracy and should not be treated as such.  He pointed out that the U.S. has a strong history of dealing with dislikable leaders.  President Obama, he agreed, has done a fine job so far and he encouraged the U.S. to “let it play out.”

The final panelist Afshin Molavi speculated that Iran would need a reconciliation period, of sorts.  President Ahmadinejad, and others, he said, had crossed the line by insulting important players of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Meanwhile, other elites had crossed a line by disobeying the Supreme Leader.  Despite actions of Mousavi and some protesters, Molavi emphasized the power of Supreme Leader Khamenei and the importance of engaging Iran.  Like the other panelists, he thought that the White House should direct efforts toward the Iranian people, for the time being.

While many of us take issue with President Ahmadinejad and his government’s recent actions, it is frankly not up to Americans to decide who runs Iran.  We can take a stand against human rights violations, like we have, but we cannot ordain a new leader.  At a June 23rd White House Press Conference, President Obama boldly stated that “the Iranian people can speak for themselves.”[2] New America Foundation panelists, U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen, even President Obama cannot speak for them.  The question remains: what do we say now and who will we be talking to?


[1] http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/24/obama.iran.analysis/index.html?iref=newssearch#cnnSTCText

[2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/The-Presidents-Opening-Remarks-on-Iran-with-Persian-Translation/

Americans are having trouble believing it—their president is not making regrettable statements about the Iranian election.  Millions of facebook networkers, twitter users, and bloggers responded to what was immediately called an unfair election and its brutal aftermath.  Politicians and political junkies on both sides of the aisle chastised the great Obama for not taking a stand on the contested outcome and sequential outcome.  President Obama responded appropriately and thoughtfully.

As a huge Obama fan, I’m unapt to begin criticizing our President without all the facts.  He has responsibilities to his own people, to those who came before him, to the Iranian people, to the world’s people.  Completely isolating and insulting either Mahmud Ahmadinejad or his challengers could prove disastrous. later in international affairs.  Illegitimating the unfavorable outcome of the election in Iran, a nation that had so hoped for a fair election, did not really feel right, especially while we were all still a little high on HOPE.  The appalled president condemned the actions of the Iranian government in a timely manner, but did not take the stand that so many Americans still thought was necessary

He still walks a “tightrope,” as CNN called it.[1] Jon Stewart joked that America can’t win and that seems to be true… or at least, Obama can’t win.  He was criticized by almost everyone when he didn’t say much and then was called a meddler and compared to President George W. Bush when he called for the violence to stop.  America got in trouble for meddling in 1953 and again in 1979, and now that we’re not meddling, suddenly we’re not doing enough.

I thought I was crazy or ignorant for being proud that Obama was taking the time to mull things over and react wisely.  My qualms were soothed after attending the June 22 New America Foundation forum on the Iran Election.  Most of the expert panel agreed that Obama was for the most part, doing the right thing:

Panelist Nader Mousavizadeh, whose story in The Washington Post can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/17/AR2009061702800.html, proposed option “Ignore Ahmadinejad,” in which he advises President Obama to acknowledge Iranian’s democratic aspirations but to largely ignore the words and actions of President Ahmadinejad.  The Iranian people wanted hope and democratic change, and they received quite the opposite.  He said that Iran has changed, citing Mir-Hossein Mousavi ignoring the Supreme Leader’s ruling, and the world view of Iran has changed; America’s diplomacy with Iran cannot remain the same.

Expert panelist and president of Terror Free Tomorrow, Ken Ballen, focused more on poll numbers but gave valuable insight into the opinions of the Iranian people.  In his CNN article (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/16/ballen.iranian.democracy/index.html?iref=newssearch), poll numbers indicated that a great majority of Iranians want more democracy and freedom.  Those who voted for President Ahmadinejad (most likely a majority, he says) and those who are not protesting wanted a free election.  The government’s actions only serve to isolate more than a majority of the people by completely denying free press and freedoms which should be guaranteed.  He served an important role on the panel, reminding U.S. all that underneath the contested election, the genuinely open-minded Iranians want freedom.  As far as recommendations for America’s new direction, he advised that the Islamic republic of Iran may soon be unraveling as the disparity between the government and its people grows larger.

Self-proclaimed realist Flynt Leverett seemed to be one of the most controversial on the panel, having written a Politico column with his wife, entitled, “Ahmadinejad won. Get over it” (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23745.html).  He writes with great conviction that Ahmadinejad won and that the Obama administration should engage the existing administration.  He also argued that Iran will not undergo system change nor collapse, a point that he pushed even further in another article “Will Iran be Obama’s Iraq,” released after the forum, almost directly contradicted Ken Ballen.  Leverett seemed convinced that the “Iran experts,” as well as Mousavi, rushed to declare the election a fraud, without looking at actual public opinion in Iran.  He told the forum attendees that he was writing to an American audience who must accept Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic as legitimate.  Punishing Iran is not the answer.

Panelist Steve Clemons disagreed with Leverett on his quick dismissal of the election protests , but did agree that Iran is not a U.S.-like democracy and should not be treated as such.  He pointed out that the U.S. has a strong history of dealing with dislikable leaders.  President Obama, he agreed, has done a fine job so far and he encouraged the U.S. to “let it play out.”

The final panelist Afshin Molavi speculated that Iran would need a reconciliation period, of sorts.  President Ahmadinejad, and others, he said, had crossed the line by insulting important players of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Meanwhile, other elites had crossed a line by disobeying the Supreme Leader.  Despite actions of Mousavi and some protesters, Molavi emphasized the power of Supreme Leader Khamenei and the importance of engaging Iran.  Like the other panelists, he thought that the White House should direct efforts toward the Iranian people, for the time being.

While many of us take issue with President Ahmadinejad and his government’s recent actions, it is frankly not up to Americans to decide who runs Iran.  We can take a stand against human rights violations, like we have, but we cannot ordain a new leader.  At a June 23rd White House Press Conference, President Obama boldly stated that “the Iranian people can speak for themselves.”[2] New America Foundation panelists, U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen, not even President Obama can speak for Iranians, who have, in fact, done a remarkable job speaking for themselves.  The question remains: what do we say now and who will we be talking to?


[1] http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/24/obama.iran.analysis/index.html?iref=newssearch#cnnSTCText

[2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/The-Presidents-Opening-Remarks-on-Iran-with-Persian-Translation/

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