It was never clear what could be achieved by engagement or what magic words Obama might utter that had not be transmitted to the mullahs by our European allies or through other channels for years now.
But in the fog of tear gas and the spray of fire hoses used on peaceful protestors, the Iranian regime has revealed its true nature, for any who were confused. Now even the president must concede: “There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks.”
For now the president has thankfully stopped equating Ahmadinejad and Mousavi and ceased to use the honorific title “supreme leader.” He hasn’t suggested lately that we need to “engage more than ever.” But it is uncertain what he intends to do now.
Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday:
He [Obama] cannot have engagement with Iran as the centerpiece of a serious foreign policy to deal with the Middle East. He is not going to be able to engage successfully with this regime if it cracks down. If it succeeds in staying in power, it’s going to be, I think, even more hostile than it has been, even less prone to make any kinds of concessions, et cetera.So is he willing to — is he just going to kind of mindlessly go on this path, and let them get nuclear weapons and possibly force Israel to take action if it feels it has to? Or is he going to actually rethink where he is and go for what — as the Washington Post put it yesterday, the serious realistic policy on Iran now is now to help accelerate regime change.
That’s the only prospect for Iran, not being a nuclear power. It’s the only prospect for any relative peace in the Middle East. And there are ways to do that, with serious sanctions, not waiting for Russia and China. Let’s see if Obama is able to rethink his Iran policy in light of changing reality.
The president’s limited criticism of the Iranian regime took place a week after the leaders of Canada, France and Germany issued stronger ones. Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times was not the only commentator who thought it was prompted by Sen. John McCain’s “angry Senate Neda speech Monday” which made it politically difficult for Mr. Obama to continue to sit on the fence.
At least some protesters in Iran think Mr. Obama’s equivocation is a tacit endorsement of the regime. “The people of Iran will not forgive Barack Obama for siding with the evil regime,” Kianoosh Sanjari, an exiled student protest leader, said in an interview last week.
Charles Krauthammer on Fox News:
You know, we Americans have a sentimental idea that in the end justice and truth will win out. Well, it happened here and it has in our own history, but it doesn’t happen around the world.
And the idea that this freedom movement cannot be suppressed with bullets and snipers and beatings — it can, and it’s succeeding. The opposition is marginalized.
And the real issue is Mousavi. Where is he, and will he speak up? And will he be a Yeltsin who will stands on a tank and declare essentially a revolution? I doubt it.
Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday:
And I sense here that, in addition to a foreign policy that he had devised and was planning to pursue, there was also a political component to this. You notice in his wording about what the — what he kept saying the Iranian protesters wanted. He [Obama] didn’t say freedom. That’s George Bush’s word.
He kept talking about justice. This wasn’t about justice, except in some broad sense. This was about freedom and about a free election. And I think that he was afraid early on that if he gave voice, as he eventually did, condemned the regime, called for the freedom of these people, he would be charged once again by his political base with emulating or imitating George W. Bush , which is something he very much did not want to do, and I think it hurt him.