Iran Punditry Roundup, 6-23-09 edition

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First, Obama’s press conference:

The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb goes nuclear on Obama:

Obama flails for a few days and finally gets the rhetoric where it should have been from day one. If speaking forthrightly is right today, why was it not right four days ago? If speaking forthrightly would endanger allegedly greater interests, why speak today? If speaking forthrightly would enable the mullahs to make the United States the issue, why speak today?

The intellectual and moral incoherence of Obama’s pronouncements is staggering. Today he decides to join Merkel, Sarko, et al in expressing concern for the brave Iranians fighting for their freedom with his customary swagger. We should not just sit back and say better late than never. We should see the dangers of a soulless president whose limited foreign policy instincts are all wrong, who refuses to discuss the consequences of murder with a Bush-like swagger and who’s so stubborn and rigid he won’t even rescind an invitation to a barbecue.

The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes essentially says the same thing, but in a much nicer way:

Obama said that it was more important for the Iranian regime to demonstrate its legitimacy to the Iranian people than to the international community and the United States. The regime cannot do this, of course, because the election was fraudulent, something Obama still refuses to acknowledge, preferring simply to observe that many Iranians think the election was illegitimate. Passive, again.

So much for his promise to “remake the world once again,” and to “help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.”

AEI’s Michael Rubin has mixed feelings:

Obama’s statement is good — except for the unnecessary statement affirming the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic. Especially good — and lacking too often in the Bush administration — was a quick refutation of the Iranian government’s own strawman arguments. If only Obama had been so forceful and highlighted these themes a week ago…

Next, the current situation in Iran:

Michael Ledeen, author of “The Iranian Time Bomb“:

Let’s review the bidding, shall we?  The “election circus” took place a week ago Friday, and demonstrations began that night, June 12th. Ten days have passed. What have we learned?

1.) A significant number of Iranians hate the regime and are prepared to die to bring it down.

2.) The fanatical religious zealots that hold the guns, chains, knives, tear gas cannisters, high-powered water hoses, sniper rifles and (perhaps) chemical weapons are prepared to order the killing of any number of Iranians in order to maintain their own power and preserve the Islamic Republic.

3.) Women are playing a key role in the insurrection

4.) There has been an unexpected and paradocial reversal of roles.  In recent days, Khamenei delivered an almost totally political sermon at Friday prayers, and Mousavi addressed his followers in fundamentally religious language, dressed in the white of martyrdom, and proclaiming his willingness to die to preserve the values of the Islamic revolution

5.) There are cracks in the regime’s edifice, ranging from declarations of small groups of Revolutionary Guards calling on their brothers to defect to “the people,” to senior ayatollahs meeting secretly in Qom to discuss significant changes in the structure of the Iranian state

Now what?

Those who think they can foresee the outcome of this revolutionary war have greater confidence in their prophetic powers than I. I don’t think Mousavi or Khamenei has any such confidence; they are fighting it out, as they must.

Victory or defeat can come about slowly or rapidly, the result of cunning, courage or accident, and most likely a combination of all three. One thing seems certain: the Iranian people were right when they realized that nobody in the outside world would help them. They’re on their own. Which is indeed a great pity, and a terrible stain on our national virtue.

Slate’s Christopher Hitchens:

There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran’s internal affairs.

Want to take a noninterventionist position? All right, then, take a noninterventionist position. This would mean not referring to Khamenei in fawning tones as the supreme leader and not calling Iran itself by the tyrannical title of “the Islamic republic.” But be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway.

Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed.

Victor Davis Hanson:

For Obama, “everything is contingent on being liked, or rather worshipped.”


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