Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama Should Not Interfere Publicly in Iran's Elections

Elza S. Maalouf
I don't give President Obama high marks on several foreign policy issues, yet when it comes to his tempered response to the 'sham' elections in Iran, I fully support his stance.

Even Obama's presidential contender who claims to have more foreign policy expertise got it wrong. In his interview with Gretta Van Susteren, McCain insisted that the president should make a forceful declaration against the disputed results of the Iran presidential elections. In his interview today on NBC he gave more details, read here.

Here's why I disagree with Senator McCain.

In the hotspots of the Muslim world, the us vs. them is defined by extremists groups against pro-West groups. Progressives in Iran, Lebanon and Egypt are not seen by extremists as a product of the evolutionary pulse of the culture, rather as agents of the West. Cases in point:
When Condi Rice shook hands with the secular progressive Egyptian politician Ayman Nour, who led the Al Ghad party in opposing the dictatorship of President Husni Mubarak, demanding constitutional reform and respect for human rights, he was immediately vilified by the Muslim Brotherhood and considered an American agent. This was a huge set back for the secular reform movement in Egypt and consequently allowed more fundamentalism to spread.

Again, when Secretary Rice visited the pro-Western Prime Minister Seniora in Lebanon during Israel's war on Hezbollah in 2006, Hezbollah used this event to cast PM Seniora and the pro-West coalition in the role of Zionist sympathizers. Something that enraged even pro-West Lebanese who were in shelters and came out in support of Hezbollah while their country was under heavy bombardment from Israel. Hence, winning Hezbollah the Arab street support beyond Lebanon's borders that they still enjoy today.

For these reasons, and many others we've documented in Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere in the Muslim world, I believe that President Obama is doing the right thing. If he comes out in support of Mousavi and his Green movement, the whole movement will be treated like traitors. This will make the job of Ayatollah Khameini and Ahmedinejad so easy. They will concoct the evidence that Mousavi is an American agent. In addition, there is no doubt that the US is continuing its covert operations in Iran, through NGOs and other means. Why follow it with rehtoric that the Mullahs are anxiously awaiting to take advantage of.

These are internal dynamics in Iran that have been percolating for more than 30 years. It is Iranian themselves that deserve credit for this "Tehran Rising." and no one else.

This is where we should leave well alone and put the unclenched fist policy of this new administration to the test.

What are your thoughts?

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Blogger Coach Lawrence Carroll said...

Iappreciate this view Elza and think it makes sense. Alienating the extremists makes sense here, but in the Middle East it unifies the country against the dreaded menace of the USA. If Obama plays his cards right the the change will well up more and more from within Iran. The median age is 27 - 10 years below the Us and this is a generational advantage against extremism inherent in the culture.
Great post - can you send it to Obama?

6/16/2009 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Cindy Wigglesworth said...

I totally agree. If it looks like the US is involved then the opposition in Iran becomes identified with the "evil Americans". That is the last thing we should want as it gives the authorities a too-easy rallying point to attack the opposition with. I like how Obama has been playing this one...

6/20/2009 8:57 AM  

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