After more than a week of tepid words from President Obama about the Iran government crackdown on protesters, Obama has finally denounced the regime’s treatment of its citizens. This marks a significant shift in rhetoric from the President who had, until now, refused to take sides and back the Iranian people.
Previously the President remained relatively obtuse and maintained distance from the ground swell of opposition by Iranian citizens against the current regime – except when taking credit for it.
“We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”
“The world is watching. And we stand behind those who are seeking justice in a peaceful way.”
During this time (between June 15 and 19 – when Obama made the quoted statements) Republicans and Democrats have pressured Obama to take a stronger stance and back the people of Iran, which is also an argument that I have made here. The efforts seem to have taken effect as Obama, on June 23, finally stepped up to the podium and took a stronger stance against the unjust actions of the Iranian government towards its own people.
The statements made yesterday may come a bit late and may fall short of some people may desire, but I believe in giving credit where it is due.
“In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.”
“We have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history,”
Obama’s new stance is vastly preferable to the one that we have seen over the last nine days. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I approve of the statement. It isn’t so strongly worded as to alienate the reformists – who honestly do not want the U.S. to intervene, but want vocal support – but is worded strongly enough to send a clear message to Tehran. It is only regrettable that the statement comes more than a week late and did not include a direct message stating that ‘we support the people of Iran and their right to a just election’ or something similar.
Where the President will go from here is anyone’s guess. But he has made clear that his focus remains on the Iranian nuclear program. He will have to be extremely careful in his negotiations so as not to grant legitimacy to the regime and thus defeating U.S. support for the reformists still protesting in the streets of Tehran. Which would put the U.S. in a precarious position given that the current regime is extremely unlikely to cease its nuclear aspirations and it would likely embitter the young reformers (roughly 60% of Iran’s population) towards the U.S. Which is important because in the future they will control the government. It could also backfire if, by some slim chance, the reformists manage to topple the current regime.