The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The recent Iranian Presidential election results and the Iranian power structure’s response to inevitable protests have introduced a dose of reality for those who believed that: (1) Iran was more moderate than it was, (2) the moderates would oust the hardliners, or (3) our President’s words would somehow cause a change within an otherwise Islamofascist regime.

The Washington Times is certainly no friend of Barack Obama. However, Wesley Pruden of the Right-leaning Times, makes a few cogent, if harsh, comments that are well worth considering:
If Iranian voters had thrown Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into the street, the American president would have assumed that he was the One who did it, and the American press would have led the hosannas for the messiah from the south side of Chicago. Just a few more speeches, a few more respectful bows toward Mecca, and all the rough places would be made smooth and plain. But now even Mr. Obama must wake up and smell the tear gas.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Amadinejad’s tenure is meaningless because he has no real power. It’s a small group of Mullahs who run the Iranian theocracy, wielding dictatorial power to accomplish their own ends.

It is true that reports out of Iran indicate that some Mullahs outside the inner circle are becoming upset with current events, and that change might be in the wind. But that’s a hope, not a strategy.

Fred Kaplan of left-leaning Slate writes:
Unless the violence widens the fissures in Iranian society to an unprecedented—almost unimaginable—degree, the agitation could simply peter out in the coming days and weeks as more and more protesters are beaten, detained, and even killed, with no effect on the regime's survival. In this case, it may well be, as a story in today's New York Times predicted, that the hardliners wind up more firmly in control than ever.

Yet reports have circulated in recent months suggesting that some Iranian clerics, even a few in high places, are displeased with Ahmadinejad's harsh rhetoric and his mishandling of the economy. Some evidence of electoral fraud has reportedly been leaked from dissidents from within Iran's interior ministry. The supreme leader has ordered the Guardian Council to investigate allegations of fraud—this after publicly ratifying the election's results (without, suspiciously, observing the three-day waiting period that Iranian law requires)—though it may be that this order is mere subterfuge and that the investigation will be just as fraudulent.

In other words, it is possible (how likely it might be, no one can say) that the popular revolts might sharpen the fissures within the circles of Iran's ruling elite. Of course, those circles are so opaque that few outsiders can tell whether there are fissures, much less what their boundaries are. Does the CIA or the National Security Agency know? I hope so, but I don't know.

Barack Obama has finally released a tepid critique of the current situation in Iran. Fine, at least he’s on the record. But even a supporter like Fred Kaplan, writing in a friendly media outlet states:
Given the near-certainty that Iran's election was fixed and the documented fact that protesters are being brutalized, there is no way that Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could go to Tehran and shake hands with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, much less to expect that any talks would be worthwhile.

The issue here is not one of realpolitik vs. democratic idealism. Rather, it's a question about what course of action is simply realistic (in the conversational, as opposed to ideological, sense of the word).

And yet, many in the West continue to believe that if we say the right things we can bring Iran around: As Wesley Pruden correctly observes:
Some people in the West - particularly in Washington - are tempted to dismiss the Iranian president as a clown and a fool, given to writing checks ("Israel must be wiped off the map") he could never cash. But these skeptics are the fools. President Obama must now rise to the occasion to deal with Iran as it is, and not as he wishes it to be. This is the job he said he wanted.

If realpolitik does hold sway, it’s very important for our President and his Secretary of State to recognize that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the true face of the Iranian leadership. The Iranian people may be different—they may be more moderate and may truly want to live peacefully—but it's the leadership who might someday do awful things.