Obama Is Striking Exactly The Right Tone On Iran

June 20, 2009

Here’s Iran expert Gary Sick:

“President Obama today went as far as he could prudently go by declaring:

‘I’ve said this throughout the week, I want to repeat it, that we stand with those who would look to peaceful resolution of conflict and we believe that the voices of people have to be heard, that that’s a universal value that the American people stand for and this administration stands for. And I’m very concerned, based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made, that the government of Iran recognize that the world is watching. And how they approach and deal with people who are — through peaceful means — trying to be heard will I think send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and is not… . this is not an issue of the United States or the West versus Iran; this is an issue of the Iranian people.’

But what he didn’t say was that it directly affects his policy of engagement. As long as the crisis persists, there is no chance that he can initiate meaningful negotiations with Iran.

He is also under immense and growing pressure – largely from people who deeply opposed the concept of engagement from the start – to take sides. And the pressure will grow, especially if there is a bloodletting by the regime in Iran. Obama’s statement today strikes me as typically precise and about as far as he can go without sliding into partisanship that will inevitably lead to escalating confrontation.

Despite the siren calls to give full vent to American outrage, short of widespread carnage he should recognize that such statements will not assist the beleaguered opposition in Iran. On the contrary, it will increase their vulnerability, raise false hopes of U.S. physical intervention, and will provide an excuse for the regime to carry out the kind of brutal repression that they are threatening, all in the name of fighting imperialism.

Shouts of outrage are fine by folks like me on the web, but the U.S. government should never forget that its primary task is to do no harm. It may be hard to hold your tongue, but then nobody ever said foreign policy was easy.”



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