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Posted at 9:35 AM ET, 02/16/2011

What is our Iran policy?

By Jennifer Rubin

The president has now begun scolding the regime in Iran for its brutal behavior. But alas, he is once again plagued by the same cautiousness that rendered him mute in June 2009 at the birth of the Green Movement and that left him continually behind the curve during the Egyptian revolution. The Post reports:

President Obama addressed the Iranian demonstrations Tuesday with a large measure of caution, calling on Iran's leaders to allow protesters to express their grievances but stopping short of calling for a change in government. ...

In his news conference, Obama continued to focus on the demonstrations underway and not on his preferred outcome, a balance he also maintained during the 18-day uprising in Egypt. Only in the final stage did he align the United States with the demonstrators' call for President Hosni Mubarak's immediate resignation.

In other words, far from being on the right side of history at every turn (as the president bizarrely asserted at his press conference), the administration's muddied policy and indecisiveness on regime change remained remarkably consistent over the past two years.

Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is unmoved by anything Obama might say at this point. The New York Times reports:

A day after the most significant street protests in Iran since the end of the 2009 uprising there, members of the Iranian Parliament called on Tuesday for the two most prominent opposition leaders to be prosecuted and sentenced to death for stirring unrest.

The call came as confrontations between government authorities and protesters inspired by the Tunisia and Egypt revolutions continued to unfold elsewhere in the region, with violent clashes in Bahrain and Yemen. ...

The offense of being "corrupts on earth," a catchall indictment of political dissent, carries the death sentence. It was not immediately clear whether the two men would be arrested. Both are under effective house arrest with their communications and movements restricted.

In other words, as Obama remains cautious, the Iranian regime grows more aggressive.

I asked Michael Singh of the Washington Institute how the administration might effectively aid the protesters. He responded by e-mail: "Political and human rights in Iran should be moved up the Western diplomatic agenda, and feature more prominently in statements, UN meetings, and negotiations with Iran. The U.S. should also engage with the opposition more energetically, meeting with representatives of dissident groups and hearing directly from them how the U.S. can help."

Why not stop talks entirely -- in essence, ostracize the regime? Singh told me that several factors "militate against such a position." First, he contends that "the regime itself -- especially the most hardline elements associated with Khamenei -- would be relieved if the U.S. unilaterally cut off contact, as they view dialogue with the U.S. as undesirable at best and dangerous at worst." Second, Singh points out, "As a practical matter, neither Europe nor our allies elsewhere seem prepared to cut off or even downgrade their own relations with Tehran, which means that the regime would neither be delegitimized nor isolated." And finally, Singh believes that "it may be easier for dissidents and reformists to meet with U.S. and other Western officials if the regime is also doing so."

There may be disagreement on everything other than our allies' unwillingness to break off talks. But Singh is precisely right that simply doing what we have been doing is fruitless and counterproductive. As he puts it, "Our current approach to engagement -- in which we meet only with the regime's hand-picked representatives at the time and place of their choosing, following a strict agenda and script -- is favorable to the regime, and we should shake it up."

However, it's not clear that the administration understands that belated words of support for demonstrators do not make for an Iran policy.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 16, 2011; 9:35 AM ET
Categories:  Iran, National Security, Obama White House, foreign policy  
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Next: So much for breathing space with Iran

Comments

Part of the problem I think is that Obama is terrified of "meddling" in Iran's affairs because they seem so vehement about denouncing US "meddling." What's left unsaid is that the mullahs don't want us involved because they're terrified that we'll terminate their hold on power. But the implication seems to be that America is being "rude" or "improper" to be involved in what is "not our business."

I look at it like this. If I walk by someone's house and see a father beating his 10 year old daughter, I'm not going to shrug my shoulders and tell myself that "it's not my business," and move on. I'm going to either go in there to stop what's happening or I'm going to get the cell and call 9-1-1. When a brutal govt is oppressing and killing its citizens, we have every right to go in there and do something about it in my opinion. (Whether it's a policy that's beneficial for the US is an entirely different question).

The next time A-jad & Co sanctimoniously lectures us on not "meddling," Obama should say that we will not meddle in the affairs of others - we will not send any IPD's or EFP's into Iran, we will not send any suicide bombers to blow up the barracks of the Revolutionary Guard and we will not train or send any terrorists from America into Iran.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The flames of discontent are ablaze in the Middle-East and they cannot be quenched until Arabs get their share of the world`s wealth. Donation plates have to be passed out among the richest nations to solve the problem, the baby is crying in the crib and it must be quieted.

Posted by: morristhewise | February 16, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

RitchieEmmons said:
"When a brutal govt is oppressing and killing its citizens, we have every right to go in there and do something about it in my opinion."

So when the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq killing 4,000+ Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, I assume you have "every right" to do something about it.

Man, more proof neocons are nothing more than socialists on steroids. Rob the middle class to spent their tax dollars to "do good" for others. Doesn't get more lefty than that. Well maybe using other people's children to "do good". That's pretty leftist too.

Posted by: mfray | February 16, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

this is just plain stupid:
===============
RitchieEmmons said:
"When a brutal govt is oppressing and killing its citizens, we have every right to go in there and do something about it in my opinion."

So when the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq killing 4,000+ Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, I assume you have "every right" to do something about it.

Man, more proof neocons are nothing more than socialists on steroids. Rob the middle class to spent their tax dollars to "do good" for others. Doesn't get more lefty than that. Well maybe using other people's children to "do good". That's pretty leftist too.

============


Liberal whiney bleat number 14: There was a war and people died. this is generally followed by lying and hand wringing.

Here's a question: what proof do you have concerning the number of Iraqis the americans killed? The lancet? it is to laugh.

Next question: who bombed the Samara shrine, the Americans or the sunnis? Who killed more Iraqis, the Americans or the arabs? hmmm?

the advantages of the Iraq war to America are manifold, but why bother debating that with this guy? His mind is closed tighter than a clam's behind in cold water. Just like the mind of every other leftie in America.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 16, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Skip said:
-------------------------------------------
Liberal whiney bleat number 14: There was a war and people died. this is generally followed by lying and hand wringing.

Here's a question: what proof do you have concerning the number of Iraqis the americans killed? The lancet? it is to laugh.

Next question: who bombed the Samara shrine, the Americans or the sunnis? Who killed more Iraqis, the Americans or the arabs? hmmm?

the advantages of the Iraq war to America are manifold, but why bother debating that with this guy? His mind is closed tighter than a clam's behind in cold water. Just like the mind of every other leftie in America.
-------------------------------------------

Please, this is just neocon blather - nothing more than a liberal in fake wolves clothing.

NONE of the deaths nor the shrine bombing would have occured had the the lefties not gotten their way and invaded Iraq.

But why bother debating a neoconservative? His mind is made up sending REAL Americans to fight and occupy another country. Yup, people die in wars Skip, it just happens to be mainly children of conservatives. Upper west side New York Neocons' children, umm, not so much.

And as far as a benefit to us here in real America, I assume a Shiite country based on Sharia law was one of YOUR many benefits, eh? Luckily, the rest of us conservatives get to enjoy your liberal agenda of spreading Sharia law across the Middle East. Just what Israel needed, another radicalized enemy state in their region thanks to the necons.

Posted by: mfray | February 16, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

"When a brutal govt is oppressing and killing its citizens, we have every right to go in there and do something about it in my opinion."

So when the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq killing 4,000+ Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, I assume you have "every right" to do something about it."

mfray, I'd usually ignore such drivel, but since you brought this up, I'll respond.

First, I said we had a "right" to go into Iraq and free those people from a murderous Saddam. I didn't say "obligation." My post was pretty clear on that. That being said, I fully supported the invasion and still do.

Now, the left loves to whine about the civilian deaths in Iraq. First, as skip mentions above, who knows who were civilians and who were terrorists? That being said, do you know how many civilians were killed annually in Iraq by Saddam. It was somewhere between 30,000-40,000 per year (according to Kenneth Pollack, author of The Persian Puzzle, former Clinton admin official and current member of the Brookings Inst). Starting in mid 2003 and stopping in 2008 and using the low Saddam death count here (30,000), that comes to about 165,000 "civilian" deaths. Guess how many "civilian" deaths there have been since the war started? Around 100,000-110,000. http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ And I'm rather sure that this site isn't run by some "neo-con" backing bunch of Cheney lovers. Using calculations that are certainly generous and don't even include anything past 2008, that's still 50,000+ innocent Iraqis that are alive today that wouldn't be if we left Saddam in there. And that doesn't even include the guaranteed continued civilian murders under Uday/Qusay and whoever else was to follow them.

So in summary, the fact that we went into Iraq has SAVED tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. And that's just to date.

I'm more amenable to the argument that 4,000+ heroic Americans have been killed (and several more injured). But that is an incredibly low number in relation to other wars we've been in (and if the payoff is a democratized Iraq that may evolve into a more democratized Middle East, that's an awfully small price for America to pay). More over, I'm pretty sure your focus on the 4,000+ Americans here is entirely political - just a tool to disingenously bludgeon "neo-cons" with.

I'm prepared for your response.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jennifer
Besides Obama supporting the Iranian Opposition, tell the Israelis to voice their support too (for the Iranian Opposition)...
I promise u an official letter of gratitude from Khamenei himself...

Posted by: Kinesics | February 16, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

RitchieEmmons Good response.

Let's also add in the number of innocent Iraqis who died due to sanctions. The low number on this is 100,000. And as of this date, there's still bombs going off around the country and Iraqis continue to die due to what the invasion unleashed.

My point isn't to compare body counts. It's to point out the hypocrisy of the neoconservative agenda that killing for the "good of others" is a socialist/Trotskyist ideology, NOT conservative. You udging to send the children of real America into battle to help others as opposed to defending oneself is a decidedly leftist socialist policy.

Consistent CONSERVATIVE positions follow pro-life Catholic teachings, the Pope's stand against the war and the Christian theory of just warfare.

I'm not "using" our dead soldiers to bludgeon neocons. I'm pointing out the complicity of the neocons in killing the children of real Americans for lefty ideology. I'm very genuine about saving Americans while you are very genuine about saving Iraqis, Iranians, etc. and that's fine because here in America you're free to be MORE concerned with others than your own countrymen. This is not the case in China or North Korea.

Posted by: mfray | February 16, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Jenniffer Rubin asked Michael Singh for advise on Iran and he blindly said " The U.S. should also engage with the opposition more energetically, meeting with representatives of dissident groups and hearing directly from them how the U.S. can help."

Well do that and kiss and good-bye any support the opposition can drive from Iranian nation. This suggestion would be music to Mullahs ears who can take it and bash opposition as bunch of TRAITORS.
Jenniffer with all your hatred for Iranian regime, your suggestion would only help this regime, I hope you understand it. The MKO (Mojahedin Khalgh Organization) were the strongest opposition to Shah and early days of Khomeinie, but as soon as, they allied with Sadam, they lost all their legitmacy and respect in Iran. They are rightfuly branded as terrorist cult, and worse in ordinary Iranian eyes as TRAITORS.

No outside interference, force or soft pressure would help opposition, only make the situation worse for them.
32 years ago, Khomeinie came to power to get rid of Shah (foreign servant), then he managed to galvanize the nation around his regime, because the west imposed 8 year war on Iran through their proxy called stuipid Sadam. Now, if the west wishes to see a continuation of this regime for generation to come, then they should listen to you Jennifer and your bright advisor Michael Singh. I am amazed how little you know about Iranian culture, but how quick you are to spread your ill advise. It is very SCARY.

Posted by: abraham3 | February 16, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

mfray, I don't generally support putting Americans in harms way if there's going to be no benefit to America. But I think there's a huge benefit to be had from doing what we did in Iraq (ultimately, it IS "defending oneself"). The fact that it has saved thousands of innocent Iraqi lives is a big bonus. If you didn't want to compare body counts, then perhaps leave out the "and tens of thousands of Iraqis" part when typing such a post in the future.

I don't buy for a second that 100,000+ Iraqis died "due" to sanctions. I'll accept that 100,000 (or many more) Iraqis died *during* the sanctions, but that was just Saddam being Saddam. They would have been killed if there were no sanctions at all. If you have a credible link explaining "sanction deaths," I'd be interested to see it.

"I'm not "using" our dead soldiers to bludgeon neocons. I'm pointing out the complicity of the neocons in killing the children of real Americans for lefty ideology."

You're getting close to the disingenous and insulting lefty tactic here of referring to our soldiers as "children." As if they had no choice in the matter and their death in a war is akin to a 10 year old being sacrificed at the alter or something. The soldiers are adults who chose on their free will to join the military, knowing full well the risks. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and guess that you didn't use the word "children" in this context here though.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how every time Jennifer posts a criticism of Obama's approach to Iran that neither her, nor her "experts" offer any suggestion as to what Obama should be doing.

There's plenty of analysis from Singh but he doesn't bother to offer any solution. Why is that?

Moving on to Jennifer's own comical piece, she points out that "...the Iranian regime is unmoved by anything Obama might say at this point."

No kidding. Since when has the regime been moved by anything Obama or any other president might have said? And what cause have we ever given them to be moved?

What Jennifer and the neocons cannot come to grips with is that the US is losing power and influence and they resent it. The Europeans are no longer taking orders from us, the Chinese and Latin American states are doing business with Iran and Iran itself has demonstrated it can function outside out sphere of influence.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 16, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 10:58 AM

What's left unsaid is that the mullahs don't want us involved because they're terrified that we'll terminate their hold on power.

_______________

They're terrified. They know we can't.

"But the implication seems to be that America is being "rude" or "improper" to be involved in what is "not our business.""

Yes,that's what we would say if the world told us how to conduct our affairs too.

"When a brutal govt is oppressing and killing its citizens, we have every right to go in there and do something about it in my opinion."

Not when we're busy doing the same in our own home, or other homes at the time.


Posted by: Shingo1 | February 16, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 16, 2011 12:37 PM

There was a war and people died. this is generally followed by lying and hand wringing.

_________________

Yeah, the war just happened for no good reason, out of the clear blue sky. No harm, no foul.

"Next question: who bombed the Samara shrine, the Americans or the sunnis?"

My question: Who was guarding he Samara shrine when it was bombed? The Shiites or the Americans?


"Who killed more Iraqis, the Americans or the arabs? hmmm?"

What does the Nuremberg principals say about the Motehr of all war crimes and who is responsible for all the death and destruction that follows as a result of a war of aggression?

"the advantages of the Iraq war to America are manifold, but why bother debating that with this guy?"

Sure.

1. Iran has become empowered and practically in control of Iraq
2. The US incurred a bill for 3 trillion and counting
3. 4000 dead Americans.
4. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis
5. US prestige and influence in the world at rock bottom
6 Our defense forces stretched to the limit
7. Iraq is not an Islamic state
8. 3-4 million refugees
9. half a million injured Americans
10. 12 Americans returning home and committing suicide every month

Yeah, Mission Accomplished alright.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 16, 2011 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 2:40 PM

“First, I said we had a "right" to go into Iraq and free those people from a murderous Saddam.”

A right under which article of the constitution?

That being said, do you know how many civilians were killed annually in Iraq by Saddam. It was somewhere between 30,000-40,000 per year”

False. The State Department puts the total figure (over 24 years) at 300,000, which comes to 12000 per year.

Kenneth Pollack has no credibility.

The number of civilian deaths since 2003 is around a million. Iraq Body Count admits that it deliberately and glossy under estimates the death toll. On top of that, the US imposed genocidal sanctions which killed 1 million people in the 90's, including half a million children. Madeline Albright is infamous for claiming it as a worthwhile cost.

So in effect, the US has killed 2 million people since 1990 (not including the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis we killed in Desert Storm)

“I'm more amenable to the argument that 4,000+ heroic Americans have been killed (and several more injured).”

Not several Richie, try half a million, which at least half of those permanently disabled. On top of that, 12 vets a month from the war are committing suicide.

Posted by: Shingo1 | February 16, 2011 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 16, 2011 4:31 PM

I don't buy for a second that 100,000+ Iraqis died "due" to sanctions.

_______________________________________

Neither do I. The State Department accepted that half a million children alone died due to sanctions, so the figure is closer to a million.


Posted by: Shingo1 | February 16, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

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