Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Little Sympathy for the President, Please

While I find it objectionable that the president has waited so long to make statements in support of the protesters in Iran (because I believe he wanted to negotiate with Ahmadinejad as he's long promised), President Obama is finally tilting toward the protesters. We have no interest in stability in Iran right now, when that just means the regime wins.

But for those who want far more from our president, I can only say that while more verbal support might be good, we have to be careful. If we say too much, we own the revolution. Oh, not that we'd "taint" it or some such rot (are Obama supporters now saying that any American president taints dissidents and not just George W. Bush?), but if the protesters act more aggressively because of our president's statements of support, we have a moral responsibility to help them if the regime strikes back.

The risk is that like the Shias in 1991 in Iraq or the Hungarians in 1956 against the Soviets, that the demonstrators seriously rise up and find themselves being brutalized by the regime. Will we intervene with our many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or will we watch the Basij and other security forces kill their way to "stability?"

Unless we are willing to intervene militarily, we must be careful in how we talk about the crisis in Iran. I would have liked the president to more rapidly have made statements like he did today, but at least he's finally made that statement.

Who knows? Maybe there could be a role for our military if bloodshed grows and the UN authorizes safe zones inside Iran, as was done in Bosnia, to protect Iranian dissidents from the Tehran regime. But with American troops taking the lead they'd actually be safe, I'd say.

With our troops concentrating outside Iraq's cities, theoretically we'd be in a position to push troops into Iran if needed.

And perhaps if the Iranian army and significant parts of the Pasdaran refuse to fight the dissidents and turn on the regime, our miltiary intervention could be decisive.

But a lot of responsibility lies on the shoulders of our president, so have a little sympathy when you complain that he hasn't calibrated his response exactly as you'd like.

And who knows? Maybe we're working behind the scenes. As I've said many times before, if after 6 years of being on notice our CIA can't engineer a revolt in Iran, with contacts with opponents of the regime, what the heck have we been paying them for?