Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama On Iran: A Broken Moral Compass, A Distorted Perception of Reality,

Chatham House has done perhaps the definitive study on the vote in Iran's Presidential election, finding vote fraud pervasive. Obama continues to give the protesters in Iran short shrift while holding out hopes of still engaging what is now a wholly illegitimate theocracy in talks over its drive for nuclear weapons. And yesterday, as protesters took to the streets again, suffering beatings and murder at the blood stained hands of the butchers of Iran's theocracy, Obama chose that time to assure the theocracy that they were invited to attend 4th of July celebrations. That is not merely immoral, its obscene and so contrary to our interests as to be inexplicable.

The revolt against the regime continues with a general strike called for today. There are several possible ways that this may be resolved, two of which would involve the end of Iran's theocracy. That is the best case solution for both Iran and Western civilization, yet Obama seems utterly - and ominously - oblivious. Is he seriously considering throwing the theocracy a life line over the bodies of the dead protesters so that the regime acquiesces on paper to his major demands? Is he really that amoral, narcissistic and detached from reality?

As a threshold matter, whether Iran's theocracy engaged in massive vote fraud should have been beyond question the moment the Supreme Guide announced final vote totals two hours after polls closed in an election done with tens of millions of paper ballots. Any lingering doubt should be answered by the analysis done of the election by Chatham House, a left wing British think tank. You can read the analysis here. They found overwhelming evidence of fraud based on publicized election results and prior voting patterns. One snippet of their conclusions:

In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups.

Obama has yet to acknowledge that actual vote fraud took place, nor to make a statement that actually supports the protesters. While I supported Obama's initially restrained response because of the popular belief in Iran that the U.S. underminded the Iranian government in 1953 and has been behind plots since, that restraint should have ended as soon as it became clear that this was a grass roots protest and that there was blood in the streets.

Bill Kristol documents the time line of Obama's responses to the protests at the Weekly Standard. Instead of a robust response, we were at first treated to days of silence as riots swept Iran, then tepid statements that reached their nadir when Obama attempted to answer criticism by claiming that the two Iranian Presidential candidates, Ahemedinejad and Mousavi, were "two of a kind." I am still not sure if that was raw political cynicism at its worst or whether Obama was that clueless about what was occurring in Iran. One hopes the former, as the latter would mean that Obama is a naif who will cause tremendous damage to our country.

During the Presidential campaign, Mousavi, despite having revolutionary credentials exceeding those of Ahmedinejad, advocated real and fundamental reforms that utterly energized the Iranian populace. Iranian specialist Michael Ledeen took note, writing on July 10, two days before the election, that Mousavi had lit a firestorm in Iran by offering reforms, particularly in the area of women's rights, that threatened "the whole structure of the Khomeinist regime . . ."

So for our President not to grasp this and to try to sidestep criticism by claiming that Ahmedinejad and Mousavi were "two of a kind" was both a distortion of reality and, as the Mousavi camp noted in a letter to the President, highly destructive. As Mousavi's office put it, the President's "two of a kind comparison, was "a specially grave insult for those who are now fighting for democracy and freedom." Mousavi's office rightly assessed that Obama was being deliberately misleading as he held on to false hopes of a "dialogue with this regime."

The protests began almost as soon as Khameini announced the "divine assessment" of the electorate, supposedly voting for Aheminejad in a landslide. The repression followed almost immediately. Tens of thousands have been beaten, gassed, arrested and/or murdered, with the most barbaric symbol of the regime's brutality and illegitimacy being the murder of Neda, a woman peacefully standing in the street during a protest.

And yet Obama mutes his criticism because he does not want to be seen as "meddling" - a pretextual excuse at this point since the Iranian government is portraying this as an American directed plot regardless - and despite all of this, he continues his outreach to this illegitimate regime. According to WaPo, Obama is trying to "calibrate his comments to the mood of the hour" so as to "preserve the possibility of negotiating directly with the Iranian government over its nuclear program, links to terrorism, Afghanistan and other issues." Indeed, under this rubric, yesterday, while this bloody theocracy was involved in the beating and murder of its citizenry, Obama's State Dept. took the opportunity took the opportunity to assure the theocracy that they were still invited to attend 4th of July celebrations. That is not merely immoral, its obscene and so contrary to our interests as to be inexplicable.

And Obama is the person explaining to America that our moral compass is broken because the majority of us believe that its okay to waterboard a terrorist if it will save American lives? Obama's moral compass is the one broken. There could be no clearer demonstration that Obama sees the world through a reality distorting lens then his response to this protest and his continued reaching out to the butchers of Iran's theocracy.

The reasons to pressure the theocracy and support these protesters are crystal clear, both as a moral and a practical matter. Morally, who can possibly condone or do business with a regime that uses beatings, arrests, and indiscriminate murder to thwart the will of its people. As a practical matter, leading international pressure on Iran can only help the protesters. It matters not a wit to the theocracy, since they are claiming we are the cause of this uprising anyway . It is a transparent pretext that, with the facts established, can fool no one in or outside of Iran.

Further as to the practicalities, there was never any chance that talks with the theocracy would do anything to convince them to forgo their drive for a nuclear arsenal that existentially threatens the U.S., Europe and Israel. For one, what could Obama possibly offer this illegitimate regime moving ever closer to the edge of oblivion at the hands of its people? What could he offer that would make the regime give up a nuclear arsenal it had heretofore utterly refused even to discuss giving up?

The very fact of such talks would add legitimacy to this failed regime. But this gets far more insidious. Iran has rejected every carrot offered by the West, and every reasonable one has been tried multiple times - including the inane suggestions of Obama during the campaign. What could Obama possibly offer the theocracy in their final hours that would induce them to suddenly change their position (on paper at least, as to expect this regime to hold true to their written word is to ignore decades of history to the contrary). Literally the only things they could want that would be worth the price of agreement would be tools that would allow them to survive the challenge of their people. In other words, Obama would have to throw the protesters to the hyenas of tyranny to get any movement from the theocracy. That would be an abomination. Yet it is the only possible logical outcome of talks under the current circumstances.

The reality is that this revolt presents a golden opportunity to end the nuclear ambitions of the mad mullahs as much as it is an opportunity for the people of Iran to end their oppression. If this rebellion flowers into a successful revolution, it will change overnight the dynamic of the Middle East every bit as fundamentally as the founding of Israel changed the dynamic in 1948.

How to approach Iran in this instance has clear lessons from our recent history. The playbook on this was written in 1981. It does not involve playing nice, weinie roasts or conducting "business as usual." This from Sean Hannity via Gateway Pundit:

As I write this, Obama is holding a news conference. In his speech moments ago, he said this on Iran:

The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, 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.

. . . [T]he United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

. . . Some in the Iranian government are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd. They are an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran.

Good, but not yet a condemnation of blatant vote fraud, nor an endorsement of the goals of the protesters - human dignity and democracy. Further, in response to a question from Major Garret as to whether in fact Obama still was holding open the invitation to 4th of July celebrations to the theocracy, Obama hemmed and hawed, leaving the clear impression that the answer is yes. Just amazing.

It was relatively quiet in Iran yesterday. The government has achieved its immediate objective of largely clearing the streets and has further hardened its position. The Guardian Council announced today that they would not annul the election. The government is engaged in mass arrests, including today Mousavi's staff. That completes the arrest of essentially the "top two tiers" of leadership in Mousavi's organization. Additionally, the theocracy has "retired" the soccer players who wore green wrist bands in the match with South Korea. Yet all is not returning to normal. As I wrote here, major faultlines are becoming apparent in the regime.

Still Mousavi and another Presidential candidate, Kharoubi have called for a protest march tomorrow. The few protesters who have shown up on the streets yesterday and today are turning the tables and conducting hit and run attacks on the basij. Mousavi has called for a strike today, though it is not clear whether one has occurred and, if so, how widespread it is. This is a revolt still in its nascent stages. Coups can happen overnight, but grass roots revolutions do not. Indeed, the closest antecedent to what is happening in Iran today is the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah. It began in 1978 and played out over a year, going through periods of intense protests and violence followed by long lulls.

There is yet another way that this could end - a clerical coup that ends Khomeini's three decades old experiment in theocracy. It is not one that I imagined possible as there are too many clerics in the theocracy with vested interests, financial and otherwise, in the theocracy's survival. But it seems that is now under discussion in Qom at the highest levels of Iran's clerical establishment.

An article in the Saudi's Al Arabiya, "Iranian clerics seek supreme leader alternative," states that Rafanjani, president of the Guardian Council, is in Iran's home of Shia scholarship, Qom, holding "secret talks" with Iran's top Shia clerics about doing away with the position of Supreme Leader. Whether this would be a full scale retreat from theocracy or a partial one, going from a "Supreme Leader" to a "Supreme Council," is unclear.

As I have pointed out many times before, Khomeini's creation of the Iranian theocracy based on his personal theory of the veleyat-e-faqi (rule of the jurisprudent) is a complete reversal of over a millenia of Shia tradition holding that there should be separation between mosque and state. Khomeini's veleyat-e-faqi was not only a break from tradition, it was a radical and complete reversal.

When Khomeini established the theocracy thirty years ago, he split with many senior clerics in Qom who believed his experiment wrong-headed. And indeed, three decades later, Iran's theocracy is facing a popular revolt from a population many of whom have been secularized as a result of the misrule and massive corruption of the theocracy.

It is of important note that Rafsanjani's meetings have "included Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq." Sistani is an ardent traditionalist who believes in separation of mosque and state. His last contact with the Iran's theocracy was to snub Ahmedinejad when Ahmedinejad visited Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is also the most popular clerical figure in Iran. His presence in the meetings suggests that the options under consideration are far reaching. And indeed:

An option being considered is the resignation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president following condemnation by the United States and other European nations for violence and human rights violations against unarmed protesters.

This could itself work a sea change to Iran - and it might just work. It would end with the the corrupt theocracy fading into the woodwork, the evil doers with their scalps still attached to their skulls, but out of power. It would likely overcome the IRGC without firing a shot because they too rely on the authority of the ayatollahs as their raison d'etre. At worst, it might kick off an active civil war between IRGC elements in a naked power grab and the rest of Iran's military. Steve Schippert has more on this at Threats Watch.

This is something that we can only support indirectly, just like the protests, by keeping the pressure on Iran's theocracy to allow democracy, free speech and rights of free association. But so long as we have a President who is seeing the world through a reality distorting lens and navigating with a broken moral compass, that will not come from him.

Prior Posts:

21 June 2009: Faultlines Developing
21 June 2009: When The Regime Will Fall
20 June 2009: The Regime Turns On Its Own People (Updated)
20 June 2009: Life, Death & Terrorism On Iran's Streets - Neda
19 June 2009: Countdown To High Noon
19 June 2009: An Iranian Showdown Cometh - Liveblogging Khameini's Speech At Friday Prayers
18 June 2009: Iran Update
16 June 2009: Iran 6/16: The Fire Still Burning, An Incendiary Letter From Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, State Dept. Intercedes With Twitter & Obama Talks Softly
16 June 2009: Breaking News: Vote Recount In Iran, Too Little, Too Late
15 June 2009: Iran Buys Time, Obama Votes Present, Iraq's Status Is Recognized
15 June 2009: The Fog Of War - & Twitter
15 June 2009: Chants Of Death To Khameini
15 June 2009: Heating Up In Iran
14 June 2009: Heating Up In Iran
14 June 2009: Tehran Is Burning; What Will The Iranian Army Do? (Updated)
13 June 2009: The Mad Mullah's Man Wins Again - For Now
15 April 2008: The Next Moves In An Existential Chess Match (Background On Iran's Theocracy)


OBloodyHell said...

> Is he that amoral and narcissistic?


Yes he is.

OBloodyHell said...

P.S. I do wish this had come to a head before this moron was elected. You KNOW Bush would have responded properly.

KG said...

"Is he really that amoral, narcissistic and detached from reality?"

MK said...

Nice pic, sums him up pretty well. Hope and change, *spit*