Obama finally broke his grotesquely wrong-headed silence on Iran during his speech today:
Here is the text of his speech:
Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.
For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran's great and enduring civilization.
What's taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It's about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran's leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.
As I said in Oslo, it's telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.
Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.
We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I'm confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.
The President's speech comes six months after protests began in Iran, five months after the government began systematically arresting, torturing, raping and murdering protesters, a week after massive protests began during the burial of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, and a day after the most violent protests to date that occurred on the Shia holy day of Ashura. The week of protests leading up to Ashura and the protests on Ashura yesterday took place throughout Iran, involved many different classes of Iranian society, and were far more militant than prior demonstrations. For all the reasons set forth in the post here, it seems clear that Iran's revolution has reached a new phase.
I applaud the President's speech. He has finally come out with a statement that, for all its faults and its lateness, will be interpreted as a relatively strong, if brief statement, in support of the protesters. That said, this one minute vignette comes months late, it understates what is happening in Iran, it misstates the goals of the protesters, and in it, Obama cannot bring himself to call the Iranian regime illegitimate. What is happening in Iran is not a protest for "social justice," it is a fight to the death for freedom. What the government is doing to these protesters is not mere "detentions, injuries, and even death." It is wholesale brutality, rape, torture, and murder. It is a human rights violations on steroids. It is the attempt of the theocracy to terrorize the Iranian citizenry.
Charles Krauthammer addressed the President's speech on Fox News tonight. While I am not as vociferous as Krauthammer in my critique at this point, I think the tenor of Krauthammer's criticism is valid.
Whether Krauthammer's criticisms are truly warranted will be answered in the coming days, as we learn whether Obama's speech was merely pro forma or whether it marks an actual intent to decisively support the revolution in Iran. Will Obama refund all of those programs designed to support democracy in Iran? Will he begin to use the bully pulpit to mark the Iranian regime as illegitimate? Will Obama call attention to individual cases of human rights abuses? Will Obama tell the story of Neda Soltan and how the government has threatened and supressed her family in the aftermath of her murder? Obama can make a difference in whether this revolution, no longer nascent, succeeds or fails. What will he do?
Time is running out on our options for dealing with the mad mullahs. Even laying aside the moral imperative of supporting people fighting and dying for freedom from the yoke of tyranny, the reality is that that same tyrannical government will soon attain a nuclear arsenal and threaten the world with the same terror now being waged against its citizenry. The single best thing Obama can do for Iran, America and the world is to throw his full support to the protesters in Iran. Let us hope his speech this day was not merely pro forma.