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Obama's Second Chance on Iran   December 28th, 2009
Will he waste it again?       

 
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It's been six months since Neda died on the streets of Iran at the hands of its tyrannical government. It's been six months since the Obama Administration argued that the best thing we could do for freedom in Iran was to do absolutely nothing to help those that seek it.

Since then Iran has tortured, raped, and killed imprisoned protesters.

It has further oppressed people wishing to express their political opinions.

It has executed protesters.

In short, Iran's current leaders have seemingly been emboldened by Obama's lack of substantive action last summer.
They've seen that they can brutally and horrifically kill protesters--even young women--right on video for all the world to see and the world, and Obama, will do nothing but issue statements.

Far from unclenching their fists to Obama's open hands, they've further tightened their grip and have pummeled their own citizens repeatedly.

Since this summer they've also become increasingly uncooperative with the world in regards to their nuclear program. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suspect that just as Iran realized it could kill their own citizens and get away with it, they also believe they can ignore the demands of the world regarding nuclear weapons and get away with that, too. And nothing Obama has done or said would give them reason to believe otherwise.

Now dissidents are once again fighting and dying for freedom in Iran. And people are asking, "Where is Barack Obama?"

Answering that question, this afternoon Obama issued a statement in which he said:

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.


As in June, these are nothing more than words.

At least this time Obama "condemned" what's going on--though his condemnation was interestingly worded so as not to specifically condemn the government's actions by name. Sure, it was implied. But it was just vague enough to make sure that Obama isn't perceived as strong by those that clearly only understand strength and action. It's as if he's afraid to look evil in the eye and call it out. And evil does notice that fear.

When Obama says that we will "bear witness" to that which is happening in Iran, he is implicitly saying we'll just watch. As in the summer, there was nothing in Obama's words that would give the tyrants in Iran any reason to believe there will be any consequences to their actions. And in the absence of real international consequences, a brutal and heavily armed extremist government is bound to make short work of unarmed civilians--just as it did in June.

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. wants regime change in Iran and a sizable percentage of Iran's citizens want regime change. Regime change is in the interest of peace within Iran and also in the interest of peace outside Iran.

For years we've been confronted with the possibility of military action against Iran to assure they don't obtain nuclear weapons. And the people of Iran are rising up against impossible odds to fight tyranny. And they're doing it now.

The inaction of the Obama Administration in regards to Iran are not excusable on the basis of the risk that any potential American action could be used by the Iranian regime in a PR battle against the dissidents. Sure, it's possible. But that's only a risk if we're playing to lose since that PR won't matter once those that fight for freedom win. So, yes, if we're going to help Iranians fight for freedom, we better be committed to seeing it through.

What the protesters need isn't for Americans to come sweeping in and establishing our own government. They just need the U.S. to give them a fighting chance. They're already doing an admirable job, but there's probably a limit to what throwing concrete can achieve in the face of the overwhelming force of the Iranian government--and its willingness to use it.

No, I don't know exactly what to do. Perhaps a few well-placed cruise missiles in Iran's intelligence-gathering centers. Perhaps some surgical strikes against the government's key communication infrastructure. Or maybe something more subtle, more covert. Whatever it takes to destabilize the Iranian government just enough that the protesters will have a slight advantage and be emboldened.

Is Obama willing to issue an ultimatum? Is he willing to seize the moment that has been presented to him a second time? Is he willing to be part of history and to help those that die for freedom? Is he willing to make the tough decisions that come with being president?

This is not just an issue for Iran to resolve. The international community, and the United States, has a stake in the future of Iran. Given Iran's nuclear ambitions and its open hostility to Israel, the ramifications are potentially huge. We cannot stick our head in the sand and pretend it's just an internal issue.

During the American Revolution, American patriots sought--and ultimately secured--the assistance of France. At first the assistance was covert and later it became overt. The American Revolution was ultimately successful, in large part, due to what could be considered "meddling" by a foreign power in the "internal" affairs of Britain.

America shouldn't just "bear witness." America should continue to fight for freedom, even when there are risks involved in such fights. Fights are seldom without risk but that doesn't mean we should shy away from doing what's right.

When it comes to right and wrong, and good and evil, freedom and oppression, we cannot and must not try to appear to be neutral.

In the end, I don't doubt that the Iranian people will eventually be successful all by themselves. If we (and they) are lucky, it might happen this week. Or it might take hundreds of thousands of Iranians laying down their lives for freedom over years or decades. But, yes, it will eventually happen.

So I don't take issue with Obama's statement that "history will be on the side of those who seek justice." It will.

The question is whether or not America will have also been on the side of those that seek justice... and how many Iranian lives will have unnecessarily been lost if America wasn't on their side.

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