Neocons, House GOPers Demand Obama Take Moussavi’s Side

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 12:11 am
Protesters take to the streets of Tehran on Monday to protest the Iranian election (Flickr: .faramarz)

Protesters in Tehran on Monday (Flickr: .faramarz)

Before voters went to the polls in Friday’s elections in Iran, critics of President Obama’s Iran policy — and of his outreach to the Middle East in general — attempted to pre-empt the possible defeat of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by pronouncing it meaningless. John Bolton, the former United Nations Ambassador for George W. Bush, warned that a victory for the president’s chief opponent Mir Hossein Moussavi would “not change the fundamental direction of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs or its support for terrorism.” Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, wrote that he was “rooting for Ahmadinejad” because it would be “better to have a bellicose, apocalyptic, in-your-face Ahmadinejad who scares the world than a sweet-talking Mousavi who again lulls it to sleep.”

Image by: Matt Mahurin

Image by: Matt Mahurin

But in the wake of the contested election and the surging rallies against Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs who rule Iran, the president’s more hawkish critics are changing the tune. The president, they argue, has an opening — if not a responsibility — to make a statement on the elections that aligns the United States with reformist elements inside of Iran. Monday began with a few disconnected critiques of the president’s silence, and ended with calls for a bold Obama statement from leading neoconservatives and one of the Republican Party’s most prominent leaders in the House.

“The president should be questioning the legitimacy of the elections,” said Kim Holmes, former assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration who is now vice president of foreign policy and defense studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He doesn’t need to go into any great detail. He needs to show that, in the long run, the United States is on the side of the Iranian people.”

Critics of the Obama White House are very much aware of the fears that have, up to now, forestalled a statement from the president. As one official told TWI over the weekend, there is great caution about appearing to favor one side over another. On Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs would only say that there was “concern” about the election results and that “Iranians are looking into this.” After news that one man had been killed at a massive Tehran rally, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly would only say that the administration was “deeply troubled” by events. At the end of the day, the president responded to events with a four minute-long statement that recognized the nation’s “sovereignty,” credited the nation with “looking into” the election results, and pleased few critics of Iran.

“Why would a statement supporting the freedom of the Iranian people undermine the movement?” asked Michael Ledeen, the freedom scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies whose books about Iran include “The Iranian Time Bomb” and “Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West.” Ledeen, like many critics of the official stance, framed the choice as a moral one. “Would a statement supporting the mullahs strengthen the opposition? Ridiculous. If America stands for anything it stands for freedom. We should have supported the Iranian people a long time ago. The current silence from the White House is shameful.”

Some pro-Iranian activists have disagreed with this sentiment and portrayed the administration’s silence as unfortunate but politically necessary. Over the weekend, Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council told TWI that an Obama statement might allow Iran’s leaders to portray the unrest as a Western conspiracy. But Ledeen dismissed the spokesman and the argument. “Trita Parsi is not a human rights activist,” Ledeen said. “He’s a leading apologist for the regime.”

Other critics of the Obama administration have called for a statement in a more subtle manner. Early on Monday morning, Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, urged fellow conservatives to temper their criticism and try to make their case to the president. “We should hope Obama does the right thing,” he wrote at his magazine’s website, “and urge and pressure him to do so.” Hours later, in The Washington Post, Kristol drew comparisons between the situation in Iran and the run-up to World War II and argued that dissidents could be helped by a speech “for liberty” coming from “the popular and credible speaker-to-the-Muslim-world, Barack Obama.”

Pipes, the controversial scholar who had rooted for an outright Ahmadinejad victory until the votes came in, called the uncertain result “the best result possible” and said that the apparent win represented “a slap in the face of the American president’s pro-Islamist policies.” Reached on Monday by TWI, he, too, suggested that the president could further American interests by taking a side. “This is the moment for the outside world to let the Iranian people know they are not alone by manifesting its rejection of Khamene’i's despotic rule,” said Pipes. “The U.S. government should side with the Iranian people and the opposition forces.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) (WDCpix)

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) (WDCpix)

All of this — and a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll that found 66 percent of Americans calling the administration “not tough enough” on Iran — have loosened the tongues of Hill Republicans. Early on Monday, the most prominent congressional statement on Iran and the American response came from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who called the election a “mockery of democracy” and expressed “hope that President Obama and members of both parties in Congress will speak out.” Republican comments were somewhat muted until a mid-day appearance by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in which the 2008 presidential candidate suggested that the president “speak out strongly in opposition” to Ahmadinejad. At 5 p.m. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House Republican whip who has frequently criticized candidate and then President Obama over his policies toward Israel and Iran, released a statement attacking “the Administration’s silence in the face of Iran’s brutal suppression of democratic rights” and labeling it “a step backwards for homegrown democracy in the Mideast.”

“President Obama must take a strong public position in the face of violence and human rights abuses,” said Cantor. “We have a moral responsibility to lead in opposition to Iran’s extreme response to peaceful protests.”

All of this has given the president’s critics some optimism, the hope that the president could be drawn into making a clear statement on Iran, edging away from what Republicans had termed an “apology tour” to hostile nations. Watching the surge of liberal and left-leaning activism in support of Iran’s protesters, some of the long-time opponents of the Mullahs are starting to see the possibility of a breakthrough, of an issue that had been partisan becoming more mainstream.

“I’m delighted if people on the left call for supporting the Iranian people,” said Ledeen. “They should have been doing it all these years. Ahem.”

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Comments

27 Comments

mardod
Comment posted June 15, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

Considering the accuracy rate of neocons like Ledeen on most of the major foreign policy decisions for the last 10 years or so, Obama's more optimistic approach was probably the wiser more rational move here. At least I hope so.


sus
Comment posted June 16, 2009 @ 12:54 am

It's times like these I am even more grateful Obama is President, and not the knee-jerk McCain.


know
Comment posted June 16, 2009 @ 5:04 am

The outcry from McCain and others for “action” in a situation that is unstable and changing rapidly is reckless. This is a large nation with a powerful military and a potential nuclear weapons capability. Like other countries in the region, it is no doubt also vulnerable to infighting among religious factions, tribal warlords and infiltration of a range of terrorist groups. It is not in America's interest to encourage a breakdown in the social order resulting from political instability. These GOP leaders bring heat, not light, to the already volatile streets of Iran. Let's hope cooler, wiser heads prevail. So far, Obama seems to be striking the right chord: criticism + restraint.


ajm8127
Comment posted June 16, 2009 @ 6:13 am

This is ridiculous. The right is just looking to place a pro west leader in power that will work with us. Then we will send American owned companies over there to pay Iranian workers next to nothing to take the Iranian oil for themselves. That's the furthering of American interests that Pipes speaks of. Don't get me wrong, Mir-Hossein Mousavi would be my pick in a heartbeat, but I am not Iranian, and this is not my election.


Obama Gets Statement on Iran Right « Virtù
Pingback posted June 16, 2009 @ 9:36 am

[...] Weigel has a round up of conservatives calling on Obama to support the protestors, which is sort of sad and [...]


Jules Crittenden » History Lesson
Pingback posted June 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am

[...] Washington Indepedent snarks on neo-cons who prefered to see Obama stymied in Iran and denounced the fauz election there, now calling on him to embrace Mullah-Lite Mousavi. Here’s the deal. A straightup Mousavi election would have changed little, simply giving the mullahs a nicer face to show the world. That situation has dramatically changed with the emergence of more than 1 million people on the street, out in opposition to the regime’s engineering of elections. There is the potential of Mousavi emerging as an actual opposition leader, the creatio of a viable opposition to the regime, and even the potential of democratic revolution in Iran, bloody though it may be. Obama can be dismayed by the violence, but as history tells us, the tree of liberty usually, tragically, requires some blood to grow. [...]


Republicans Want Ahmadinezhad to Win and Lose, New Torture Revelations « The Long Goodbye
Pingback posted June 16, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

[...] neocons think Iran is evil, but Reagan negotiated with them anyway. On the other hand we have some neocons rooting for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, wrote that he was “rooting for [...]


Wonk Room » Ledeen Slanders Iranian Human Rights Supporter — Again
Pingback posted June 16, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

[...] Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel has a great article up on how conservatives who had previously scoffed at the idea that Iran’s elections had any [...]


The Washington Independent » Neocons, House GOPers Demand Obama … : PlanetTalk.net - Learn the truth , no more lies
Pingback posted June 16, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

[...] Read more from the original source: The Washington Independent » Neocons, House GOPers Demand Obama … [...]


Rems Micheal
Comment posted June 16, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

The West will be a lot more helpful to Mousavi, Rafsanjani and the Students by 'saying less and doing nothing'. Nothing unites Iranians under the hardliners than a perception of West interference or imperialism. These Neocons should hide in their corner and allow Obama govern in his own style. I am proud of Obama's reaction to this crisis.

The reason this opening exist today is that it is no longer good enough to be against America. You have to put food on your people's tables. Without an America to attack Ahmedinajad now have to prove his worth in running the country's economy.


Duane Bidoux
Comment posted June 16, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

“I’m delighted if people on the left call for supporting the Iranian people,” said Ledeen. “They should have been doing it all these years. Ahem.”

I love that quote–most neocons have been wanting to bomb those same people for the last 8 years.

Obama is playing it perfectly. Do not give the government a foil by playing the part of the “big imperialist devil power” that can unify conservatives against the protesters.


Antimatter
Comment posted June 18, 2009 @ 7:03 am

Officially, the US should do what it is doing right now: vague statement of support combined with no overt action.

Outside the government though, Americans have given great support in the form of Civilian lead electronic warfare. This is the first time in history something like this has happened. Both Proxies for getting around Iranian censorship, RT's from twitter spreading news around the web, blogger and forum goers compressing and reformatting raw news into a usable form, and even several acts of, well, cyber-terrorism against Iranian government targets in the form of DDOS and Hacking attacks. If the Gov is going to do anything, i'd suggest that Obama instruct the justice department not to investigate American citizens for partaking in the electronic warfare efforts, and possibly even instruct our more covert assets to take part int hat area.


Antimatter
Comment posted June 18, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

Officially, the US should do what it is doing right now: vague statement of support combined with no overt action.

Outside the government though, Americans have given great support in the form of Civilian lead electronic warfare. This is the first time in history something like this has happened. Both Proxies for getting around Iranian censorship, RT's from twitter spreading news around the web, blogger and forum goers compressing and reformatting raw news into a usable form, and even several acts of, well, cyber-terrorism against Iranian government targets in the form of DDOS and Hacking attacks. If the Gov is going to do anything, i'd suggest that Obama instruct the justice department not to investigate American citizens for partaking in the electronic warfare efforts, and possibly even instruct our more covert assets to take part int hat area.


davemartin7777
Comment posted June 18, 2009 @ 11:52 pm

President Obama is doing exactly the right thing… nothing.

We have direct experience of what happens when we meddle in Iranian affairs.

Why does the right and neoconservatives specifically have such selective memory?

My goodness doesn't anyone remember the Shaw of Iran?

He was that result of American and British covert operations ending in the 1953 coup d'etat… which of course was all about oil.

Google “Operation Ajax” the history is there and it's been well documented.

The Iranians certainly remember.

The “blow-back of all that is we got the Ayatollah Khomeini

America does not need to be involved with Iranian internal affairs… AMERICA HAS MADE THAT MISTAKE BEFORE.

Remember?


lvdragonlady
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

Who are they to say anything? This is exactly what was done to 'justify' the war in Iraq.
Can these people get any dumber? Probably but let's hope that this is a low as it gets.
America has no place in other countries politics, period.


Name
Comment posted June 19, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

FINALLY! some one has theguts to say something. I mean,come on! people are getting slaughtered over there, they need help! are we only interested when there is something in it for us? I think Obama should do more to support , if not openly, then in secret. Those guys are clearly calling for help. they are fighting guns with rocks. that's not fair!


lvdragonlady
Comment posted June 23, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

Who are 'they' to demand ANYTHING?
We(the American People) demand that the GOP, STOP saying NO, STOP trying to tell the President how to do his job AND do what you were elected to do (represent the American people) or you are going to lose your jobs.
You guys lost the election so you need to get over it and start helping the American people for a change.


lvdragonlady
Comment posted June 23, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

Well said.


lvdragonlady
Comment posted June 23, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

Supporting the iranian people is not a problem, sticking our noses in to their election process, no matter whether is was rigged or not, is not for us to say, but for their people to say.


Wakeupfast.
Comment posted June 25, 2009 @ 3:07 am

The notion that these mad neo con Right Wingers are truly interested in “supporting” the Iranian people is a joke because they were just supporting the bombing of Iran before in which many of these Iranians they now magically “support” would have died! I guess these mad folks just have no shame & are the just political opportunists hoping to install a puppet regime in Iraq they way they did in Iraq & Afghanistan.


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Pingback posted June 25, 2009 @ 10:17 am

[...] charade has been vigorously amplified by phony right-wingers. As Raw Story notes, Neo-Cons have sided with the opposition against the boogeyman Ahmedinajed, to the point of grunting with delight at scenes broadcast by Fox [...]


louis vuitton
Comment posted August 5, 2010 @ 8:17 am

These GOP leaders bring heat, not light, to the already volatile streets of Iran. Let's hope cooler, wiser heads prevail. So far, Obama seems to be striking the right chord: criticism + restraint.


gucci 241097
Comment posted September 2, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

The president should be questioning the legitimacy of the elections,He doesn’t need to go into any great detail. He needs to show that, in the long run, the United States is on the side of the Iranian people.


Another Round of Devil’s Advocate: Knowing When to Shut Up : America's Right
Pingback posted October 21, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

[...] support the opposition in Iran? Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, is not so sure. According to the Washington Independent, he wrote that he was “rooting for Ahmadinejad” because it would be “better to [...]


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Pingback posted December 11, 2010 @ 4:37 am

[...] of Kristol’s ideological allies, like Michael Ledeen and Daniel Pipes, have taken a similar stance. And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has also come out to say he believes his former [...]


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Pingback posted May 21, 2011 @ 8:11 am

[...] of Kristol’s ideological allies, like Michael Ledeen and Daniel Pipes, have taken a similar stance. And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has also come out to say he believes his former [...]


625021
Comment posted September 7, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

625021 beers on the wall. sck was here


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