But Will Kristol Listen to the Iranians?
Bill Kristol has a post up at The Weekly Standard’s blog about what conservatives ought to do about President Obama and Iran:
There have been very good grounds to criticize President Obama’s foreign policy so far. There will be much more to criticize over the next three and a half years.
But he is our president. We could be at an historical inflection point in Iran. The United States may be able to play an important role. The task now is to explain what the Obama administration (and Congress) should be saying and doing, and to urge them to do what they should be doing. Presuming ahead of time that Obama will fail to exercise leadership, and cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures, would be a mistake. The U.S. has a huge stake in the possible transformation, or at least reformation, of the Iranian regime. If there’s some chance of that happening, and some chance of U.S. policy contributing to that outcome, we should hope Obama does the right thing, and urge and pressure him to do so–because then the United States will be doing the right thing, and the United States, and the world, will benefit.
On the face of it, a gracious and patriotic statement. But will Kristol take his own advice? I don’t mean his advice about constructive engagement with Obama, I mean about ensuring “U.S. policy contributing to … the possible transformation, or at least reformation, of the Iranian regime.” Because on Fox News yesterday, Kristol pressed Obama to “work with the Europeans to say, ‘Let’s bring in international observers to review whether this was a fair election. If it wasn’t, let’s think about having another election.’”
I don’t presume that the Iranian opposition speaks with one voice. But what’s been very, very striking about following the #iranelection hashtag on Twitter is how few tweets from Iran are calling for U.S. involvement. In my piece today, I report that U.S.-based Iranian human rights activists believe that Obama should speak up for human rights in Iran and say little else, out of fear that greater U.S. involvement will risk delegitmizing the Iranian opposition. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council told me that every non-Iranian needs to be “two steps behind the opposition and not two steps ahead,” as the Iranians “have tremendous pride in doing this themselves.” One of the accounts from Iran on the Council’s new blog urges the United States to “not to accept the [electoral] results and do not talk to [Ahmadinejad] government as an official, approved” body. (To Kristol’s credit, he notes this.) On the other hand, Twitter user StopAhmadi, whom I believe is an Iranian protester, wrote an hour ago that Obama is being “TOO neutral.” So, again, not a single voice.
But an American voice is more likely to be counterproductive than helpful. The cardinal rule ought to be to follow the lead of the Iranian opposition. As I reported, the Obama administration isn’t considering endorsing Ahmadinejad’s bogus victory, and everyone from Vice President Joe Biden on down says that the United States is going to highlight electoral discrepancies. For the United States to weigh in on what Iran ought to do can’t possibly help. It’s time to treat Iran in terms of what aids the opposition, not what makes us feel good about ourselves. “We should not have the U.S. lead,” Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran told me over the weekend. That’s prime-directive stuff.
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