Obama and Iran: Did he fail the protest movement?

Should President Obama have voiced more support for the protesters in Iran?

Just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world about America’s belief in universal human rights, and “the freedom to live as you choose,” said Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard. So why, now that Iranians are demanding—and literally dying for—that freedom, has the president suddenly lost his voice? Since Iran erupted in reaction to the stolen June 12 presidential election, Obama has “bent over backwards” to avoid offending its theocratic rulers, insisting that “meddling” would serve no purpose. Not until Tuesday, more than a week after protesters first filled Tehran’s streets, did Obama declare himself “appalled and outraged” by the Iranian government’s violent crackdown and praise the Iranian people’s “courage and dignity.” Let me get this straight, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. Courageous Iranians are trying to overthrow a “tyrannical, misogynist, corrupt theocracy” that is an impediment to all the U.S.’s goals for the Mideast. “And where is our president? Afraid to take sides.”

Cheering on the protesters would do the Iranian people no good, said Leslie H. Gelb in TheDailybeast.com. In fact, aggressive rooting by the U.S. president would simply bolster the regime’s insistence that the uprising was a foreign-inspired conspiracy. And let’s not forget what happened when President George H.W. Bush encouraged the Shiites to rise up against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. Saddam slaughtered them by the tens of thousands, while the U.S. did nothing. The same thing happened in Hungary in 1956, said Paul Saunders in The Washington Post, when Washington urged Hungary’s freedom fighters to overthrow their communist oppressors. If the U.S. isn’t ready to provide Tehran’s protesters with everything “up to and including military force to ensure that they win,” urging them to fight and die would be “profoundly immoral.” Unlike his belligerent critics, Obama understands this, which is why he’s strategically calibrating his rhetoric.

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