The Iranian election and the Obama administration

There is good reason to fear assessments that it's time to prepare for a post-nuclear Iran. Photo: Wikimedia

JERUSALEM, May 28, 2013 ― On Monday, Iranianian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenai addressed the graduating class of Iman Hossein University in Tehran, the military college that trains future members of the Revolutinary Guards.

Referring to the upcoming presidential election scheduled for June 14 ― marking the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight-year rule ― Khamenai called on cadets to “prefer a [candidate] who can pave the way for a glorious future for the revolution and the country and is able to resolve the problems, strongly stand up to the enemies’ front, and make the Islamic Republic a model in the eyes of the oppressed people in the world.”  

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Three days earlier, while in Israel trying to “jump-start” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described Iran’s election process as “hardly … by standards which most people in most countries judge free, fair, open, accessible, [and] accountable.”

Khamenai responded to this in his commencement speech. “The enemies’ front has been creating a commotion ahead of every election for 34 years, but has always failed,” he thundered. “And, through the grace of God, the great Iranian nation will give them a punch in the mouth this time, too.”

That the Iranian regime has exhibited great expertise in punching its opponents in the mouth is nothing new; nor are America’s milquetoast reactions to it.

Four years ago, for example, when Iranians of all walks of life took to the streets to protest false claims on the part of the regime that Ahmadinejad had won a second term in the June 12 election against contender Hussein Mir Moussavi, the administration in Washington observed the proceedings with neutrality. U.S. President Barack Obama had only been in office for a few months, and he was more determined to engage in “outreach” to the radical Muslim world than he was to take sides with the Iranian counterrevolutionaries, desperate to extricate themselves from three decades of Islamic domination.

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This is something Obama had made clear to the Iranian regime. Three months prior to that election, he prepared a videotaped message in honor of the Iranian New Year, in which he said, “We [the U.S. and Iran] have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy … This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

When Iranians went to the polls on June 12, Obama held a press conference in the Rose Garden.

“We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran,” he told reporters. “[W]hoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways.”

The “debate” was “robust,” all right. When Moussavi won the election, Ahamadinehad declared victory and dispatched the Basij militia to the streets to shoot at anyone arguing otherwise. One such person was a young woman named Neda Aga Sultan. Gunned down on June 20 while heading for a demonstration against the stolen election, she became an international symbol for the “Green Revolution,” with the YouTube clip of her dying moments circulating all over the Web.

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On June 22, Obama gave another press conference to reiterate his position/non-position on the unfolding events in Iran.

“Well, look, we didn’t have international observers on the ground,” he replied to Huffington Post reporter Nico Pitney (whom he had phoned earlier in the day to tell him what question to ask.) “The most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States. And that’s why I’ve been very clear: Ultimately, this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government.”

The only way he could think of to assist the Iranian people in such an endeavor was as follows: “What we can do is to say unequivocally that there are sets of international norms, and principles about violence, about dealing with peaceful dissent, that spans cultures, spans borders. And what we’ve been seeing over the Internet and what we’ve been seeing in news reports violates those norms and violates those principles.”

He concluded his remarks by indirectly appealing to the sensibilities of the Islamic Republic’s leadership. “I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people,” he said. “We hope they take it.”

So far, as has been the case since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, all they have taken is the path to “war against the infidels,” a path that is soon to include nuclear weapons.

At a conference on Monday at Bar-Ilan University ― a dialogue between the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and the Aspen Institute Germany ― there was near consensus among the European participants that the time has come for the world to prepare for a nuclear Iran.

Given Khamenai’s goal of “stand[ing] up to the enemies’ front,” and Kerry’s far greater concern with creating a Palestinian state, there is good reason to fear that their assessment is correct.

Whatever the outcome of Iran’s presidential election next month, one thing is as clear as ever: If Israel does not act, it is not only the Iranian people whose subjugation to Islamic tyranny will be guaranteed for decades to come.

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Ruthie Blum

 Ruthie Blum is a pull-no-punches, conservative, Israeli-American columnist for Israel Hayom,  and the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’”

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