Events in Iran had noth­ing to do with Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

It’s be­come al­most a par­lor game to watch Obamaphiles spin the pres­i­dent’s re­sponse to events in Iran. Un­in­fat­u­ated ob­servers have no­ticed that the pres­i­dent dis­played a tepid and un­sat­is­fy­ing neu­tral­ity to events in the streets of Iran fol­low­ing the sham elec­tion — just as he had done last sum­mer when the Rus­sians staged an in­va­sion of Ge­or­gia. His first in­stinct was to pre­serve his bona fides for ne­go­ti­at­ing with the mul­lahs — bona fides that he has been at pains to demon­strate over the past sev­eral months. Start­ing last Jan­uary, Pres­i­dent Obama put doubts about the na­ture of the regime in Tehran to one side and of­fered blan­dish­ments to the lead­er­ship of what he was care­ful to call “the Is­lamic Repub­lic.” In his Cairo speech, the pres­i­dent begged for­give­ness for the U.S. role in a 1953 coup. U.S. em­bassies world­wide were in­structed to in­vite Ira­nian diplo­mats to July 4 par­ties. By so do­ing Mr. Obama granted le- giti­macy to the mul­lahs and sug­gested that the U.S. — un­der new en­light­ened lead­er­ship — was now a wor­thy in­ter­locu­tor. At just that mo­ment, the peo­ple of Iran told the world how thor­oughly de­testable and il­le­git­i­mate the Is­lam­o­fas­cist regime is. This must surely have been one of the worst cases of pres­i­den­tial tim­ing in liv­ing mem­ory.

Yet Mr. Obama’s ar­dent sup­port­ers stand ready to in­ter­pret any world event as ev­i­dence of Mr. Obama’s mes­sianic ef­fect. Matthew Stan­nard, in the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, noted that un­named “An­a­lysts sug­gested that Pres­i­dent Obama’s rhetoric of ex­tend­ing an open hand to old ri­vals, cul­mi­nat­ing in his widely watched speech to the Is­lamic world from Egypt on June 4, may have pushed re­for­m­minded vot­ers to the polls in Iran.” The New York Times asked, “Could there be some­thing to all the talk of an Obama ef­fect, af­ter all? A stealth ef­fect, per­haps?”

Isn’t this a kind of arro- gance? Isn’t it fur­ther the kind of ar­ro­gance — an over­ween­ing em­pha­sis on the im­por­tance of the United States — that the left usu­ally at­tributes to con­ser­va­tives?

There is no more ev­i­dence that the re­volt un­der way in Iran (if it suc­ceeds, it will be called a revo­lu­tion) is at­trib­ut­able to the “Obama ef­fect” than there is that it is the re­sult of a Ge­orge W. Bush ef­fect. How could Mr. Bush be in­volved? Well, you could make an ar­gu­ment that all of those pur­ple fin­gers in neigh­bor­ing Iraq aroused a cer­tain long­ing for democ­racy among Ira­ni­ans.

But it is far more likely that purely in­ter­nal fac­tors are at work. David Frum, at New­Ma­jor­, cat­a­logues the eco­nomic mis­ery Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad has de­liv­ered. The un­em­ploy­ment rate, al­ready at 10.5 per­cent four years ago, has shot up to 17 per­cent. The inflation rate is 25 per­cent, de­stroy­ing sav­ings and driv­ing down liv­ing stan­dards. De­spite Iran’s im­mense oil wealth and the rise in oil prices in re­cent years, the stan­dard of liv­ing for the typ­i­cal Ira­nian is no bet­ter now than it was in 1975. Be­cause Iran has not built oil re­finer­ies, this oil­rich na­tion must im­port 40 per­cent of its gaso­line. More­over, the cor­rup­tion of the cler­i­cal elite is wide­spread and uni­ver­sally de­tested.

Michael Ledeen points to the gal­va­niz­ing ef­fect the pres­ence of Mir Hos­sein Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rah­navard, has had on women in Iran. Ms. Rah­navard is the half of the cou­ple with all the charisma — and the spirit. While Mr. Mousavi is a soft-spo­ken, even dull for­mer ap­pa­ratchik, his wife is a noted artist and uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor known for her re­formist views who di­rectly called Mr. Ah­madine­jad a liar and a dis­grace dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. She is per­son­ally re­li­gious and wears a hi­jab, but she fa­vors choice in th­ese mat­ters — a pro­foundly sub­ver­sive idea in the Is­lamic Repub­lic. Brave women have been out in force since be­fore the elec­tion. They marched car­ry­ing pic­tures of Mousavi and dis­play­ing their green colors. When the regime de­clared Mr. Ah­madine­jad the win­ner, young women poured into the streets along with men. CNN cov­ered one young demon­stra­tor ex­plain­ing how the women col­lect rocks to give to the men to throw at the Basij mili­tia, as the women can­not throw as far. But they are on the front lines, body and soul, de­fy­ing the Basij mili­tia and some­times, as in the now iconic case of Neda Soltani, pay­ing with their lives. Neda, a young woman clad in blue jeans and sneak­ers, has be­come an in­stant mar­tyr to a very great cause — the cause of free­dom.

Pres­i­dent Obama needs to fall out of love with the im­age of him­self as the ul­ti­mate me­di­a­tor. Events have over­taken that strat­egy and re­vealed its hol­low­ness.

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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