Obama Sails into Iran’s Rough Seas under False Colours
By Con George-Kotzabasis
The Iranian political turbulence brought to the eyes of the world the Islamic Republic’s long incubation of its monster child of military dictatorship. The keepers of the quintessential Koran’s Justice disrobed themselves of their religious white garments and donned the black robes of Islamofascism to commit their injustice to their own people. To survive as the true guardians of Islam and its conferred political power the post-election torrential wave of dissent that rose against them, they are resorting, true to the nature of the ‘imamocracy,’ to the brutal instruments of the police baton and the gun against their own believers. In this unequal struggle between brute force and ‘slogan-armed’ civil disobedience it’s not hard to guess who is going to be the victim. But history might have its revenge: In this temporary victimization of civilians and ‘modern’ Iran might also be the hole in which the brutal imamocracy will be buried.
In this crucifixion of the Iranian people the Obama administration, both on moral and political grounds, cannot assume the role of Pontius Pilate and take the stand of intellectual, moral, and political neutrality on the grounds of political realism. The art of realpolitik is not only to react to events but more importantly to foresee the probable contours in which these events are shaping and be pro-active in their shaping. The Administration has failed abysmally in this art. Within one week of the events unfolding in Iran President Obama abandoned his initial cautious “meddling” argument and adopted, after the latter was overcome by events and as a result of internal criticism of his position, a less cautious course by calling on the Iranian government “to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people,’’ and warned it could not expect “the respect of the international community” if it failed to “respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.” But despite this apparently tougher position, President Obama still missed the mark, as we will explain further down.
There are a lot of eminent people who support this ‘realist’ position of Obama such as Henry Kissinger and Paul j. Saunders, CEO of the Nixon Centre , and the political commentator Taylor Marsh of the Huffington Post. The gist of their argument being that for Obama to have come out in support of the opposition would not have helped the latter as it would have been painted by Iranian propaganda as being agents of the U.S., Kissinger stating that showing “public support for the opposition would only be used by Ahmadinejad,” and would damage any prospect of a favourable diplomatic outcome on the grave issues between the United States and Iran in future negotiations. According to Kissinger the Administration would place itself in a great diplomatic handicap if it put itself behind the people who are behind Mousavi. Another argument being put by Taylor Marsh is that you have to accept the world as it is and you have to “engage your adversaries,” as if it was only a matter of accepting it without changing it by choosing the right time to engage your enemies. All of these arguments of course are respectable and fit to be put in the realist frame of politics. But in this case it’s a dusty frame and needs cleaning.
In all grave momentous political conflicts between opposing parties there is a process of polarization that definitively removes any doubting ‘Thomases.’ That is, there are no middle ground societal forces to which one of the opposing parties could appeal for its support that could tip the balance in its favour. Clearly therefore, in such a situation propaganda becomes redundant and obsolete as there is no middle ground to be influenced by it. And this is exactly the present situation in Iran. Moreover, in such polarized conflicts both sides are fighting for their political and physical survival and they will use all means that are conducive to it. Hence Ahmadinejad and the imamocracy will concoct all kinds of conspiracies and lies, including of course the lie that the ‘Great Satan’ is behind the opposition, but who is going to be convinced of the truthfulness of such a lie other than their own solid supporters? Kissinger of course is fully aware from his wide experience and sagacious nature of this process of polarization and its consequences, but remarkably in this case of Iran is drawing the wrong conclusions from it. I would argue on the contrary, since diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means, to paraphrase Clausewitz, that President Obama should calibrate his tougher response to the nascent military dictatorship in the following terms: That the United States and many other nations of the world would find it very difficult to engage with a regime that in the eyes of its own people and of the world is an illegitimate regime. Thus by casting a shadow of isolation from the world over the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad Theocracy, President Obama could tip the balance indirectly in favour of the ‘modernist’ opposition forces and the great potential this would have for the future of Iran, and indeed serve as a paradigm for all the Middle East. As such a statement by Obama could further spread the division among the ruling elite with the great possibility that some of its key members defecting to the opposition and thus opening an opportunity for the opposition to take over power. Thus Obama by taking this stronger stand could be the latent force that would facilitate the transfer of the governing power from the imamocracy to the reformist opposition which despite the conservative religious origins of its leaders could severe the up till now conflation of religion and politics. Due to the fact that this powerful movement behind the opposition is propelled by modernist forces of the young educated generation whose desire for real democracy in Iran is unabated and inextinguishable, more so by the present martyrdom of so many young Iranians whose embodiment is the beautiful and spiritually brave Neda Salehi Agha Soltan, who was shot by a goon of the military dictatorship.
Obama’s ‘Latter Day’ Criticism Ineffective and Too Late
President Obama in the last few days has escalated his criticism of the Iranian regime but he has done so at the ebb of the protest movement of the opposition when he should have done so at its flow and in stronger terms as has been suggested above. And like a conductor of an orchestra who has missed his notes, he aborted a potentially brilliant performance by bungling it. Instead of letting himself to be overcome by the rapidity of events he should not have missed the opportunity to at least ‘pilot,’ if not directly influence, these events to the favourable port of the opposition. But, alas, political short-sightedness pays a heavy price.
It is obvious that President Obama was more concerned to save his new foreign policy which was pivotal on his unconditional diplomacy with the adversaries of the United States than to imaginatively save the great potential for democratic change that the protest movement in Iran had not only for its own country, but next to Iraq, for the whole Middle East, including the resolution of the complex and intricate issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead Obama chose to sail into the rough seas of Iran under the false colours of his diplomacy. And already the sails of this diplomacy are in tatters as a result of the unfolding events in Iran, as we predicted in a short article ten days ago. David Axelrod, one of his most astute and chief advisors by now is touting and foreshadowing the Republican’s ‘spectre’ of conditions in any future talks with Iran.
But the danger of this naive unconditional diplomacy is still present if Obama continues to be hooked to it. Unlike Agamemnon who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis to propitiate the winds that would take him to his triumph at Troy, Obama might be sacrificing the long term strategic interests of his ‘daughter’ America on the altar of the faltered winds that will never raise his diplomacy to triumph.
I rest on my oars: Your turn now