June 23rd, 2009
09:48 AM ET

What Obama must do now on Iran

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Trita Parsi
The Christian Science Monitor

Tehran is being rocked. Convinced that the landslide victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad June 12 was a fraud, hundreds of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets. Clashes with security forces have left at least 19 dead, according to the official count.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers have turned Iran's seemingly stolen election into a political football with little regard for the repercussions their rhetoric may have for protesters in Iran.

"The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday, echoing the sentiments of many senators and pundits. "He's been timid and passive more than I would like."

Accusing President Obama of weakness may generate some headlines, but it misses the point. A closer look reveals that the president's approach has paved the way for the current stand-off in Iran and that he is supported by those seeking their rights in Iran.

Many have argued that the president shouldn't side with any particular faction in Iran since doing so could backfire. Having the US on your side is not necessarily a good thing in Iran. Washington neither wants to make itself the issue in Iran, nor is it eager to help Mr. Ahmadinejad stage a comeback.

But two more salient points have been lost in the American debate. First, who makes the decision to help – the US, or the people America wishes to help?


Filed under: Iran • President Barack Obama
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. payam

    What a shame it is to watch the Americans SUPPORT the invasion of Iraq, all in the name of freedom from terrorism and dictatorship of Sadam’s Regime; but where is the hypocrisy when the people of Iran are shouting and risking their lives in the name of freedom!

    Not even the slightest passion by the man best known as “Change, yes we can.”

    June 23, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  2. Famatta J. Lincoln

    AC, I am just disgusted about all the comments made by Republicans, concerning the Uprising in Iran. My question is Where were they, when Liberians were killing each other? Where were they, when other Africans countries were going through similar situations?eg. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal amongst others. Is it because we are Africans, so they just left us to die? Please tell me what made Iran so different? Please help me answer this. And remember Liberia is considered America's Stepdaughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 23, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  3. Jim M


    We often depend too much on and expect too much from our government. The situation in Iran could be a starting point of the people of our nation – and those of the rest of the world – to express their feelings directly to Iran. In the US we can contact the Iranian to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee to express our personal feelings.
    Email: iran@un.int
    Write: 622 Third Av., NY NY 10017
    Phone: (212) 687-2020
    FAX: (212) 867-7086

    The above contact points are from the Iranian UN's mission website.

    June 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  4. Lisa in Ct

    Thirty years ago during the Iran hostage crisis (and revolution), I befriended may Iranian students in Houston. Even then, the sentiments regarding the U.S. supported Shah and Ayatollah Khomeni were split. Fear of the new regime followed within a matter of weeks. Although these demonstrations are clearly being led by those 20-30 years of age, do not discount the pre-revolution aged Iranians (45-55), who, 30 years ago, subsequently felt that they had missed out on a key opportunity to develop strides towards a "truer" democracy. May this younger generation heed the folly of the pre-revolutionary youth; have a clear plan, a clear destination. Iranians are some the most passionate people on the planet, but without leadership that reflects a clear vision, this may all be for not. It is important for the Iranian people (especially the young) to see their own reflection in whatever construct this fight may lead to. Support them yes, but all world leaders should take care to stand alongside the trail and inspire, and not, even with the best of intentions, tread onto it.

    June 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  5. Mike Joel

    I dont think there is any problem with what Obama is doing about Iran.
    As he said he is different president and he is doing different thing that Bush was doing.
    If this was Bush, he would just bombard Iran with words even though it would back fire. US has a lot of problems to deal with, trying to deal with Iran while those problems have been solved yet it does not make sense. Do you think that opposition people like US?
    What do you think if people of US would go the streets when Bush won controvertial election and make like what Iran citizens are doing burning cars etc? Would the police keep quiet and let them do what ever they want so far as they are not satisfied with election results?
    Think of this before you critisize President Obama, he is not George Bush and his policies are different.

    June 23, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  6. earle,florida

    I like your article,but the United States should not "Condem' Iran's Action",period! Nobody knows who killed these people,we are assuming as of now! It very well could have been a radical demonstrator trying to flame the uprising,nobody knows! I'll refresh some mind's about the Clinton's handling ,regarding the "Branch Dividians" where we literally slaughtered innocent ,men,woman,and children,under the guise of terrorism (AG Janet Reno)! No country condemmed us,...? Unfortunately we should have been condemmed by the world's democracies!

    June 23, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  7. Michael C. McHugh

    That regime in Iran resembles Nazi Germany in many ways, and it is now showing its true colors, having dropped all pretense of democracy. It has a Supreme Leader or Fuehrer with absolute power who cannot be voted out of office. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is the equivalent of the SS, while its Basiji Militia looks very similar to the Stormtroopers or SA. I am sure that it also has an agency like the Reich Security Main Office to handle all the secret police and Gestapo-type work, and probably another organization to run concentration camps and labor camps. Let's just hope it is overthrown by its own people–and soon.

    June 23, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  8. Wendell

    John McCain and the other Republicans are just trying to trick Obama into saying something stupid about Iran. It is not our fight and just because we are the leaders of the free world' let's just say we have a full plate already by being in Irac and Afghanistan ' and not to ention North Korea acting up . We can't fight everyone. The Europeans are speaking out and it's about time. Let them engage in the tough talk' because as we no they will not help us fight Iran if we were to go there .

    June 23, 2009 at 11:32 am |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Since when do we criticize our President for an election in another country, this is totally crazy. Lindsey Graham and John McCain are dead wrong on this one as usual. They haven't said a darn thing about what the President should do, both just open their mouths without thinking and criticize.

    June 23, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  10. SLM

    Hasn't anyone figured out that Obama is NOT a leader?? He likes to hang back and not take sides on anything. His votes of "present" were a clear indicator of that. Obamas nice speeches are nothing more than empty words, the time has come for action, not words.

    June 23, 2009 at 10:52 am |