Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama's Cairo Speech And Iran's Big Moment

Just a quick note on this because I have a ton of work to do but basically I was flabbergasted by Liz Cheney's response (among others) to Obama's Cairo speech, which -- owing to the joy of puppy duty -- I was awake at 5:00 am to watch.

Obama's speech was mostly excellent except for a gaping hole where the depth of his Iranian nuclear discussion should have been. The fact that the hole was there was, I thought, pretty obvious... there is an intensifying and historic election battle underway between Iran's Ahmedinejad and his Reformist opposition, Hossein Mousavi. Mousavi is fast moving into "holy shit, did he really say that?" territory with his criticisms of Ahmedinejad, and we in the US should immediately recognize the potential of an Iranian reformist winning the presidential election with popular support. This is exactly what we've been hoping for.

But gee, what could possibly go wrong at such a pivotal moment? Hmmm... how about some angry rhetoric coming from a US president about Iran's nuclear energy program?

Anyone who watches anything other than Fox News probably knows that the Iranian people consider Iran to be an autonomous state and that nuclear energy has very broad popular support. And if I were Iranian, I would probably not only share in that sentiment but also insist that Iran has as much right to a nuclear energy program as anyone else, including India, Pakistan, and Israel, not to mention the US, and would not take kindly to anyone telling me otherwise. Ahmedinejad -- whose hands nobody wants to see anywhere near a little red button -- would surely find such US rhetoric a gift and would happily exploit it during the election. Why give him the opportunity? Why not just lay low for a while and see if the Iranian people are ready to join the rest of the world?

Which brings me back to Liz Cheney, an inexplicably regular guest on Morning Joe who almost certainly knows what's at stake with the Iranian election but who can't seem to bring herself to demonstrate just a modicum of restraint in her criticism of Obama's lack of fiery rhetoric. Liz Cheney would rather misrepresent the situation to score some cheap points with the "oh noes, Obama is a secret Muslim who's selling out America!" crowd than speak what she knows to be the truth:

The frontrunners in Iran's presidential race clashed during a fiery debate broadcast to a national television audience on Wednesday evening.

The verbal jousting between Ahmadinejad and opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi -- a former prime minister and reformist candidate who poses a threat to the firebrand Iranian president -- lasted an hour and half.

Mousavi said Ahmadinejad's dictatorial ways have hurt Iran's image across the globe and could be a prelude to a dictatorship.

"There are two ways of confronting the country's problems," Mousavi said. "One is through a management style based on adventurism, instability, play-acting, exaggerations, wrongdoing, being secretive, self-importance, superficiality and ignoring the law. The second way is based on realism, respect, openness, collective wisdom and avoiding extremism."

He said Ahmadinejad's denials of the Holocaust had repulsed Iran's allies.

"This has greatly damaged us," Mousavi said.

The Iranian president called the Holocaust, in which six million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis, "a big deception." Ahmadinejad also has lashed out at the United States and Israel, calling at various times for the end of Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

In addition to Mousavi, two other challengers -- former parliament speaker Mahdi Karoudi, another reformist, and hard-liner Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council -- hope to unseat Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election. Neither took part in Wednesday's debate.

The outcome of the election will set the tone for Iran's policies on crucial issues, including its nuclear ambitions and the possibility of bilateral talks with Washington.

Think about it.

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