Hoffmania links to salient comments by Fareed Zakaria (right), who explains clearly why Obama’s cautious approach toward Iran right now is appropriate.
CNN: What should the United States do?
Zakaria: I would say continue what we have been doing. By reaching out to Iran, publicly and repeatedly, President Obama has made it extremely difficult for the Iranian regime to claim that they are battling an aggressive America bent on attacking Iran. In his inaugural address, his New Year greetings, and his Cairo speech, there is a consistent effort to convey respect and friendship for Iranians. That is why Khamenei reacted so angrily to the New Year greeting. It undermined the image of the Great Satan that he routinely paints in his sermons. In his Friday sermon, Khamenei said that the United States, Israel, and especially the United Kingdom were behind the street protests, an accusation that will surely sound ridiculous to most Iranians. The fact that Obama has been cautious in his reaction makes it all the harder for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to wrap themselves in a nationalist flag.
CNN: But shouldn’t we be more vocal in our support for the Iranian protesters?
Zakaria: I think a good historic analogy is President George H.W. Bush’s cautious response to the cracks in the Soviet empire in 1989. Then, many neo-conservatives were livid with Bush for not loudly supporting those trying to topple the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But Bush’s concern was that the situation was fragile. Those regimes could easily crack down on the protestors and the Soviet Union could send in tanks. Handing the communists reasons to react forcefully would help no one, least of all the protesters. Bush’s basic approach was correct and has been vindicated by history.
Perhaps its a good sign that Obama is getting it from all sides. But the last thing we should be is a lightning rod for hardliners who could easily use the United States as an excuse to crack down on dissidents. Of course, they’re doing that anyway, but we shouldn’t fuel the fire.