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Obama Likes a Winner

June 18, 2009

The strategy the Obama team is trying to play on the turmoil in Iran doesn’t seem to work out quite so well. The French Cowboy thinks that President Obama was as shamefully reluctant to publicly side with the Iranians demanding fair elections as he was because the leader of the free world was looking forward to “tough diplomacy” sessions with Ahmadinejad. No doubt Obama wouldn’t have minded – more likely even preferred – facing Mousavi for tea and a photo op. But after the official winner of the election was declared to be the incumbent why tick him off and sound as if siding with his opponent? Obviously, team Obama likes a winner.

Yet the protests on Iran’s streets aren’t subsiding despite the violent attempts to cramp down on them and despite the pathetic nature of the verbal morsels the President of the United States has given the demonstrators. (“Yeah, we really are impressed by your energy, whatever, and, hey, most of you look really good in green. Now please calm down so that I can have diplomatic relations with your oppressive regime.”) And the excuse Obama supporters have made up for him so that he doesn’t look so horribly bad doesn’t hold a lot of water either. “Obama is holding back because it would undermine the reformists’ efforts if the whole thing looks US-sponsored!” Bien sûr. Only that Iran’s thugs-in-chief have accused the US of meddling nonetheless and who claims to be surprised by this? Probably the same people who say you can have meaningful diplomatic relations with a character like Ah’jad.

Up to now, in his attempts to reach out to ‘the Muslim world’, Obama seemed to have tried to charm both the Muslim ‘man on the street’ as well as his leader, no matter how illegitimate a leader he might be. Yet with his disappointingly tepid response to the Iranian protests Obama has made it clear that his real interest lies in winning the favour of the powerful, not those of the ordinary man. At least we now know what the Obama administration means when they talk about ‘the Muslim world’: a bunch of power-wielders whom Obama wants to put a lid on their sometimes troublesome constituents so that he can transform the US into his likeness without the distraction of nukes and terrorists.

What was the speech in Cairo, the interview with Al Arabiya etc all about if Obama’s lip service to freedom and governments that “reflect the will of the people” is belied only days later by his deafening silence on the protests of a people who demands little more than having their votes counted because, heck, that’s what they do in democracies. The French Cowboy has a theory on this which will not please you, even if it’s hardly news: Obama is all about appearance and meaningless words. The qualifier ‘meaningless’ being of special importance here because if there ever was an opportunity for words to mean something than it would have been the moment Obama had to react to the news about Iran’s protests. But instead of at least paying tribute to the virtues of honest government and fraud-free elections Obama voted ‘present’. Despite his claim that “words must mean something” Obama seems to fear exactly that: words that do mean something.

But what if Obama has bet on the wrong horse? There is a possibility for regime change in Iran without the help, verbal or material, of the US president. The current wave of unrest might be survived by the Iranian regime, but look at the videos and photographs of thousands of people protesting the mockery of an election. This discontent won’t just go away. It is likely to be only a matter of time until Iran has to change, and hopefully for the better. So far, all that President Obama has contributed to the inevitable is “worry about the stability of Iran”. The French Cowboy is certain that this is what Ahmadinejad is doing as well.

The longer the turbulence in Iran lasts the worse it will look for Obama. For now he gives the impression to consider the social unrest a nuisance that threatens to force him to reajust his well laid plans on diplomacy with the nation. An opportunity to side with those who risk their lives in demanding honest elections? Not so much. This attitude is less than most of his political opponents have asked for and even less than many of his supporters have hoped for. It’s not a good place to be for Obama. Cued by an unsatisfied audience, Obama will probably try to salvage some of his lost brownie points on this by belatedly making somewhat stronger statements – a tactic we have seen many times before by this man whom we are getting to know better with each passing day.

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