Friday, June 26, 2009

The US position on the Iran elections

There's been a bunch of consternation over the past week over whether or not Obama has taken a tough enough stand on Iran's elections. He resisted for a while and finally gave in to the pressure, condemning the violence and repression of the demonstrations, while not directly saying that the election was a fraud. This I think was an appropriately tough stance.

Last week, Congress voted overwhelmingly to condemn Iran. I think this was a mistake.

Shouldn't we be supporting democracy and human rights around the world? Of course we can. The problem with the congressional vote and with a stronger statement from Obama is simply that it is counterproductive.

Look, everyone knows that the Iranian election was stolen. Saying so only gives the regime an excuse to say that the opposition is a puppet of the Americans, and as such actually hurts the cause of democracy. (Never mind that Mousavi isn't exactly our dream candidate). Pointing out that the election was a sham won't get them to change it and simply gives them an excuse for a crackdown. We should just be quiet on this point.

Focusing on the repression of demonstrators (rather than the election itself) makes much more sense, for the simple reason that it is not a direct commentary on a political process, and that beating up civilians is a much less tenable position than claiming that a rigged election is legitimate.

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