President Obama continued to walk a fine line with his position on Iran today. During his press conference Obama condemned the post election violence, and the regime’s attempt to blame the US for the protests, but he also continued to stand against US meddling, saying that the Iranian people must determine the structure of their own government.
In his opening remarks Obama denied the regime’s allegations of U.S. meddling, “The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in the Iranian government are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd. They are an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States and the West; this is about the people of Iran, and the future that they – and only they – will choose.”
The president made it clear that he doesn’t believe that the Iranian people need the United States to speak for them, “The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That is precisely what has happened these last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to the peaceful pursuit of justice. Despite the Iranian government’s efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers, and so we have watched what the Iranian people are doing.”
Later Obama took a question from an Iranian who asked under what conditions Obama would accept the results of the election. He answered, “What we know is that a sizable percentage of the Iranian people themselves, spanning Iranian society, consider this election illegitimate. It’s not an isolated instance, a little grumbling here or there. There is significant questions about the legitimacy of the election. And so, ultimately, the most important thing for the Iranian government to consider is legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, not in the eyes of the United States. And that’s why I’ve been very clear, ultimately, this is up to the Iranian people to decide who their leadership is going to be and the structure of their government.”
The fact that the regime is trying to blame the Obama administration, CNN, and the BBC for the protests is the strongest evidence yet, that the protesters are having an impact. Essentially what the regime tried to yesterday was bait the Obama administration into coming out strongly in favor of the protesters, but there is no need for the administration to do this. Everyone knows who the U.S. stands with.
Obama needs to condemn the violence, while not providing a reason for the regime to crack down or a valve to relieve the internal pressure on them. At the end of the day the president is correct. It is up to the Iranian people to determine the structure of their government.
Unlike George W. Bush, Obama sees the folly in regime change and nation building. The worst thing that Obama could do right now would be to engage in a debate about the validity of the protests with the regime.