President Obama weighed in for the first time on the riots taking place in Iran after Friday’s sharply divisive presidential election.As BooMan reminds us, the Iranian revolution 30 years ago took more than a year to play out.
Congressional Republicans were intensely critical of the White House’s wait-and-see approach, but Obama said late Monday afternoon he wanted to try and keep the U.S. out of the rhetoric and heated atmosphere dividing that country.
"It would be wrong for me to be silent on what we've seen on the television the last few days," Obama said, addressing reporters in the Oval Office after a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
He added that he is “deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television.”
Riots irrupted throughout Iran after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected. There were allegations of ballot fraud but Obama noted there was no way to know if the results were valid since neither the U.S. nor the international community had election observers in the country.
The president said the democratic process, free speech and the ability of people to peacefully dissent are values he considers universal and they “should be respected.”
Obama noted that backers of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who lost by a surprisingly large margin, “now feel betrayed.”
This is just a reminder that the 1979 revolution in Iran took over a year to unfold. Here's a timeline to refresh your memory. One key was that each clash with protesters that resulted in fatalities led to new more impassioned protests as people gathered for funerals and memorials. It's often said that the revolution advanced in 40-day stages, as forty days is the traditional period of mourning in Iran's culture. Americans are not accustomed to such slow-motion revolution with massive (over month-long) pauses. Add to this, the new 24-hour news environment, and this feature of Iran's political and religious tradition should solidly flummox most analysts.By that logic, we should look to July 22-25 for more protests...then again predicting the flow of a revolution is a tricky thing.
Daniel Larison also weighs in saying that the cautious long game is where it's at.
Western policing of other nations’ elections, like our annual lectures to other states about the state of their human rights record, is getting very old. We readily assume not only that their elections are in some way our business, but we also usually identify with one side as being somehow more valid, genuine or representative of that country’s people. In Lebanon, the right people won, so the structural biases built into the Lebanese system are not only tolerated in the West, while similarly crude biases in the Iranian system are decried as outrageous, but the fruits of the Lebanese system are celebrated as a great triumph for freedom and light. The absurdity of avidly cheering Mousavi’s supporters, who voted for a man likely instrumental in the creation of Hizbullah, a few days after avidly cheering the so-called “crushing defeat” of Hizbullah in Lebanese elections earlier in the week should be apparent to everyone, but it is not clear to many people at all.Since Obama seems to have his entire Presidency geared for playing for long-term gains, it seems the President's measured response is both intelligent and appropriate for a number of reasons.