Dealing with Iran still a delicate task


POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2009

Careful about jeopardizing future engagement with Iran, the Obama administration has been careful in staying mostly aloof from the remarkable uprising against that country's rigged presidential election. It remains unclear whether the rebellion will end as Czechoslovakia's velvet revolution or China's Tiananmen Square massacre — or somewhere between the outcomes of those historic occurrences of 20 years ago.

Without question, the landslide election of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, who public opinion polls showed to be the clear frontrunner, was bogus. Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a senior cleric, lashed out at the government for “;declaring results that no one in their right mind can believe.”; Hundreds of thousands Iranians have said as much by protesting every day this week in the streets of Tehran.

“;I am convinced that they just pulled it out of their hats,”; Farideh Farhi, a University of Hawaii lecturer who has closely followed and examined Iranian elections, told the Christian Science Monitor. “;They certainly didn't pull it out of ballot (boxes) or even stuffed ballots. They just made up numbers and are putting it out. It just doesn't make sense.”;

The archaic cleric-led monarchy of Iran has been unable to quell the demonstrations, facilitated by Internet Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook. While the government blocked text-messaging on cellphones, demonstrators have been cyber-savvy enough to circumvent efforts to eliminate Twitter posts.

A 27-year-old U.S. State Department official e-mailed a Twitter co-founder Monday to ask that a shutdown for maintenance be delayed, which was the nearest the administration came to what President Barack Obama has shunned as “;meddling.”; The request, which was granted, was appropriate and consistent with the American policy of supporting freedom of expression anywhere in the world.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., attacked his opponent in last year's presidential election for neglecting to “;speak out that this is a corrupt, flawed sham of an election. The Iranian people have been deprived of their rights.”;

Assailing Iran on those grounds is acceptable and well-deserved for senators and others who need not position themselves for future diplomacy with Iran. “;For us to become heavily involved in the election at this point is to give the clergy an opportunity to have an enemy and to use us, really, to retain their power,”; explained Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Obama has rightly pointed out that the difference between the policies of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi “;may not be as great as has been advertised.”; Whoever prevails, he said, the U.S. will “;be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons.”;