As I’ve said before, I think he’s striking the right balance between condemning the regime’s actions against their own citizens, while not getting the US involved in what’s already an incredibly messy struggle for power.
Why is this the right strategy?
Because Obama has to hedge his bets on Iran…and that means not trying to undermine the current regime which has a better than even chance of remaining in power. If he comes out in support of Mousavi and the revolution doesn’t start, well, we’ve just wasted one of our best chances at solving the nuclear problem in that region. If Mousavi does manage to grab power, he’ll have done it with the Iranian people and they’ll collectively want to put a stake in the ground right off the bat to move Iran in a different direction.
And while many on the right wing are claiming this makes us look weak, what’s their strategy? More talk about spreading freedom? And that leads to where exactly? Declaring war against Iran, wiping out the mullahs and inserting Mousavi as the President?
In any event, here’s the statement via Politico:
Today, I want to start by addressing three issues, and then Iâ€™ll take your questions.
First, Iâ€™d like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iranâ€™s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
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 Iranâ€™s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries wonâ€™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 â€“ and only they â€“ will choose.
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 governmentâ€™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.
This is what we have witnessed. We have seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands Iranians marching in silence. We have seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and their voices heard. Above all, we have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iranâ€™s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.