what other people think

How Should Obama Respond to Iran?

The Obama administration has been extremely cautious so far in its reaction to the Iranian election and ensuing protests. Earlier this morning Robert Gibbs backed up what vice-president Joe Biden had said on Meet the Press Sunday — that there was cause for concern and that they’ll continue to monitor events as they unfold. Obama will reportedly weigh in on the situation around 5 p.m. this afternoon. But there is wide disagreement on how much support he should lend to pro-democratic forces now flooding the streets of Iran, and how this will all affect America’s already-precarious relationship with the Middle East adversary going forward.

• The Wall Street Journal editorial board contends that Obama has a “moral obligation” to show support for the protesters and “show the regime there are consequences for stealing elections.” He should “rethink his pursuit of a grand nuclear bargain with Iran, though early indications suggest he plans to try anyway.” [WSJ]

• The Washington Post editorial board agrees with the Obama administration’s cautious response, but believes it could also “make clear that a government wanting to be taken seriously by the international community should not use violence against peaceful protests, arrest opposition leaders and their followers, jam radio broadcasts, or block Internet use. It could call for a transparent process to address opposition claims of fraud.” Going forward, Obama “has to find a way to speak to Iran’s people as well as the leaders who claim to represent them.” [WP]

• The New York Times editorial board writes that “some in this country and in Israel will say that this election is proof that there can be no dealing with Iran and that military action is the only choice.” But in reality, our “only choice is negotiations backed by credible incentives and tough sanctions,” no matter who wins. [NYT]

• Hilzoy “can’t imagine anything more counterproductive than doing anything to make it easier for Ahmedinejad to cast the opposition as American puppets, especially given our history in Iran.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Max Boot thinks Obama “will have a lot less patience with Ahmadinejad than he would have had with Mousavi. And that in turn means there is a greater probability that eventually Obama may do something serious to stop the Iranian nuclear program — whether by embargoing Iranian refined-petroleum imports or by tacitly giving the go-ahead to Israel to attack its nuclear installations.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• Spencer Ackerman hears from the Obama administration that it will “offer support for human rights in Iran generally and would not back away from his diplomatic outreach to the longtime U.S. adversary, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the election.” [Washington Independent]

• Matthew Yglesias says that, optimistically, “the regime could react to clear signs of popular discontent by deciding that it’s best to retrench its position and try to strike a deal with the U.S. in order to better focus on domestic stability.” But pessimistically, “it’s at least possible that the upshot of these events will be the marginalization of pragmatic figures within the Iranian regime and the rise to power of a group with whom it’s not possible to reach an agreement.” Regardless of what happens, we need to work for a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue. [American Prospect]

• David Corn thinks that “Obama’s problem may be that he has to deal with half an opposition in Iraq — that is, one that captures global attention but isn’t as serious or as competent as movements elsewhere that toppled tyrannical regimes.” It will be tricky “figuring out how to use this election — however it ultimately plays out — to his advantage.” [Mother Jones]

• John McCormack wants Obama to stand up for the Iranian protesters as Ronald Reagan did with the Polish in 1982. [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Michal Crowley reminds us that “many Iranians still resent the CIA’s role in a 1953 coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and installed the Shah,” which makes it “understandable that some in the Obama team might want to be very careful about appearing to meddle in internal Iranian politics.” [Plank/New Republic]

• Peter Wehner calls this an “early test: for Obama and hopes he “finds within himself the strength and moral convictions to give support to the voices of reform and protest within Iran.” [Corner/National Review]

• Victor Davis Hansen suggests Obama “get out pronto a statement condemning the anti-democratic violence of the Iranian government, and suggesting it follow the Iraq example of free and internationally inspected elections.” [Corner/National Review]

• The National Review editors say that Obama “has given the impression that he wants the dictatorship to stabilize itself so he can get back to the work of appeasing it.” Instead, he should lend “the opposition his rhetorical support.” [National Review]

• Massimo Calabresi explains why the White House had thought of a Mousavi win as a worst-case scenario, and why an Ahmadinejad victory would actually not be such a bad thing. [Time]

• James Zogby thinks the Obama’s administration’s response “has been flawless — smart and cautious.” [Arena/Politico]

• Chuck Todd and friends believe “the way the protests are being dealt with could swing world opinion a tad closer to the U.S. position. So while the result could very well set things back in the region for some time, it COULD lead to a more united policy against Iran from key allies.” But it remains to be seen how the White House will react this week. [First Read/MSNBC]

How Should Obama Respond to Iran?