On this morning’s Meet the Press, Joe Biden said that the Obama administration has made the decision to go forward with talks – despite the administration’s clear doubts about the fairness of the election.
I thought Biden made this point particularly well:
[T]alks with Iran are not a reward for good behavior. They’re only a consequence if the president makes the judgment it’s in the best interest of the United States of America, our national security interests, to talk with the Iranian regime. Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly to stop supporting terror.
The Obama administration’s approach to these elections has been – in my opinion as an informed amateur – nearly flawless. They have made clear that they are prepared to talk with Iran – regardless of how the elections went, rather than giving the Iranian people or leadership an ultimatum; they have declined to endorse a side in the election, letting the Iranian people decide themselves; they have been clear about their principles, but circumspect in their goals; and they have extended a clear hand in friendship – which most reports suggest the Iranian people desperately want to grasp. By refusing to give our rhetorical support to the opposition, the Obama administration is frustrating the Iranian regime’s desire to paint this uprising as an American creation – as Ayotollah Khamenei preemptively sought to blame unrest after the election on “the enemies [of Iran who] may want to spoil the sweetness of this event … with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations.”
The Obama administration’s approach has been praised by Iranian human rights groups, as one was quoted in the Huffington Post:
The Obama administration’s approach to the election — keeping its comments low-key and not signaling support for any candidate — was exactly the right approach. While tempting, empty and self-serving rhetorical support for Iranians struggling for more freedoms serves only to aid their opponents. History has made Iran wary of foreign meddling, and American policymakers in particular must be sensitive to giving hardliners any pretense to call reform-minded Iranians foreign agents. That’s why Iran’s most prominent reformers, including Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, have said the best thing the U.S. can do is step back and let Iran’s indigenous human rights movement progress on its own, without overt involvement from the U.S-however well intentioned.
This is not about us. It’s about them. And any interference would only backfire to the regime’s advantage.
The Obama administration realizes what Bush never did – that democracy cannot be imposed by force or ultimatum; that it must be taken by the people; that fine words extolling democracy are not enough – but a hand extended in friendship can destabilize a regime propped up by its demonization of us.
And so, the outreach to Iran and its people goes on.