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Monday, June 15, 2009

Who cares what Obama says?

Tehran's Answer to Obama

Posted: 14 Jun 2009 06:53 PM PDT BY SULTAN
When Obama went to Cairo, it was to signal a new era in America's relationship with the Muslim world. No longer would the United States deal from a position of strength, but from a position of weakness. His speech, filled with unctuous flattery toward the mythology of Islamic Supremacism was only the icing on the cake that had begun with Obama's post inauguration prioritization of Islamic affairs and media outlets, the bailout of Sharia finance banks, the diplomatic track toward Iran and the intimidation of former allies such as Denmark and Israel into kissing the ring of Islam.

Now Tehran replied with a rigged election that returned the homicidally deranged Ahmadinejad back to power and cracked down on the opposition. The message is very clear. In return for Obama agreeing to deal from a position of weakness, Iran will now deal with the United States from a position of strenght.

In Cairo, Obama tossed aside any interest in democratizing the Muslim world. And Tehran showed what it thinks of democracy. Obama delivered his mea culpa for America's vigorous fight against terrorism, and Tehran returned to power the public face of terrorism in the Middle East.

While D.C. may think that Obama's victory represents the triumph of soft power, Tehran recognizes only one kind of power. The Mullahs see Obama's victory as a final defeat for the Bush era War on Terror, a defeat they helped mastermind by backing Shiite militias in Iraq, aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, and using Hezbollah and Hamas to disrupt Lebanon and Israel. With Iran left standing as a major regional power, Ahmadinejad's reelection is the regime of the Mullahs hanging up their own "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Had McCain or some stronger US President been sitting in the Oval Office, Iran might have actually tried to buy time for its nuclear program using the charade of a Tehran Spring and the victory of an Islamist, but comparatively reformist candidate. Ahmadinejad's reelection is a sign of confidence that the regime of the Mullahs has nothing to fear from the United States, because there is no regime too odious for Obama to crawl before, and no enemy leader too ugly to play the diplomatic game with.

If diplomacy is the traditional art of saying "nice doggie" while looking for a big stick, Tehran knows that Obama will never use the stick he has, and is stuck saying "nice doggie" over and over again. And if the Mullahs press hard enough, he may even be ready to give over parts of Iraq to the Mullahs, and maybe even parts of Afghanistan too. Not to mention preventing Israel from taking any action against the brewing nuclear program that will allow Iran to become the supreme regional power, with a touch of genocide to boot.

Like North Korea, Iran's diplomacy is nothing more than an increasingly arrogant litany of "nice doggie", while it finds more sticks to hit us with. With the rise of Obama, Iran is dispensing with the "nice doggie" part of the ritual and openly scrounging for sticks.

Outside of the D.C. and Brussels echo chambers, speeches by world leaders serve as a means for powerful men to convey their intentions. When Ahmadinejad talks about destroying Israel, he is saying what he plans to do. By contrast when Obama gives speeches, he conveys no intentions at all. His Cairo speech was long on flattery toward the Muslim world, but had no sticks in it. It was all "nice doggie", which in the Middle East translates it into the servile flattery that the weak offer to the strong.

As the leading Muslim power in the Middle East today, Iran sees the ball as being in its court now. With Obama looking for a quick way out of Iraq and Afghanistan, a quick fix Palestinian Arab state, and a fast resolution to making the Muslim world love us-- the Obama Administration has turned America into a weak and needy beggar, with no leverage except to offer billions of dollars to anyone willing to promise to help.

Why shouldn't the leading terrorist regime in the Middle East laugh when it sees the Obama Administration spending tens of millions of dollars to convince Palau to take in some of the terrorists of Guanatanamo Bay. A nation that behaves that way toward its enemies is not a serious threat. Why shouldn't it sneer when Obama begs for America's admission to the Dar Al Islam under false pretenses, by calling the United States one of the world's largest Muslim nations.

In Cairo, Obama acknowledged the supremacy of the Muslim world. Naturally acknowledging the superiority of people who already hate you because they view themselves as superior to you, did not actually achieve anything except to weaken the United States and strenghten the morale of her enemies. Just as going to the Reichstag in 1939 to inform the Nazi regime of the superiority of the Aryan race would not have done anything to prevent war, but rather such a blatant show of weakness would have helped bring it on, Obama's Cairo speech has served as a signal to the tyrannies of the Muslim world, that the United States is now in an inferior position vis a vis them. Tehran is simply the first answer to that show of weakness. It will not be the last.
The Obama Effect?
Iran's election result proves the US formula in the Middle East is not working

by Michael Rubin
New York Daily News
June 14, 2009

On June 4, President Barack Obama declared, "I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world." Awed by Obama's rhetoric, many commentators -- blogger Juan Cole and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, for example -- suggested that an "Obama Effect" could usher in a new era of hope and change in the Middle East, and a pro-American outcome in Lebanese elections earlier this month seemed to cooperate with the theory.

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection in Iran, we can now say with confidence: There is an Obama Effect, but it has less to do with reform and more to do with American arrogance and the triumph of advocacy over analysis.

Look carefully at how things unfolded in Tehran. Outreach to the Islamic Republic is Obama's signature foreign policy issue. A week into his presidency, Obama extended an olive branch to Tehran, asking the regime to unclench its fist. Two months later, Obama broadcast a message to Iran, for the first time recognizing the ayatollahs as the legitimate representatives of the Iranian people. Last month, Obama acknowledged the Islamic Republic's right to enrich uranium and, in Cairo, the he acknowledged CIA involvement in the overthrow of an Iranian government more than a half-century ago.

Rhetoric, concession and apology, however, are not enough to alter reality. On Friday, millions of Iranians cast votes in hotly contested presidential elections, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying president who defies nuclear safeguards and mocks U.S. weakness, won a second term.

Many journalists and diplomats believe the election was fixed. Perhaps it was. But this is Iran, where the word of the Supreme Leader trumps everything.

Obama, embracing what might be called born again diplomacy, believes he can reset all bilateral relations with the press of a button. But the failure of engagement with rogue regimes has less to do with his predecessors and more to do with the nature of the enemy. If the Islamic Republic blatantly throws an election, why should the White House believe they will honor diplomatic commitments?

Obama's partisans misunderstand Lebanon as well. The victorious coalition coalesced in anger to the Syria-sponsored assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister. George W. Bush responded by isolating Damascus diplomatically to force Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon. Rather than maintain pressure on the Syrian regime, Obama has reversed Syria's isolation. Recognizing that it will not be held to account, Syria will simply accelerate its provision of weaponry to Hezbollah so it can achieve through guns what it has not at the ballot box.

Both Iranians and Lebanese deserve praise for engaging enthusiastically in the democratic process. Both peoples are courageous in the face of oppression. But Obama has no magic wand. The more his policy rests on rhetoric alone and ignores reality, the greater the ultimate risk of conflict.

Michael Rubin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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