Historical Legacy
Did Obama Abandon Iran’s Greens?

Future historians may say that a U.S. President twice colluded with Iranian clerics to destroy promising experiments in the country’s democracy. The first time, in the early 1950s, the CIA had begun to give up on getting rid of Mossadegh until the Iranian clergy turned against him. By 1953, the U.S., the Iranian armed forces and the clergy were able to put an end to his movement.

And the second time was in 2012, when once again the U.S. colluded with the mullahs. Eli Lake:

One of the great hypotheticals of Barack Obama’s presidency involves the Iranian uprising that began on June 12, 2009, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner of contested presidential elections. What if the president had done more to help the protesters when the regime appeared to be teetering?

It’s well known he was slow to react. Obama publicly downplayed the prospect of real change at first, saying the candidates whom hundreds of thousands of Iranians were risking their lives to support did not represent fundamental change. When he finally did speak out, he couldn’t bring himself to say the election was stolen: “The world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was.”

But Obama wasn’t just reluctant to show solidarity in 2009, he feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran. In his new book, “The Iran Wars,” Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon uncovers new details on how far Obama went to avoid helping Iran’s green movement. Behind the scenes, Obama overruled advisers who wanted to do what America had done at similar transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and signal America’s support.

This further helps explain some of the Saudi and Egyptian rage against the United States. The mullahs are every bit as repressive and corrupt as Mubarak was, for example, and the Saudis and Egyptians continue to wonder, naturally, why the U.S. was so forgiving and conciliatory to its enemies, and so harsh to its allies.

Historians may wonder the same thing. And they may further note that Obama’s passion for democracy in the Sunni world and his tolerance of repression in the Shi’a world both haven’t led to much in the way of progress toward either stability or democracy anywhere in the region.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service