PRESIDENT OBAMA: Obviously all of us have been watching the news from Iran. And I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football — or discussions with the United States.
Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process — free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all those are universal values and need to be respected. And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they’re, rightfully, troubled.
My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren’t on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can’t state definitively one way or another what happened with respect to the election. But what I can say is that there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy who now feel betrayed. And I think it’s important that, moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views.
Now, with respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I’ve always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad’s statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy — diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries — is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon; making sure that Iran is not exporting terrorist activity. Those are core interests not just to the United States but I think to a peaceful world in general.
We will continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us. But even as we do so, I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days. And what I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know that the world is watching.
And particularly to the youth of Iran, I want them to know that we in the United States do not want to make any decisions for the Iranians, but we do believe that the Iranian people and their voices should be heard and respected.
Let’s throw out everything we have heard, or can reasonably deduce, about the fraudulence of the Iranian election. Heck, let’s go one better. Let’s assume that Mad Mahmoud really did win the election fair and square and that the President is showing prudent restraint by not fueling the fires of conspiracy.
His statement, even with those assumptions, is still pathetic because there is one thing about what’s been happening in Iran the past three days that we do know. Millions of Iranians have taken to the streets in peaceful protest and their allegedly-democratic government has answered with brutal, widespread, and deadly violence.
No American President should find that merely “troubling” and his refusal to condemn the crackdown unconditionally shames him and all of us. Worse, the moral paralysis has reached Foggy Bottom where our own State Department, our face in the world, couldn’t be bothered to say that a legitimate government should not gun down peaceful protesters or have gangs of hired thugs beat them.
How said it is that we can’t answer the Iranian students who are begging for our help with a simple, “We stand with you and against anyone who would use truncheons and guns to silence you”. Was that really too much for the Iranians to ask of us?
Beyond that, I have no idea what the hell the President is talking about. He says “it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be” but that is the very reason the protests started in the first place. Of course we support the Iranians’ ability to choose their leaders. Why does this need to be said, except as a means of distancing ourselves from the situation?
He finished by patting the Iranians on their heads for their “participation” in the election, as if voting was the be-all-and-end-all of the electoral process. What’s particularly galling is that he congratulated them “regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was”. So…it’s okay if the Mullahs defrauded all of them, so long as they “put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process”?
What the hell does that mean?
I’ll tell you what it means to the people who are bleeding and dying for just a little scrap of what we enjoy every Election Day. It means that the United States isn’t going to help, even a little bit. It means that realpolitik is back and they are on their own.
Above all, it means that the President of the United States, the leader of the most power force for freedom the world has ever known, had a choice to reject tyranny and oppression and support liberty and chose to vote “present”.