July 31, 2009
Hope, Change and IranBy Ken Blackwell
Barack Obama took a lot of criticism from John McCain and others for promising to meet with Iran's ruling Mullahs without preconditions. When he was contending with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination last year, Obama's promise to change our relationship with Tehran and extend an open hand was subjected to sharply critical analysis by members of both parties.
But he prevailed. Neither Hillary nor McCain seemed capable of explaining to Americans why it was bad for Obama to offer an olive branch to the men our own State Department described as the world's leading exporters of terrorism.
That was last year. Now, with Americans voting for hope and change, we can see the results daily. Just look at the Obama administration's Iran policy: It changes almost every week.
Serving as Obama's loyal Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in April called for "crippling sanctions" against Iran if they did not halt their drive for a nuclear weapon.
But wait, here comes another change. In June, President Obama told a Muslim audience in Cairo that he was sorry for the 1953 overthrow of the elected government of Iran. He virtually admitted U.S. involvement in the coup that overthrew the leftist Mossadegh regime there. (Why jihadist Mullahs would be sorry to see a Marxist, secular government of their country overthrown is another question. And besides, it was 56 years ago, long before Obama was born.)
The President also said in Cairo that Iran had "a right to the peaceful pursuit of nuclear power." But Iran's program evidently is fully capable of producing nukes. That's just for starters. Then, there's the curious phenomenon of speaking to Arab Muslims -- most of them Sunnis-about Iranian Non-Arabs, all of them Shi'ites -- and expecting your Cairo listeners to be put at ease by your words.
That was June. After several days of Obama administration foot-dragging on the Iran's clearly fraudulent elections-when France and most of the other nations Obama usually wants us to defer to-had come out foursquare for the student demonstrators, Hillary Clinton was finally authorized to say she was "appalled" by the Iranian ruling clique's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets. This was "unacceptable," Madame Secretary said.
Recently, Hillary journeyed to Thailand for an Asian security conference. There, she raised eyebrows if not hopes by saying America would extend its nuclear umbrella to Gulf States that felt threatened when Iran develops a nuclear bomb.
Then quicker than you could say "stupid Cambridge cop," Hillary began to walk back her "when" statement. The London Times charitably reported that Mrs. Clinton's Bangkok statement "appeared" to suggest the U.S. is resigned to Tehran getting the bomb. Appearances in this case were not deceiving.
Now, the Obama administration is virtually parachuting its top foreign policy hands into Jerusalem to reassure Israelis. The Israelis are rightly alarmed by Obama's brand of hope and change.
Mideast Envoy George Mitchell, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones, and Presidential representative Dennis Ross are all descending on the Jewish state with reassurances. You know that Israel seriously needs reassurance and you can tell how serious this matter is: Obama did not send Joe Biden.
Now, Hillary Clinton is saying Tehran's race for the bomb is "futile." That it is totally "unacceptable."
More than a hundred years ago, there appeared a Mahdi -- the Expected One -- in the Sudan. The Mahdi led an army of Dervishes -- militant zealots known for their ability to whirl themselves into a trance of religious ecstasy. The Mahdi Army wiped out the British in Khartoum in 1885. Finally, the Mahdi Army was put down in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman. That's the last great cavalry charge of the British Army -- the one in which the young subaltern, Winston Churchill took part.
Periodic flare-ups of Muslim fanaticism have threatened the Western world. It takes patience and firmness to respond to them. Islamic radicalism is not new.
What is new is an American foreign policy that seems, with all its twists and turns, more like a Whirling Dervish than like that sure and steady hand that Ronald Reagan applied to the tiller of the ship of state.
We should all hope that when the dizzying changes in Obama administration's Iran policy finally settle down, they will be ones that will lead to peace through strength. At present, however, these inconsistent and inconstant Obama policies toward Iran serve only to discourage Americans, alarm Israelis, and worry other U.S. allies in the region.
Ken Blackwell is a former US Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.