Second Chance on Iran
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The refusal of history to disclose her alternatives means we will never know what might have happened had President Obama stood up to the Iranian ayatollahs in 2009. As the Persian people take to the streets in latest protests against Islamist rule, though, we can go back and read the transcript of Mr. Obama’s press conference of June 23, 2009, and we can focus on the price of appeasement. History has offered a second chance.
At that presser, the President proclaimed that “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs.” Oh, he did speak of “the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people” and aver “we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.” Net net, though, his message was one of respect for the Islamic regime and of restraint by America.
Such thinking was endorsed by the Democratic Party intelligentsia. Even as courageous correspondents were cabling back to New York devastating reports of the regime’s violence, the New York Times was arguing that “the United States must take special care not to be seen as interfering” lest we “give Iran’s hard-liners a further excuse to blame the United States for their own shameful failures.”
The appeasement of the ayatollahs became one of the defining themes of the Obama presidency. It was pursued with the collusion of Hillary Clinton (one of the reasons she lost the election in 2016), but it was crafted mainly by the American Halifax, Secretary of State Kerry. It culminated in the nuclear deal and the transfer to the Iranian regime of billions of dollars, funds quickly diverted to the funding of the Iranian terror empire.
It’s hard to set down to mere coincidence the eruption of these protests in the wake of President Trump’s reversal of the Obama appeasement. That started with his speech at the United Nations and his vow that he would no longer certify the Iranians as in compliance with the deal the previous administration had inked. The president’s statements on the protests are an important step in the right direction.
Only that, however, a point well-marked by Eli Lake of Bloomberg News. There are, he notes, all sorts of practical steps the Trump administration could — and may well — be taking, starting with a work-around of the cyber ban that the regime in Tehran is imposing during the demonstrations. He also recommends a concerted refusal to treat with the Iranian diplomats who seek to create the illusion of a civilized veneer on the government of the ayatollahs.
Tragically, there was absolutely no reason for Mr. Obama to have asserted, at the outset of the uprising in 2009, that America “respects” the “sovereignty” of the “Islamic Republic of Iran.” On what basis was he doing that? Congress wouldn’t have bought into that for a moment. Now would be a good moment for Mr. Trump to reject that claim and establish regime change as a strategic goal of American policy.