But there are dangers here. Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989. George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran's crackdown on student protesters in 2003 or about the crackdown on reformist candidates, which excluded them from running in the 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections, or about the probably fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2005. It is hard to see what he could have done, contrary to what his erstwhile supporters in Congress now seem to imply. As an oil state, the Iranian regime does not need the rest of the world and is not easy to pressure. So Obama needs to be careful about raising expectations of any sort of practical intervention by the US, which could not possibly succeed. (Despite the US media's determined ignoring the the Afghanistan War, it is rather a limiting factor on US options with regard to Iran.) Moreover, if the regime succeeds in quelling the protests, however odious it is, it will still be a chess piece on the board of international diplomacy and the US will have to deal with it just as it deals with post-Tiananmen China.
Spot would add George W. Bush and Georgia to the list. Oh, the Georgians begged for help all right, just as the Iranian students appear to be. But it won’t be coming any time soon. One of the first rules of gun boat diplomacy is to never invade some place where you might get you butt kicked or at least seriously bloodied. Better to stick with places like Grenada or Panama or Iraq (which turned out a lot bloodier than the Bush Administration expected). And before you pop off Dave, do you think we really would have invaded Iraq — and embedded journalists to help us watch the show — if we seriously believed it had substantial stock piles of WMD, ready to use?
So bluster is cathartic, but it could also be stupid and worse: sinister. Cole continues:
And, the more Obama speaks on the subject, even in these terms [quoted in Cole’s post], the more he risks associating the Mousavi supporters with a CIA plot. Iranian media are already parading arrested protesters who are 'confessing' that 'Western media' led them astray. In nationalist and wounded Iran, if someone is successfully tagged as an agent of foreign interests, it is the political kiss of death.
The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-1979. The shah had a national system of domestic surveillance and tossed people in jail for the slightest dissidence, and was supported to the hilt by the United States government. So past American intervention has not been on the side of, let us say, human rights.
More recently, the US backed the creepy and cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq (People's Holy Warriors or MEK), which originated in a mixture of communist Stalinism and fundamentalist Islam. The MEK is a terrorist organization and has blown things up inside Iran, so the Pentagon's ties with them are wrong in so many ways. The MEK, by the way, has a very substantial lobby in Washington DC and has some congressmen in its back pocket, and is supported by the less savory elements of the Israel lobbies such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson. I am not saying they should be investigated for material support of terrorism, since I am appalled by the unconstitutional breadth of that current DOJ tactic, but I am signaling that the US imperialist Right has been up to very sinister things in Iran for decades. . . .
Here’s a Charlie Krauthammer quote, repeated from my post yesterday:
WASHINGTON – Millions [?] of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side.
Isn’t that just perfect, boys and girls? Good luck! Godspeed! Our people in Tehran will give you some signs, printed in English for you to wave to impress western media!
Cole makes one other point that is well worth noting:
Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated 'protest zones' would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.
The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.
Anybody who was in the Twin Cities the week of the RNC last summer knows what it was like.
Guys like Krauthammer, Pipes, and William Kristol would love to see the destabilization of Iran as a pretext to an invasion. But all they are likely to get is a bloody mess.