Obama's New Strategy on Iran

Robert Kagan
Copyright 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009; 3:11 PM

At a press conference earlier this afternoon, President Obama opened with this about Iran: The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost???. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice. Despite the Iranian government's efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers. And so we've watched what the Iranian people are doing???. As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion. This is a terrific statement from the president, showing how powerful his moral leadership can be when he chooses to exercise it. Clearly Obama finally rejected the advice of those who claimed such a strong statement would hurt the opposition. Just as important, it signals a major shift in strategy toward Iran -- a recognition that the best hope for a negotiated settlement rests not with the regime but with the people of Iran. Now that the president is fully in sync with other world leaders, especially Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown in Europe, he might want to consider convening a summit, where they can discuss what measures the U.S., Europe, and other democracies can take jointly to offer support for the opposition and to persuade the regime in Tehran to cease its violent crackdown. These democratic countries are ready for him to step forward and provide leadership at this historic moment.

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