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Muslihoon Sez: Obama’s Right About Iran June 16, 2009

Posted by geoff in News.

Many conservative blogs have decried the Obama adminstration’s tepid response to the events in Iran. I agreed with them until I read this piece that Muslihoon wrote on Facebook. He gave me permission to post it here:

Why the US should not openly support the attempted Irani revolution

Many people are calling on Obama to come out in open support for the protestors in Iran. I believe Obama and the current Administration is right in not coming out in open support.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, representing the government and people of The United States, indicated that The United States do not accept the announcement that Ahmadi-nezhad was the popularly elected president of Iran in a carefully-worded diplomatic message. It may sound impotent in our ears, but in diplomatic language and protocol, it essentially said, “We do not accept your announcement yet.” This was followed by reports that US analysts find the officially-announced results to be “not credible.”

But the White House has been silent about the protests. Irani protestors and students have been Twittering, asking when the US will support them, why Obama hasn’t come out in support of them, when will Obama come out in support of them. But — maybe because the White House isn’t following these Tweets — there has been silence from Obama.

Which is the way it should be. If Obama, or any official of the US administration, were to come out in support of the protestors, it will be exceedingly easy for Mahmoud Ahmadi-nezhad and Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseyni Khaamene’i (the theocrat of Iran) to dismiss the entire “enghelaab” (revolution) as a foreign “saazesh” (plot, plan). As an external attempt to destabilize the Irani state, the current government would delegitimize the “enghelaab” and authorize the state apparatus to use excessive force against the protestors, reformists, and other leaders (because, see, then it wouldn’t be a revolution but rather a riot plotted by the Great Satan to overthrow the government).

There is no way for us to know whether the US is providing covert assistance (the possibility is there), but there should be no overt support until the reformists win. Otherwise, US support will be the reformists’ death kiss (in some senses, literally).

Thanks for the alternate viewpoint, Musli.


1. surf66 - June 16, 2009

this is you muslix: weak-willed, obscurely unobvious, frightened, concerned bystander unable to take a side or speak for freedom….so like the German Jew of 1938.

2. Michael - June 16, 2009

Man, we sure are getting some weirdos coming out of the woodwork.

3. Muslihoon - June 16, 2009

For your information, I have been glued to my phone for two days watching the revolution through Twitter. I’ve been Tweeting, re-Tweeting, DMing, and doing whatever I can to help the protestors.

Assistance from private sources is more than welcome. The issue is official support.

In any case, why should it matter whether a government supports a cause or not? We average civilians can do so much, what with new social media. We should focus on what we can and will do, not what the State may or may not say.

4. spongeworthy - June 16, 2009

I’m sure Teh Hoon has a better grip on this than I do and I’ve been saying much as he has this week. But! There’s no way The Great Satan can be blamed for a botched and likely stolen election.

Could we be blamed for the demonstrations? It’s a stretch, but one the mullahs have been happy to make in the past. Looking for thatas an excuse to crack down would be very transparent, but who would put it past them?

Stick to criticizing the elections.

5. Cathy - June 16, 2009

Glad this got posted here. I participated in the earlier Facebook discussion. Thanks Geoff and Musli.

There are plenty of issues where I can disagree with Obama’s actions. But I don’t want my ideological differences with Obama to cloud my considering that his decision in this case may be a good one. I can’t know Obama’s deep-rooted rationale for the decision however. Is he simply acting like the wimp many of us perceive him to be? Or is he truly thinking through all possible consequences and choosing this as Musli has thought it through? We never will know. That’s the nature of many of the decisions that have to be made by the office of the Presidency — especially ones that involve international affairs and conflict. At this point, I think Muslihoon is on to something here.

Even a broken clock is correct twice each day.

6. geoff - June 16, 2009

All-hands meeting for contractors at work today – looks like the clean sweep scenario is gonna happen.

I get to go home at last!!

7. Cathy - June 16, 2009

Good news and bad news, huh Geoff?

8. geoff - June 16, 2009

Good news and bad news, huh Geoff?

Yup. Guess I should thank Barack, huh?

9. daveintexas - June 16, 2009

>> In any case, why should it matter whether a government supports a cause or not?

Not to be just plain contrarian, but because we are a beacon to the rest of the world, and our Presidents have stood with that cause before. Even with the threat of violence, even when violence came crashing down. Pay any price, oppose any foe.

10. skinbad - June 16, 2009

Like Cathy, I can believe Musli is right and Obama is doing the right thing. My wing-nut brain keeps giving me a nagging feeling that it’s not necessarily for the right reason though.

Would it be so bad for the president to make a statement that while we do not wish to involve ourselves in Iran’s internal politics, the USA stands for the inalienable right of liberty and we have ALWAYS encouraged leaders of countries everywhere to ensure that right can be freely exercised by their people.

11. composmentis - June 16, 2009

I’ve been waiting for years for the youth of Iran to do something to take power away from the fundamental regime there. I’m not sure Obama shouldn’t come right out and clearly state that the United States despises the current Iranian government, its history of supporting terrorism, its pursuit of nuclear arms, and its open hatred of Israel and the west. The friends we have in Iran, if any, are the ones not in power. Why not do what we can now? Because you know when they get the bomb all bets are off.

12. Russ from Winterset - June 16, 2009

I can appreciate the argument that by not taking a side we keep the focus on Iran and their handling of the Will of the People. What bothers me is that when you compare Reagan’s response to Poland’s crushing the Solidarity movement in 1981 to Obama’s response to Iran killing & torturing dissidents in their midst, you can HONESTLY say “We were better off back then”.

13. xbradtc - June 16, 2009

Perhaps Obama should not come out and endorse a revolution. But he should certainly remind people of the illegitimacy of the current regime, which we do not recognize as the legitimate government of Iran. At all costs, he should avoid endorsing the current regime. His statements to date have indicated a willingness to “work with” Iran, and are undermining any efforts by the youth of Iran to change that state.

14. Cathy - June 16, 2009

If Reagan were our president being that “beacon” for the world would be essential. Given how Obama has developed such a stinky if not comical reputation in international circles, he might be doing everyone a favor with this stfu-strategy, just sayin’.

Like Skinny, something about this is gnawing at me though.

*Dang! Hate being so suspicious and skeptical!*

15. composmentis - June 16, 2009

Like Skinny, something about this is gnawing at me though.

C’mon! He’s proven over and over he has no freaking spine. The way he’s handled this is the easy way out. He’s voting “present.” He deserves credit for nothing positive.

16. skinbad - June 16, 2009

Voting “present.” That’s a good way to put it. Has there been a more invisible Secretary of State in anyone’s memory?

17. xbradtc - June 16, 2009

ExUrban League puts into words a thought running through my head the last couple days…


18. sandy burger - June 16, 2009

I completely disagree with Muslihoon’s logic. America should always publicly support freedom.

However, I don’t disagree with his conclusion. I also would hesitate before embracing these protests.

The reason is, I’m not sure what the protests are about. Sure, we want to see it as a pro-freedom movement. But is it, really? Maybe it’s just a pro-Mousavi movement.

Many times in modern history, we’ve seen the people rise up and topple a tyrant only to usher in another. I’m more optimistic about what’s happening in Iran today, but it’s still not clear where things are going to end up, and we certainly don’t want to lend Mousavi America’s credibility.

19. sandy burger - June 16, 2009

I completely disagree with Muslihoon’s logic.

Let me clarify: I think Muslihoon is right, that America supporting these protests would allow the mullahs to paint them as being American stooges. Where I disagree with Muslihoon is in objecting to that. I shouldn’t have said I disagree with his logic, since his logic is correct. I just see that as something unavoidable in many cases.

And, in fact, it’s not necessarily harmful if the decent people of the world keep being “insulted” with comparisons to America; it’s not for nothing that the Tienenmen Square protesters build a miniature Statue of Liberty. If decent Iranians are “insulted” by being called American stooges, maybe they’ll realize we aren’t so bad after all.

But anyhow, I still think Obama shouldn’t really embrace this movement, since we really don’t know where it’s going.

20. Muslihoon - June 16, 2009

Further thoughts:
1. I agree with what Obama is doing. But because I do not know why, I cannot pass judgment on his intentions. It is very likely that the Obama administration prefers Ahmadi-nezhad to Mousavi, and thus doesn’t want to contribute to his downfall.

2. Let us not forget the historical precedents. Last time something like this happened, we championed the wrong side and our embassy was taken hostage. Jimmy Carter came out in clear support for the Shah. It was one thing, among many, that solidified opposition to America. It was not only because we chose the dictator but because we tried to meddle yet again. We don’t want these memories to resurface.

And while there are many Iranis who want US support, do we know of the great crowd how many really want our support?

3. I was reading that the previous protests in Iran were strongly supported by the US administration. The result is that, the protests considered “tainted” by the Great Satan, many reformist and moderate clerics decided either to not enter the fray or to denounce the reformists, thus helping the regime’s delegitimizing of the efforts of reformist protests.

For the first time, a large number of clerics are supporting the reformists and moderates. We should give no reason to diminish support for these efforts.

4. Let us not forget that for 3 decades now, these people have been indoctrinated that America is the Great Satan, contaminating everything it touches. It’s part of their culture and, to a degree, religion. It would be unwise to disregard this.

5. In a way, the government has been helping Iran. Along with Twitterers, the State Department pressured Twitter to reschedule its maintenance in order to allow Iranis a medium to communicate. It has been written that the State Department is communicating with Twitter and Facebook to ensure these venues for reformists and moderates run smoothly.

6. Sandy burger brings up a crucial point. In all reality, it won’t matter who becomes president because it’s the Rahbar (Guide or Supreme Leader) that calls the shots, and all political figures exist to perpetuate the theocratic state. I hope this effort will give the people a taste of democracy and inspire them to take matters in their own hand to liberate themselves.

We should be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

21. Dave in Texas - June 16, 2009

>> Maybe it’s just a pro-Mousavi movement.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about whomever the Supreme Leader throws his support behind. He may have decided that Ahmadinejad was a greater threat to the mullahs. Agreed.

Although fucking with them in general has to have an upside. Besides, how much more batshit fucking crazy can you be than Ahmadinejad? Skin cancer sucks but it’s better than being eaten by a walrus.

22. BrewFan - June 16, 2009

One huge point I think you’re missing, Musli, is that this uprising cannot be pinned on the U.S. because it started with a fixed election. Every person in Iran knows how that happened and thats why you don’t see any serious attempt by the regime to blame us. That fact alone gives us the opportunity to at least express solidarity with the protestors. I would agree it would be a mistake to physically intervene in any way at this point but I see nothing to lose by the President of the United States using the opportunity to denounce a regime who has no intention of ever negotiating a peaceful resolution to the region’s issues.

23. Mrs. Peel - June 16, 2009

I think all of you are overlooking a very important point.

Musli’s on Facebook??

24. Muslihoon - June 16, 2009

Ah, my friend. One assumes that one is talking about people who think logically. With all due respect, not so the Iranis.

If the US were to openly come out in favor of the Revolution, the regime can, and will, paint the entire Revolution as an American plot. (Right now, the government considers it a plot of discontented sore losers.) It will say, “We recounted the votes and found no irregularities. The Americans are brainwashing/paying people to stir up trouble. They are seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic, to put an end to the Islamic Revolution” When discontented people have attacked Ahmadi-nezhad, the regime automatically pinned the blame on American interference. The regime will say that the protesters are pawns of America’s anti-Irani schemes. One must recall that for 3 decades, Iranis have been brainwashed to see America’s hand in any failure of Iran, in every misfortune. And many believe that this is true, that America goes out of its way to undermine Iran.

Right now, there is no evidence the regime can trot out to blame the US (even lies have to be somewhat credible). But that’s because we’re silent right now. If we start propagandizing (as they see it), the stakes are raised.

The problem is not what the world will think. I am confident that everyone will see through the rhetoric, as they always do. The problem is the internal consequence of such actions.

Right now, the situation is very delicate. There are rumors that certain military figures want to slow down the regime’s response if not conduct a coup. If they are seen as Irani figures fighting for Irani interests, they will succeed. They will be able to win the hearts and minds of other Irani military personnel to their cause. Elements within the regime are slowly turning against Ahmadi-nezhad. But if America comes out in support of such efforts, the entire thing will be painted with the brush of treason, hardening the hearts and minds of people currently on the fence (because such people would rather suffer under an Irani despot than be in slavery to the Great Satan). These brave figures will fail, and will be killed.

The reason why I am so adamant is because the government will treat the protesters one way if they are simple rebellious entities. If they are given any reason to dismiss the entire thing as an American plot, there will be a bloodbath.

So, I would disagree. The regime can pin it on the US.

25. Muslihoon - June 16, 2009

On a completely different note, I am amazed how deep the cracks run this time. Even in the previous two big revolts, the clerics were either silent or diplomatically in favor of neither side. This time, clerics are coming out in stark opposition to Khamene’i, and even more so against Ahmadi-nezhad.

This is either a very good thing (replacing the current regime with more moderate figures) or a very bad thing (there’s going to be a LOT of blood spilled).

26. Mrs. Peel - June 16, 2009

I don’t have anything substantive to add, so this seems like a good time to quote my all-time favorite haiku, which appeared on AOSHQ a while back:

Former sands now glassy shine
Visible from space

27. BrewFan - June 16, 2009

If they are given any reason to dismiss the entire thing as an American plot, there will be a bloodbath.

By your logic, they don’t need a reason Musli. They will do it and blame it on America. I am afraid a bloodbath is already occuring and we just don’t know about it. It does no good to appease evil doers. It never has.

BTW, I agree the regime will *try* to pin it on the U.S. but this time it won’t work. Those people are not stupid, Musli. They know what happened with the election.

Thanks for your insights. Its great to have the perspective of somebody who has studied the culture so closely.

28. turtle - June 16, 2009

Nice post Musli.

I’m curious about how do we know that if the protestors are successful in toppling Ahmadinejad, is the guy replacing him any more sane?

29. This Won’t End Well… « Nice Deb - June 16, 2009

[…] Bystanders: Muslihoon Sez: Obama’s Right About Iran If Obama, or any official of the US administration, were to come out in support of the protestors, […]

30. nicedeb - June 16, 2009

Jackstraw is going to want to have a word with you, Musli.

I myself am dubious. I think they’re being overly careful, myself, and like others here mentioned, I can’t help being suspicious of everything the empty suit does, or doesn’t do.

And his stated reasons for not commenting, “they’re a sovereign nation, they have to settle this for themselves” etc is nonsensical. There’s nothing wrong with condemning what everybody sees as a sham election, that’s the least he can do. Both Sarkozy and Merkel have already expressed strong disapproval.

31. Muslihoon - June 16, 2009

But neither France nor Germany have been characterized as the Great Satan for 30 years.

This is an interesting situation because it’s not really a sovereign nation vis-a-vis another sovereign nation, but rather the US and Iran. There are some very unique trends in this issue, which is why Gordon or Merkel or Sarkozy or Kim can say whatever they want, but Obama’s statements will be treated differently. Not because the US is so great but because of the rhetorical history between the two countries. Although deep enmity can evaporate, I doubt it will take such a short period of time for it to do so.

I’m not saying I agree with why Obama is doing what he is doing. There are many bad reasons why he may be doing this. So, without going into the internal motivation, the external manifestation is somewhat tolerable.

Remember…US support for the past two revolts is partly why they were not successful.

32. sandy burger - June 17, 2009

But neither France nor Germany have been characterized as the Great Satan for 30 years.

If we were talking about the Arab world, I’d say it’s because France and Germany, like China, have few values worth attacking. Our unique status as the official embodiment of evil in the Arab world is a badge of honor, and we should wear it with pride.

But yeah, Iran is a special case, it’s true. American involvement with Iran has been spectacularly counterproductive.

33. BrewFan - June 17, 2009

Remember…US support for the past two revolts is partly why they were not successful.

*Who* the U.S. supported is why they were not successful. The moral bankruptcy of realpolitik is why they were not successful. It is never a mistake to support liberty and I can’t think of a case where that is not true. We owe the Iranian people at least our verbal support when they attempt to shake off the bondage of the tyrant.

34. Dave in Texas - June 18, 2009

Question, why is protesting the results of an obviously rigged election a “revolution”?

35. composmentis - June 18, 2009

Good point. Could be the proverbial straw that begins a revolt?

36. Cathy - June 18, 2009

It’s sorta funny that Obama’s rationale for not speaking out for liberty was that he didn’t want the U.S. to be seen as meddling — and THAT is exactly the word the Iran government used — accusing us of meddling. Guess THAT strategy didn’t work either. But what has worked? Nada.

So much for “controlling” impressions. Honestly I don’t think that’s the real rationale anyway. Let’s just connect the dots on this guy. Everything means something. It’s all related.

*getting off this fence*

37. Muslihoon - June 18, 2009

Question, why is protesting the results of an obviously rigged election a “revolution”?

This isn’t a revolt against simply the results. It’s a revolt against the entire structure of Irani authority. People — including clerics — are not only protesting against Ahmadi-nezhad but also against the Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khamene’i. The goal of the people isn’t just to get Mousavi in power but to overthrow the traditional ways of ruling.

There is momentum building — even among the various branches of the armed services — to oust Khamene’i and replace him with the more moderate Rafsanjani.

What began as a protest against rigged election results has become a groundswell for more democracy and less autocratic theocracy.

38. Muslihoon - June 18, 2009

A number of Irani Twitterers who are leading the Twittering Brigades, as it were, have been expressing approval for Obama’s reticence, even though they initially wanted his vocal support. I’m divided, although still leaning.

I still think that if Khamene’i lies, the military apparatus will see through it. But if Khamene’i can convince the military apparatus that America is behind the revolution, using official statements as support, the military will be less willing to turn against the regime.

On Saturday, I’m going to be talking with a classmate who’s originally from Iran. American politics-wise, he leans conservative. I’ll write on what he says.

39. Michael - June 18, 2009

I think Musli is right about this. Khamenei is supposed to be the voice of Allah. He endorsed the election results as a divine miracle. The people in the streets are not just saying that the election was rigged — they are saying that the entire theocratic system is a fraud.

The decisive factor is going to be how the military decides to deal with this, both the regular Army and the Revolutionary Guards.

The Qom-based theocracy has got to be scared shitless at this point. Thanks to Khamenei, they have been discredited. They survived the opposition of the U.S.-backed Shah and eventually deposed him. They are in a more difficult situation now with a popular uprising against them.

The previous role of the U.S. in propping up the Shah is exactly why I think Obama is right to take a relatively stand-offish approach to the situation. It’s just not as simple as Reagan and the Solidarity movement in Poland, which right wing pundits keep invoking.

40. Michael - June 18, 2009

The funny thing about Reagan’s support for Solidarity is that it was basically a trade union movement.

Reagan earned his props as a conservative president by busting the air traffic controllers union.


41. Edward Von Bear - June 19, 2009

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