President Obama pointedly did not comment on US preferences for the Iranian election during his Cairo speech, and was careful not to make any official statement of suppoort for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi over the weekend. Vice president Biden did make an “off the cuff” comment about the election’s irregularities that immediately got widespread play in the Iranian twitterverse. Secretary of State Clinton also noted that the US would not yet accept the results of the election until the Iranian government had completed its own investigation – a far cry from anti-American, hostile regimes who leapt to congratulate Ahmadinejad’s “victory” solely as a means to give the US a black eye.
It’s obvious to the Iranian regime that we, the United States, preferred a Moussavi victory. Certainly, there was an Obama effect at play in helping drive turnout and the reform vote. But saying so explicitly – as various hyper-partisan conservatives are insisting Obama do, more to score short-term political points against him than any long-term concern for the future of the Iranian people – would give the regime the perfect excuse to deny the reformist movement’s demands for justice. In the official US silence, there was room for the reform movement to flex it’s legitimate muscle on the streets – leading to this defiant act today:
Supreme leader Khamenei went from certifying Ahmadinejad’s victory to agreeing to an investigation by the Guardian Council. Former president Khatami has joined Mir Moussavi’s call for new elections. Ahmadinejad himself has cancelled a trip to Russia, deciding it might be prudent to stay in Iran for the time being. Would any of this have happened had the US interfered in Iran’s election? Almost certainly not.
The wisest thing the US can do for Iran’s Green Revolution is to stay silent and let Iran find it’s freedom from within. Just as happened with the USSR, the lasting change will happen when it comes from the system itself, not imposed from without. It is key to recall that the primary concern of the regime is to stay in power – and it is clear that the mullahs are afraid of what a popular uprising might foretell for their own hides. After all, 30 years ago it was they who unleashed these passions themselves. They know exactly what the people are capable of, and they will bend – or die.
Follow the Green Revolution @iranrevolution or in real-time at friendfeed.com/iranrevolution! Also, Andrew Sullivan has been absolutely amazing in his coverage, including reprinting Iranian tweets from the streets in symbolic green.
[Obama] is our president. We could be at an historical inflection point in Iran. The United States may be able to play an important role. The task now is to explain what the Obama administration (and Congress) should be saying and doing, and to urge them to do what they should be doing. Presuming ahead of time that Obama will fail to exercise leadership, and cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures, would be a mistake. The U.S. has a huge stake in the possible transformation, or at least reformation, of the Iranian regime. If there’s some chance of that happening, and some chance of U.S. policy contributing to that outcome, we should hope Obama does the right thing, and urge and pressure him to do so–because then the United States will be doing the right thing, and the United States, and the world, will benefit.
 caution, the snark quotient in this particular sentence exceeds safe recommended levels. Follow the links and you’ll see why.