Howard: Obama should decry Ahmadinejad’s actions, recognize Iranian pro-democracy movement

By Giles Howard

Two nights of clashes between students and police have stolen the local media spotlight in the… Two nights of clashes between students and police have stolen the local media spotlight in the aftermath of the G-20 Summit. But the major story of international relevance emerging from Pittsburgh is the disclosure of Iran’s second nuclear facility.

Located on a military base outside of the holy city of Qum, Iran’s second uranium enrichment facility raises the stakes in tomorrow’s talks between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

These talks, to take place in Geneva, constitute the fulfillment of one of President Barack Obama’s key campaign promises to engage Iran diplomatically. It is a promise that Obama has adhered to in the face of Iran’s June 2009 coup, its continued funding of terrorism and its recent missile test.

Indeed, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done everything in his power to communicate his regime’s intransigence to the world. He even appointed a wanted terrorist to the cabinet position of defense minister, thumbing his nose at international norms and laws.

Ahmadinejad is closely following the North Korean playbook of outrageous international provocations, and his conduct is a clear indication that he cannot be trusted.

Instead of recognizing Ahmadinejad’s government as the illegitimate and brutal farce that it is, Obama has blindly adhered to his vague foreign policy of engagement. This policy is not only harming the interests of this nation but also damaging the Iranian people whose pro-democracy movement has been largely ignored by the Obama administration.

Rather than denounce the Ahmadinejad government and materially pressure it to abandon its nuclear program, Obama has handled Iran’s leaders with kid gloves and granted them international legitimacy by engaging them diplomatically.

Obama should recognize that the Iranian government thrives on illusions and requires international sanction in order to exist. For instance, every time that Obama refers to Iran as an “Islamic republic,” he is participating in the Iranian illusion of representative government.

To call Iran a republic is to ignore the fact that an unelected religious despot known as the “Supreme Leader of Iran” and his council of medievalist mullahs control the foreign and domestic policies of Iran. This Supreme Leader appoints the heads of the military, media and judiciary as well as the 12 members of the Guardian Council tasked with deciding who runs for president and which laws are ratified.

It is impossible to treat this government as representative of the Iranian people. However, Obama continues to do just this in his desperate attempt to placate the American Left and its nonsensical belief that Iran can be engaged diplomatically.

Not only is this policy of engagement a dramatic betrayal of American principles, it is an insult to the Iranian people who have taken to the streets in support of democracy. We should be engaging these pro-democracy activists and aiding them in their attempt to establish a true Iranian republic rather than actively undermining them by treating their dictators as legitimate rulers.

Indeed, a democratic Iran unfettered by the tyranny of theocracy would have no need for nuclear weapons and would pose no threat to the United States or our allies in the region. Promoting democracy in Iran is the only sure way to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of Ahmadinejad and being used in his genocidal plans to wipe Israel off the map.

But what is most troubling about Obama’s engagement with Iran is that it is part of a larger foreign policy that fails to differentiate between democracy and despotism, right and wrong. Obama has shown a remarkable propensity to reach out to dictators and treat them as legitimate rulers and potential partners of the United States.

He has warmed U.S. relations with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, reached out to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and sent high-level American politicians to meet with despots in Myanmar and North Korea.

Dictators crave international legitimacy, and whether it is shaking Chavez’s hand in a photo-op or trading meetings with powerful American politicians for the release of hostages, Obama has consistently delivered this legitimacy to some of the world’s most despicable rulers.

It is time for Obama to tell the truth about despots in Iran and throughout the world and to stop treating them as trustworthy diplomatic partners. Only by standing with the oppressed, pro-democratic factions of nations such as Iran can our nation secure its national interest.

Continue the conversation at Giles’s blog,, or e-mail Giles at [email protected].