President Obama: Iran -- How Cautious Is Too Cautious?

07/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Robert Guttman Director, Center on Politics and Foreign Relations (CPFR), Johns Hopkins University

President Obama can be applauded on the one hand for taking a more cautious approach on the deteriorating situation in Iran. And, Republican leaders can also be applauded for speaking out against the violence and against the obvious rigged elections.

However, the situation in Iran is looking grim and ominous now that the Supreme Leader in Iran has spoken saying that the election was fair and the results will stand. Ayatollah Khamenei said there will be no new election; therefore protests will not be tolerated from now on and dissenters will face the consequences from the state.

With the government of Iran trying to block all Internet and outside media traffic it is becoming ominously similar to the situation in China at Tiananmen Square in 1989 when they threw out the foreign media. Luckily with Twitter and Facebook and other new advances in technology the protesters message is getting out much louder and clearer than in China several decades ago.

The talks between the United States, the European Union and Iran over the building of nuclear plants for weapons production have really gone nowhere over the past few years. They have been a charade and obviously not taken seriously by the Iranian government.

So there should be no saying we need to be cautious in our approach by the president because he fears a breakdown in these talks. That is not a good reason to be cautious as the talks have already broken down or more realistically they haven't even advanced to the stage where they could breakdown.

Also, saying that the United States should not get involved in the internal affairs of another nation sounds correct but in reality over our nation's history we have always advanced our ideas of democracy, free elections and the people's right to peacefully protest.

Spreading these values of America abroad should not become a Republican or Democratic issue. Let's not turn this into a political issue with the GOP leaders saying we need to speak out more and the Democrats saying we need to take a more cautious approach so we don't look like we are siding with one side or the other.

Our values put us on the side of the protesters and the Iranian government has already accused the United States of "meddling" so being too cautious and not speaking out against certain of their atrocities really does not help.

With events looking like they will be getting bloodier and more violent in Iran it is not a time to hold back. The administration needs to speak out against violence by the government against legal and peaceful protests in cities across Iran -- the protests are happening all across the country not just in Tehran.

The Obama Administration is correct to be somewhat cautious but should not go overboard in that direction. The president and his foreign policy team need to go overboard in the direction of promoting our values. We need to stand up and speak out on the bravery and tenacity of the protestors all across Iran. We need to stand up and speak out against violence and the threat of violence by the Iranian government.

Let's not make this a political issue between the GOP and Democrats. It is too important at this point with the threat of an Iranian Tiananmen Square in the near future to be squabbling among ourselves.

The United States should be speaking with one voice for the rights of the protesters and the right to have free elections and the right to democracy across the globe and not only in Iran.

Mr. President, if you bend over backwards to not tilt toward one side or the other in Iran it will not have any effect on the stalled and basically failed nuclear talks so stand up for our American values and speak out against the upcoming increased violence that could be happening any minute now in Iran.

Mr. President, one Tiananmen Square in our lifetime is enough. Let's speak out forcefully now and let the Iranian government know that the world is watching and that we will not be cautious in the face of blatant abuses of human rights!