NY TIMES - June 19, 2009 - By Roger Cohen
Where is Obama?
The president has been right to tread carefully, given poisonous American-Iranian history, but has erred on the side of caution. He sounds like a man rehearsing prepared lines rather than the leader of the free world. A stronger condemnation of the violence and repression is needed, despite Khamenei’s warnings. Obama should also rectify his erroneous equating, from the U.S. national security perspective, of Ahmadinejad and Moussavi. Ahmadinejad is Iran’s Mr. Nuclear. He has rapidly advanced the program and, through preaching in every village mosque, successfully likened it to the nationalization of the oil industry as an assertion of Iranian nationalism.
By contrast, Moussavi has not abjured the program, but has attacked Ahmadinejad’s “adventurist” and “delusional” foreign policy. These are essential distinctions.
Obama should think hard about whether this ballot-box putsch is not precisely about giving Ahmadinejad and his military-industrial coterie four more years to usher Iran at least to virtual nuclear-power status. He should also think hard about the differences in character: Ahmadinejad is volatile and headstrong, the interlocutor from hell, while Moussavi is steady and measured.
Shrugging away these distinctions like a dispassionate professor at a time when people are dying in the streets of Iran is no way to honor this phrase in his Inaugural Address: “Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”
I still believe there is no alternative to engagement. But it is not the time for Obama to talk about talks. He should be talking about his outrage at the violence.
This is the city of whispers. Its people crave to know that their hushed voices are being heard. Obama, lover of words, is the message man. “Message received” is what he must convey. (See full article here...)