Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama, Turn on Your Charm!

I want "Ich Bin Ein Berliner". I want "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." I want the rhetoric that Obama is so famous for.

I know we can't say "We are with you," because that would be interpreted as an offer of military support as it was by Iraqis who attempted to rebel against Saddam Hussein in the 90s.

I know that diplomacy is a difficult and delicate game that requires a less than straightforward approach to many situations. I have used this space so often to call for diplomacy with Iran.

Ultimately, I know that rhetoric is just rhetoric. That the words of a president do not actually change history even though they become part of it.

If ever there was a time for Obama to turn on his rhetorical charm, it is now. Today at 4 pm there will be demonstrations in 20 cities in Iran. My friends *want to be on the streets.* They are parents, civil servants, accountants, receptionists, and yes students. In the end, with all of the violence, I am not sure that they will show up.

So Obama, turn on your charm. Use your powers of rhetoric to tell Iranians that, while we won't be sending in the marines, our hearts are with you. I know you can do a better job than I can.


Azadeh said...

Hello Tori,
As an Iranian who is deeply upset about the cheating in the election, I would like to thank you for the kind thought but any rhetoric like that from Obama or anyone else in the West is going to be used against the protestors and will be used as a proof of some velvet revolution and the like.

John said...

I agree with Azadeh. Obama has to live with whoever gets in. The American administration has to keep quiet.

In the video of Hillary Clinton with her Canadian counterpart she's obviously being very restrained whilst he talks about irregularities.

Iran needs bringing back into the world community. It needs diplomatic relations re-establishing with America. And what's happening now, in Iran, is between Mousavi, Khatami, Rafsanjani and their backers/supporters and Ahmadinejad's.

Harsh, but true.

upyernoz said...

obama is going to give a statement about iran this evening.

but i share some of azadeh and john's concerns that whatever he says will be used as evidence that the mousevi side is nothing but a u.s.-backed coup. the other side will spin whatever he says, playing into fears of another mossadegh scenario.

upyernoz said...

obama's statement

it's not the soaring rhetoric that i think tori was looking for, but i suspect the obama had the same concerns expressed in these comments. too strong of a statement favoring mousevi had the potential of backfiring.

Liberty Belle said...

No matter what our President (Obama) says, I can promise that you have the support of the American people and all those yearning to be free. God bless you and keep you safe.

Anonymous said...

I think Obama's words were carefully chosen and fell within acceptable terms that even Ahmadenijad can swallow. I think Obama needs to speak together with other free nations on this one without coming across as super America. And as he said, this is something Iranians will have to determine together. From all reports at this time of the night (morning in Tehran) the peaceful protest appears to have been a huge success in numbers. I'm not sure how the other towns or cities turned out. It is interesting and refreshing to see the world focused on Iranians and the images and messages coming from the people rather than all the negative spin that Ahmadenijad gets attention for in the western media. I hope there can arise an honest resolution to this election - and that Iranians come through this together.

Tribunus Plebis said...

On Monday President Obama quite forcefully though subtly challenged the Iranian regime in his comments on events there. Instead of opining on whether he thought the election was fraudulent, he focused on the issue of whether the regime's response to the protests was legitimate, suggesting that violence against peaceful protesters (his deft re-framing of the issue of violence) was against a universal value, the right to dissent. He also said, "...there appears to be a sense on the part of people who were so hopeful and so engaged and so committed to democracy who now feel betrayed..." In other words, the Mousavi presidential campaign lifted the people's hope that their voices would count, and now they feel betrayed. Obama's test of a satisfactory course of events in this crisis could therefore be defined this way, as if it were a statement to the regime: If what you do from now on sharpens that sense of betrayal, you will lose your people's trust and thus your legitimacy.

How could another Ahmadinejad anointment be anything but another betrayal? Those with access to blogs or the media might want to keep repeating Obama's equation and perhaps lend it more specific political content, because the part of the regime not glued to Ahmadinejad needs to see that they have only one way to regain the people's trust, and that's to order a re-vote.

Right now the movement in the streets seems from afar to be based mainly on political rage -- it doesn't have a proximate concrete goal. If the goal were, for example, a Guardian Council order for a re-vote, it would paint the regime into a corner -- courtesy of Obama's equation.

ella said...

Hi Tori

Remember that many Iranians (Iranians, not government of Iran) before told US to be very cautious? That they do not want US to interfere or even to help?
That we have to understand that you want to do your own thing?
Sorry to remind you of it, but isn't it a truth?
Now Americans voted for cautious president - the one americans and others wanted. It is not Bush who would (probably) go and say "I am with Iranians against ahmadinejad" . Obama does what everyone wanted him to do - he is cautious and apologetic and does not do much.
I can understand that......a little.
So he may turn on his charm but he will not do much and don't expect him to do much.
You have to live with American democratic choice....supported by many in ME.
Europeans would say more but they also have to be cautious because they do business with Iran.
Some Canadians and some Americans and some Europeans would do more but ....they do not have possibilities.
So in the end you are on your own because if some government will help you then later it may count against that government.
Like before.

Unknown said...

Thanks for all your comments. My biggest point is this: Iranians themselves have taken a huge risk and gone into the streets without the help of any foreign government. The thing that got them there was their own outrage at the blatantly fraudulent results.

People are demonstrating all over Iran, not in the thousands, but now in the millions. All I wanted from Obama was a bit of recognition, something I could tell my friends. Now I can say that he finds you inspiring.

The other thing I would say is that this protest is not about AN anymore (if it ever really was). It is about the leader. Iranians just wanted a bit of reform. They were keeping their expectations low; purposely managing their rhetoric. This is what happens when you deny so many people their hopes of reform.

ella said...


You and I know that Iranians have taken a huge risk and protest in millions. That there were deaths, that ashura sharpshooters of Pasdaran killed people during the demonstrations.
But many people in US and elsewhere do not know it.
Because MSM do not tell them.
Some of the comments I have read were that Ahmadinejad really won, that numbers of protesters are really small and that US websites (the ones that talks about Iran) lie - like Bush lied. And that Obama is right doing nothing because really there are some Iranians who have grippes with Ahmadinejad that he won the elections.
Ask me why they think so? And I answer: because that's what journos and some of university professors and some of you, Iranians, taught people.
Remember: Bush lies and Ahmadinejad is really OK?.
Remember: Trita Parsi and Co.,?
And now everybody is cautious.
I even seen photos in some of the newspapers and it looks like there are few people at the demonstrations. Couple of hundreds no more. So what people have to think if they do now any better?
As for Obama I repeat: you voted for him, you fell for his charm and harmless talk about nothing, you got what you voted for.

Anonymous said...


I am writing an article for Huffington post on recent elections in Iran. I have few questions. Can you please email me at

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what Ella is saying when she says the reports in the west are showing small demonstrations (I am not from America). Access to ongoing updates in information, photos and videos from Iran are available online. Television and newspapers are rather limited in their scope and time to give full reports.

I am not fully in tune with some of the things you bring up with Tori in your replies. What more can we who live outside the "walls" of the Islamic Republic of Iran do? I use the term wall - in a way similar to the wall that locked in my relatives in the Soviet Union. Today (Tuesday)in Iran there there is heavy media contraint - many internet tools are down - freedom of media expression is curbed. Fear is being used as a tool (much like Bush did after 9/11) to promote one side of a story - an agenda. I get a sense that real change is in the air in Iran - something has shifted. I don't know enough to speak further on this - but it's a gut feeling.

I'm so grateful Bush is gone - I am so tired of the American rhetoric of going into countries to free people with their form of democracy. Remember when Castro was almost on his deathbed last year - they were flying over Cuba broadcasting nonsense "America is with you - do not give up hope".

I do not look at Obama as some "prophetic" new leader in America. I appreciate his honesty and his tone. He's newly elected and it 's the American people that make American democracy work - not a President. Would you rather have Bush type leader who spews "I'll get 'em, dead or alive!" After 8 years of listening and watching that - Obama is not perfect - but at least I can listen to him without wanting to change the channel.

Anonymous said...

Attended a gathering last night in CU with mostly students. heard that out of 120 votes cast locally, only 2 went to Amadinajad.


Duncan Parkes said...

Hi Tori
I hope you get this message, I just wanted to say I support the protests in Iran 100% The images from Tehran are worrying but also awsome and empowering. I am from the UK I for one know how lucky i am living in a democracy, and all we have due to that. Keep up the fight I support you all the way and Iran is in my thoughts.
Duncan P

Anonymous said...

I haven't visited here in a long time. Glad to see you guys are still bloggin! I would tend to agree with Azadeh, that we just need to keep our mouth shut for the time being, although I think a more forceful declaration (ie: saying the vote was rigged and not saying another word) would possibly be have been beneficial.

FearlessDream said...

I can see where Azadeh and others are coming from about any rhetoric from Obama supporting the protestors being used by the regime against the protestors, essentially backfiring. But at the same time, shouldn't there be some hints of "We are watching and are behind you," especially since the protestors are asking for the West's moral support? I could be wrong, but that's how I am seeing it.

Diana said...

Where's the proof that this election was stolen?

ella said...


Walls of Islamic Republic of Iran are not the same as the walls that locked your relatives in Soviet Union. Iranians from abroad visit Iran and Iranians in Iran can go for vacation out of Iran, if they have money. It was not possible for people in USSR.

Re: Trita Parsi and some people from BBC Persian service.
For some time many in the west were promoting view that majority of Iranians are supporting Ahmadinejad. I also heard some people who complained about BBC persian service and were saying that it gives too much credibility Ahmadinejad's government.

With regards to present demonstrations many western (not only american) newspapers were underreporting not only what is going on in Iran but also the number of people during demonstration. That said I was pleasantly suprised by Huffington Post (the one post above you) whose reporting is much better than many other newspapers or websites - american or non-american..

Media constraints were always a fact of life in Iran. there was never freedom od press in Iran and although theoretically there was no censorship the red lines were always there and Iranian journalists and writers were keeping to these lines. As for the western reporters they could not freely report from Iran because if they did then later they would not get permit to stay in Iran and their life as journalists reporting from Iran would be finished. As for what is happening now - you just have heavier constraints than before,

As for Obama, Tori asked where is he and I had answered - somewhere far away.
In my view he should make a strong stand supporting protesters because peaople are dying over there.
He did not.

@ Tori
I apologise for such a long post.

Marie said...

Obama does not have a relationship with Ahmadinejad. I think it's best if Obama keeps his distance - Americans are already being accused of interfering and stoking unrest. Why to undermine what's happening there, coming truly from the hearts of the people?

Marie said...

Diane, you asked, "Where's the proof that this election was stolen?"
If they had not been so stupidly arrogant, perhaps they wouldn't have 'won' the election by a landslide! And the votes would have been counted in an appropriate time period. It's so, so obvious, you really don't need proof.

ella said...

Iranians vote writing the number of their choice for president on voting cards. How can anyone think that in one day all votes were counted and correlated. Usually it takes more time. And also according to rule they have to wait three days.
Plus seeing the number of people protesting the result - I mean more than a million people today!!!

Diana said...

OK, you and others have convinced me that these results are at the very least, questionable.

But I'll take these demonstrations as serious expressions of human freedom when I see a couple of women take off their chadors and walk in public as free people. Not a moment before. The fact that they are still cowed enough to wear that awful rag in public disgusts me.

ella said...


I would like to see that but....
They were told under shah to take off hijab, if police seen some girl in hijab then they took it off her forcibly.
Then under khomeini women were told to put hijab once again, if they did not wanted to do it they were compelled to do it.
I would like them to decide for themselves. If some of them want to wear hijab that's fine with me, if they do not want to wear that also should be fine.
I would prefer, like you do , that they decide not to wear it but at the end it should be their own decision, nobody else.
Frankly I would prefer that Iran have working democracy because than I would be sure that they can decide it for themselves.
I hope they will soon have it.

Iran Junkie said...

As Khamenei's speech today clearly shows, even someone speaking on Obama's behalf will get quoted and used against the opposition. Khamenei's trying to sell the lie that the US is behind the opposition movement. I've argued on my own blog a number of times that Obama should just be silent, as he has been.

Captain America can't help here.

Iran Junkie said...


I know I don't fully understand Muslims, because I'm not a Muslim. But from what I understand, the scarves that the women wear on their heads is a matter of religious piety. Just because they want more freedoms doesn't mean they're rejecting their religion. Don't hold them to your own standards.

Iran Junkie

free man said...

It really does not matter what Obama or the west says, the protesters will be crushed by the government supported by the supreme leader one way or another. Unless the freedom movement is real strong and be able to get out of the influence of the supreme leader.
Any words from the world will be an encouragement to the protesters.
May freedom be with the Iranians.