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What Obama just said and meant about Iran and democratic protests

June 20, 2009 |  1:34 pm

Iranian demonstrators fight against government forces in Tehran
In a somewhat unusual Saturday statement, usually reserved for significant deaths or tragedies, just out from the White House now, President Obama warns Iran's leaders that the world is watching, mourns the loss of life among demonstrators protesting the recent elections there and urges respect for the people and by the embattled theocratic government there.

The president has come under increasing domestic criticism for not standing stronger vocally with the pro-democracy forces in Iran, although such vocal support has misled some in theIranian democracy protestors give a universal sign past to anticipate actual U.S. assistance, which was not forthcoming.

So Obama is walking a narrow public political/diplomatic line here. And no one knows what, if anything, the U.S. might be doing secretly to support/assist/advance the protesters.

As the president of a country whose own distant revolution would have failed without the timely "interference" of France for its own strategic purposes, Obama is trying to mollify those pro-democracy critics at home without appearing to interfere in what Iran's leaders would argue is a domestic matter.

Interference is something Obama promised not to do in his recent speech to the Muslim world from Cairo as he tries to coax Iran's hardline regime to join the international community through talk rather than threats.

Think, perhaps, of the U.S. reception had Iran or Iraq offered unsolicited advice during the 2000 Florida recount.

And, frankly, with two armed conflicts underway and his own troop surge in Afghanistan, Obama may not have the forces or stomach for actual interference beyond verbosity.

The fact that Obama quotes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, not exactly a religious icon in the Muslim world, which will get him all over the U.S. news on an otherwise slow summer Saturday, indicates what audience the chief executive is also trying to reach.

As The Ticket so often does, here's the president's entire statement.

Iran photo gallery right here. And for continuing coverage of the Iran situation, be sure to bookmark our buddy bloggers over at Babylon & Beyond.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Statement from the President on Iran

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.  ###

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Photo credits: AFP / Getty Images; EPA.

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