More than two weeks after the disputed Iranian elections and the beginning of a brutal government crackdown on those protesting the result, the unrest continues. Just this past weekend, Iranian police used tear gas and clubs to disperse a crowd of at least 2,000 demonstrators and detained British Embassy staff members whom they accused of having an organizing role.
President Obama, who expressed doubt about the legitimacy of the elections and has strongly condemned the violence, unfortunately must battle criticism on two fronts: from the Iranian government, who accuses him of meddling, and from conservative critics, who say he’s not doing enough. As it turns out, Obama has found the appropriate middle ground and is doing it just right.
Last Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose alleged re-election sparked the strongest challenge to that country’s clerical rule since the current system was created following the 1979 Islamic revolution, warned President Obama to “avoid interfering” with Iranian affairs. In fact, he accused Obama of acting like his interventionist predecessor, George Bush, and called on Obama to express “regret” for his insulting behavior.
At the same time, Obama’s domestic critics have hit him from the other side, insinuating that his response to the crisis has been meek, and that the United States should be actively assisting Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s supporters. While a number of conservatives have softened their tone after a recent Obama press conference in which he used some of his toughest language to date, it’s not enough for some. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., stated “this is an opportunity for the president to come out and forcefully speak in favor of democracy and freedom, and he hasn’t done it yet. He’s not supporting the people on the streets in Iran.” Former Speaker Newt Gingrich noted that “there’s something tragic about this very articulate, eloquent president being absolutely inarticulate and lacking eloquence about freedom and the rights of individual Iranian citizens.”