Barack Obama responded to those who reproached him with not having done enough for the Iranian opposition by affirming that the United States was “horrified and outraged” by the repression. But he maintained his course of action, which consists of:
• Avoiding the invitation of accusations of foreign interference, which would allow the regime to clear its name. What matters, he said, is “the legitimacy” of the Iranian leadership “in the eyes of its own people.”
• Causing the Iranian regime to face its responsibilities, with the invitation for the adoption of a line of conduct that conforms to international rules. “It is not too late,” he said. He couldn't be more encouraging of the reformists.
Obama doesn’t need to throw oil on water. For several reasons:
• The Iranian revolution, the supreme leader and President Ahmadinejad first lost their legitimacy by fixing the presidential elections and then by firing on the people. In the short run, power is maintained by force. But in the long run, the foundations are indisputably weakened.
• Repression discouraged the protesters, but the opposition is not vanquished. The protest will remain and will change form. The divisions in the heart of the hierarchy are not going to disappear. Obama is right to remain cautious and to say that no one knows how it’s all going to end. Decreeing sanctions today could result in helping the ultra conservatives by allowing them to mobilize against the “Great Satan.”
• The opening created by Obama’s election – his outstretched hand – is not foreign to the thirst for change being expressed in Iran. It weakens the radicals and encourages the moderates. The American president stays the course. He praises the “extraordinary debate” opened in Iran and acts as though the Iranian leaders are able to channel this debate. He knows that it’s impossible and waits to see what will happen. The Iranians understand: They remember that it took more than one year of protests before they achieved the downfall of the Shah 30 years ago.