Obama's Loud Silence

It’s hard to remain indifferent while watching the horrific and emotional images being broadcast from Iran the past few days. Women and youth have been out in the streets, confronting government bullies with their bare hands. It was equally hard to watch the video that kept being played, in which mercenaries on motorbikes, dressed in all black, sped through the crowds, running over everything in their way. The Iranian government did not think twice before violently suppressing any form of dissent. But this cruel and evil government was not the only oppressor of the freedom demonstrations.

Another government took part in the oppression of Iranian youth demonstrations: the government under the leadership of Barack Obama. No one was really taken by surprise by the brutal reaction of the Iranian government. There has yet to be anyone who thought Khamenei would flood the streets of Tehran with floral bouquets and send “Natanz United’s” cheering squad to welcome the demonstrators. The images are difficult, yet expected. The harsher, more despairing oppression came from the White House. While President Obama is fooling around, dressing up as Oprah Winfrey, and surprising his audience with gifts underneath their chairs, the people of Tehran are receiving a different kind of gift.

It’s hard not to be offended on behalf of the Iranian citizens. Only weeks ago Obama delivered a speech that was considered “historic”, directing his message to the Iranian people (among other Muslims). The words “change” and “hope” were tossed into the air while the audience drank them in with thirst. Millions of eyes watched the television screen with high expectations. A few weeks later, in a twist of fate, Iranians were waiting to hear the same words, maybe even stronger ones. They waited in vain.

Two days ago, almost ten days since the riots began, the White House announced that the events in Iran have touched the President’s heart, especially the images of women defending their rights. But the Iranian people didn’t get to hear these weak words from the President himself. Instead, the statement was given by the White House Press Secretary, a familiar character in every Iranian house. So this is how you convey a message of support and empathy.

What is the explanation, you might be asking. How could the President of the free world, who represents a population freed from a different kind of oppression, only a few short decades ago, show such indifference towards those who suffer under a brutal and oppressive regime? The answer is national interests. Nothing will stop President Obama on his road to opening a dialogue with the Iranian government, depressing as it may be. Obama’s biggest nightmare is the collapse of the current administration in Iran. Civil war and chaos in the streets of Tehran will bring about the destruction of the talks planned to commence between Washington and Tehran. Who will the President talk to about the nuclear issue? Masked Iranian youngsters using Twitter?

In contrast to the weak stance taken towards the terrorizing thugs in Iran, President Obama has shown impressive determination against the true danger facing world peace: the settlements in the West Bank. It is not a coincidence the President differentiates between the two cases. On one hand, dispersing the crowds in Iran is being done in the utmost gracious manner, the Iranian police somewhat resembling tour guides showing tourists the way. On the other hand, however, the brutality and danger on behalf of the settlers has become unbearable. Therefore, the tone of President Obama makes sense.

The American government’s hypocrisy, tolerating the human bowling game being played on the Iranian demonstrators while in the same breath butting heads with people whose only crime was to choose to live too close to Palestinian Shepherds, proves that indeed a new approach has been adopted towards the Middle East. This approach targets the quiet kid in the classroom but refrains from dealing with the neighborhood bully. With such backing, the Ayatollahs’ regime has never been safer.

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