Roger Cohen writes a column on Iran that advocates helping to defeat the current hardline President by softening our rhetoric toward Iran, thus refusing to give Ahmadinejad the ammunition he wants to stoke the fires of anti-Americanism:
The West’s strong interest lies in stopping another Ahmadinejad term. Given that Ahmadinejad thrives on confrontation, this isn’t what Obama should dish out. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent patronizing tone — “Continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation” — was dead wrong.
Mostafa Tajzadeh, Khatami’s former deputy interior minister, told me: “Bush did a lot of damage to the reform movement. We would welcome an immediate calming of the atmosphere from Obama, with the military option set aside.” Kazem Jalali, the spokesman for the parliamentary national security committee, said America should “stop looking down from a domineering viewpoint.”
Before the election, Obama must declare that the U.S. does not seek regime change. He should also clarify that America wants an “honest broker” role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to supplant Bush’s Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy.
Such measures would help Khatami or perhaps a conservative pragmatist like Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, by undercutting Ahmadinejad’s tirades. A moderate president wouldn’t solve the nuclear issue (Khamenei leans toward intransigence) but would help.
The Iranian Revolution, at 30, has independence at its core. The satellite launch, like the nuclear program, is about national pride. To open the system, without overthrowing it, which must be the U.S. aim, requires ingenious indulgence of that pride, not finger-wagging. The time for change young Iranians can believe in is well before June 12.