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Posted by on Jun 17, 2009 in Breaking News, International, Media, Politics, War | 5 comments

The Vile Hypocrisy and Cynicism of Neocons on Iran

Matthew Cooper notes the continuing “neocon buffoonery” around Iran and Pres. Obama’s response to the unrest there:

You would think that the Neocons would be a tad temperate after having gotten so many things wrong for so long. But look at the way the amiable Weekly Standard writer and Dick Cheney biographer, Steven Hayes, takes a shot at President Obama for insufficiently supporting the protesters in Iran.

I won’t claim to understand Iranian politics well enough to know just what the right thing to do here is, and it may be that the administration should be more outspoken in favor of the protesters. I don’t know.

It’s not enough, though, for Neocons to disagree with the Obama policy–they have to impugn his motives too. Thus Hayes writes of Obama, “Does he actually prefer Ahmadinejad?” and “His policy is regime preservation. And it’s a disgrace.” There’s nothing in the administration record to suggest that they want to uphold the Ahmadinejad regime.

Um, gee, one could say that by toppling Saddam Hussein, Tehran’s greatest enemy, and strengthening the hands of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq that Dick Cheney had an interest in preserving the regime in Tehran. One could argue that by constantly threatening Iran, the Cheneyites have strengthened the regime in Tehran and must secretly want to preserve it. That would be unfair, but really no more of a stretch than saying that Obama wants to keep Ahmadinejad in power. Presumably Hayes thinks Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, Gen. James Jones, Richard Holbrooke and others are in on this grand effort to keep Ahmadinejad in power.

Michael Goldfarb attacks Cooper for his criticism, in one of the rankest examples of neocon hypocrisy I’ve seen to date:

I don’t know how you respond to a guy who used to work at TPM complaining that certain writers aren’t genial enough, but with regard to Cooper’s claim that there is nothing in this administration’s record which suggests they “want to uphold the Ahmadinejad regime,” I have seen some contradicting evidence.

I direct Cooper to the twitter feed of one Marc Ambinder, who reported on Saturday night that “White House officials say they worry about the stability of Iran during a protracted post-vote period of uncertainty.” At the time, I thought this can’t possibly be true — worrying about the stability of Iran on Saturday meant they were worried about how to “uphold the Ahmadinejad regime.” So I asked Ambinder, “Aren’t we for regime change/collapse in Iran?” His response: “The last guy was. This guy ain’t.”

Cooper concedes throughout his post that he “wouldn’t claim to know how best to influence the situation in Iran,” and “won’t claim to understand Iranian politics well,” so I would suggest in as genial a manner as I know how that he ought to read his colleague Marc Ambinder’s very well regarded reporting before he starts writing TPM-style partisan hits on Ambinder’s blog.

The dishonesty here sets a new standard even for Goldfarb. First of all, Cooper did not “concede” anything “throughout his post.” He made a distinction between disagreeing with Obama on his policy toward Iran, and casting aspersions on his motives for that policy. I feel more sure than Cooper apparently does that Obama’s hands-off policy toward the election results in Iran is the right policy, but the point here is that Cooper is attempting to be as honest and clear about his critique as possible — it’s not the policy disagreement he deplores; it’s the tone of the disagreement.

Unfortunately, Cooper is not dealing with honest brokers on the other side of this discussion.

The second point here is that the argument being advanced now by Goldfarb and like-minded colleages Stephen Hayes and Jennifer Rubin — that Obama is “rooting” for Ahmadinejad to win this struggle — is breathtakingly hypocritical. Just five days ago, Daniel Pipes blogged that he wanted Ahmadinejad to win the election. Here is what he wrote, in its entirety, in a post titled “Rooting for Ahmadinejad“:

The heart and the head sometimes go in different directions, and they do for me today as Iranians go to the polls to vote in their country’s semi-legitimate presidential elections.

Many problems afflict those elections – including restrictions on who may run for president, what issues may be discussed, and the accuracy of electoral results – but the most important limitation concerns the powers of the president, who is conspicuously not the country’s most powerful politician.

That title belongs, rather, to the Supreme Leader or rahbar, Ayatollah Khomeini until 1989 and since then Ali Hoseyni Khamene’i. The rahbar controls key institutions (foreign policy, the military, law enforcement, the justice system) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In contrast, the president primarily concerns himself with the softer domains such as economics and education. (A contrast I discussed in 2003 at “The Iranian President’s Power.”)

With two important exceptions, the rahbar equals the president-for-life (such as Egypt’s Husni Mubarak) or king-for-life (such as Jordan’s Abdullah II), while the Iranian president equals their flunky prime ministers. The exceptions explains why the Iranian president is much better known than his functional equivalents: he is directly elected and the rahbar, in keeping with his religious character, stays aloof from overt politics. Together, these two factors account for the anomaly of the Iranian president serving as the public face for a regime he does not control.

This means that whoever is elected president, whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or his main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, will have limited impact on the issue that most concerns the outside world – Iran’s drive to build nuclear weapons, which Khamene’i will presumably continue apace, as he has in prior decades.

Therefore, while my heart goes out to the many Iranians who desperately want the vile Ahmadinejad out of power, my head tells me it’s best that he remain in office. When Mohammed Khatami was president, his sweet words lulled many people into complacency, even as the nuclear weapons program developed on his watch. If the patterns remain unchanged, better to have a bellicose, apocalyptic, in-your-face Ahmadinejad who scares the world than a sweet-talking Mousavi who again lulls it to sleep, even as thousands of centrifuges whir away.

And so, despite myself, I am rooting for Ahmadinejad.

I realize that this pragmatic view shocks the tender sensibilities of left-wingers such as Daily Kos, Huffington Post, and Rachel Maddow, but this is hardly the first time leftists think with their hearts, nor the first time that their unthinking sentimentality might lead to disaster.

And as Rachel Weiner points out at that Huffington Post link, Pipes is by no means the only neocon hawk on Iran who openly hoped for an Ahmadinejad win.

The blatant, self-interested, cynical double standard being employed here is just vile beyond words.

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