Secretary of State John Kerry seems to believe that Iranian elections are just like American ones. In fact, he would describe them as “normal.” At least, that’s what he told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last Thursday in his first Senate hearing since his confirmation.
Committee chairman Robert Menendez was rightly concerned that in Iran “the centrifuges are spinning, the clock is ticking and they seem to be managing the sanctions that we have so far.” So he asked Secretary Kerry what else the administration was planning to do. Kerry had the following astounding response:
They are two months away from an election. The election is on June 14th and every bit of evidence we have — this very week or next week they declare who their candidates are — and there is an enormous amount of jockeying going on with the obvious normal struggle for attention between hard-liners and people who might want to make an agreement etc. We all know what life is like here in the Senate six months from a presidential election, so you can imagine what it’s like there two months from theirs. And so I think this is a moment for us to be a little patient.
According to Kerry, therefore, the struggle between “hard-liners” — the folks who want to annihilate the Jewish state and continue to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — and the “people who might want to make an agreement” — might being the operative word, given that pro-Western Iranians are not permitted to be candidates at all — is just “normal” democratic give and take.
Equally disturbing, is that Iranian election time is understood by the Obama administration as a time for patience, rather than a time to encourage and support dissent.
During the last Iranian elections in June 2009, brave men and women hoped and begged for our support. A young woman named Neda bled to death at a demonstration on June 20, 2009. And yet, after witnessing the disenfranchisement of the Iranian population, the president assured Iranian leaders at a White House press conference on June 23, 2009, that he was still offering them “a path . . . in which their sovereignty is respected, their traditions, their culture, their faith is respected, but one in which . . . [Iran] operates according to . . . international rules. . . . We don’t know how they’re going to respond yet, and that’s what we’re waiting to see.”
After waiting five days, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice spelled out what was to be the administration’s Iran policy for the next four years. Speaking to CBS News on June 28, she said: “Obviously the government’s legitimacy has been called into question by the protests in the streets. But that’s not the critical issue in terms of our dealings with Iran.”
We know now how the do-nothing political approach turned out. After four years more of Ahmadinejad, Iran is on the verge of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapon.
With the 2013 elections, the face at the top will change because Ahmadinejad is barred from running again after two terms. But the anti-Western, anti-Semitic proclivities of Iran’s rulers, and their desire for a nuclear weapon, will not. Nevertheless, Secretary Kerry begins the job by telegraphing to the Iranian people that any signs of courageous opposition to their rulers and the certain brutal aftermath will be met by patience from the United States.
The frightening new normal.