Talk about Hopey Change.

Things have moved into a dizzying new universe when the EU makes a rather brisker set of noises on Iran than the USA.

Here is the worst utterance of a US Presidential spokesperson – ever:

Obviously, we continue to have concern about what we’ve seen. Obviously, the Iranians are looking into this, as well. We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm of young people in Iran.

Look at this clumsy spin via MSM outlets by an Administration startled by the 0300 telephone call and trying to put the world on ‘hold’:

Obama has set December as a rough deadline for Tehran to engage with the US on the diplomatic route or face sanctions. Tehran has so far refused to agree to negotiations.

The next test of the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach will come as early as next week when the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is scheduled to attend an international conference in Trieste, Italy, to discuss the crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran has been invited to attend but has not yet said whether it will.

What!? The ‘next test’ on Iran is not a meeting in Trieste! Next week! It has already arrived.

Huge crowds in Iran are demanding minimum standards of transparency, fairness and democracy.  You know, the sort of thing we in the West are meant to support? Regime irregulars and security forces are firing at them.

What is happening here?

The Obama folk appear to be aghast at developments which do not meet their ‘narrative’. They extended the hand of friendship after all that horrid Bush stuff, and those pesky foreigners were meant to be grateful – and, unclenching their fists, rush to shake it warmly.

Instead it is all going wrong? That freaked-out North Korean dude is getting even more belligerent. And now the Iranian regime are messing everything up by holding an election, then beating up the public who say that the regime lost!

Much of Obama’s appeal lies in giving the impression, turboboosted by fawning media outlets, that he soars above commonplace squabbling to bestow on a weary planet the loftiest insights into problems and thereby help bridge differences.

And in a way he has a point. Someone high in the sky can look at things from a different, ‘big picture’ point of view. Different patterns are evident.

But down on the ground an ant’s perspective is no less valid. Things invisible from the air loom large. Facts on the ground are established on the ground, not at 10,000m feet above it. As they say in the Balkans, "he whose sheep are on the mountain owns the mountain".

So Iran, about which I know next to nothing, in principle has to be another simple case.

The current regime with all its obsessive violence and corruption does not intend to cede power to more pluralistic people. Too many people in the system have too much to lose.

Hence a battle of wills. The regime is prepared to use violence to cow the population for a few more years. How prepared is the population to fight back?

Are Iranians tougher than Zimbabweans? 

This is the Obama policy dilemma. If he and his people come out strongly in favour of the anti-regime tendency, what happens if the regime simply crushes the opposition? Washington will have achieved nothing and will look ‘defeated’.

On the other hand, there might be a real opportunity here for more liberal forces to make a huge dent in the regime’s credibility. To get success here in what could be a vicious struggle, lots of ordinary people hoping for a better life have to find hitherto unknown reservoirs of courage and determination to fight back against the regime’s most ruthless defenders.

By not encouraging them publicly, Western leaders send a signal that they don’t care if they win or lose. Demoralising and profoundly cynical?

Let’s be fair and not exclude one option. Namely that in some way the Americans and maybe Europeans too have agreed with the Iran Opposition leaders not to say anything in public, so as to deny the regime the propaganda momentum of saying that the Wicked West is fomenting anti-Iranian spies and disarray.

This is what happened in the historic Serbia election of 2000.  As a matter of deliberate policy the Americans did not come out publicly in favour of Kostunica against Milosevic. Instead they whistled nonchalantly and looked the other way, while quietly throwing technical and other support to the anti-Milosevic organisations.

This crafty silence led to a good outcome for Western policy, viz the giddy collapse of support for Milosevic, precisely because the whole campaign against him was not ‘internationalised’ – Serbs could think of it as a purely home-grown revolution.

I’d like to think that something like this is going on in this case.

But I suspect that I would be disappointed.

Despite Iran’s best efforts to quell Western MSM reporting, news is getting out thanks to huge numbers of ordinary Iranian citizens filming and reporting what is happening. See eg here.


A hugely complex Islamic country is gripped in a battle of wills.

But it is not a closed society. It has real democratic and even liberal-minded potential.

Even if we Westerners are (for now) cunningly saying nothing to help that potential, we surely must be doing a heck of a lot behind the scenes to support it on the streets and otherwise.