Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama on Iran, "govern through consent not coercion"

Today president Obama upped the ante in election/regime crisis in Iran. Comments from his news conference of July 23, 2009

“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.”

“the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.”

“Some in the Iranian government are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd. They are an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran.”

“As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.”

Associated Press
"Marzieh Masaebi, at her home in Tehran, watches a satellite-TV broadcast of President Barack Obama's videotaped address to the Iranian people." Wall Street Journal article after Obama's speech to the Iranian people

What do Iranians think of Obama?

AP photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian
"A woman in the streets of Tehran holds up the Iranian daily Rozan with a photo of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama the day after the American election." from Scott Ritter at Truth Dig

In Obama's Nowruz message to the people of Iran, he signaled a possible opening for talks between the two countires.

from the March 20, 2009 address
"Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays...Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams."

"You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create."

How quickly times have changed

Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama, Iran and history

As Obama sits on the sidelines during the election crisis in Iran, it raises some questions about how other presidents have responded to Iran in other conditions. In fact, Obama mentioned this history in comments earlier this week.

OBAMA: It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections. … I do believe that something has happened in Iran where there is, there is a questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures towards the international community that have taken place in the past, and that there are people that want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy.

and on Friday

Watch CBS Videos Online


How have other presidents related to or worked with Iran, particularly in times of crisis.

Four presidents have traveled to Iran
Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter.

Here - Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and President Kennedy with the Shah Iran at Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina..
April 14, 1962 (Courtesy of US Marine Corps) More images here

The 1953 Iranian Coup and the 1979 Iranian Revolution, of course, involved deep U. S. involvement.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Presidents on Islam

John Adams
Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," drafted by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul General of Algiers and signed by President John Adams.
In Article 11, it states:
“The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”

John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.
"It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”

And...Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, July 27, 1821, Autobiography Draft Fragment, January 6 through July 27

"The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination."

Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, Sept. 27, 1809
"Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas. In the first they all agree. All forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness &ca. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, and happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, and metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, and unimportant to the legitimate objects of society. Yet these are the questions on which have hung the bitter schisms of Nazarenes, Socinians, Arians, Athanasians in former times, and now of Trinitarians, Unitarians, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers &c. Among the Mahometans we are told that thousands fell victims to the dispute whether the first or second toe of Mahomet was longest; and what blood, how many human lives have the words ‘this do in remembrance of me’ cost the Christian world!"

More on Founding Fathers and Islam from American Memory

Barack Obama
June 4, 2009 Remarks by the President on a New Beginning
Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt

"Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Presidents abroad

Theodore Roosevelt in Panama, 1906

One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to travel outside the United States. Roosevelt visited Panama to check on the progress of the Panama channel. Since TRs visit to Panama, presidents have traveled abroad 246 times (as of 2006).

The U. S. Department of State maintains a resource called Visits Abroad of the Presidents of the United States, 1906-2004.

Today, President Obama landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for his fourth trip outside the Untied States. This occasion has me wondering about the history of presidential trip to the Middle East.

According to the State Department resource all five (now six with Obama) recent presidents have visited Saudi Arabia.

June 14-15, 1974
Richard M. Nixon
Met with King Faisal.

January 3-4, 1978
Jimmy Carter
Met with King Kinlid and Crown Prince Fahd.

November 21-22, 1990
George Bush
Jeddah, Dhahran
Met with King Fahd and the Amir of Kuwait. Addressed U.S. and British military personnel in eastern Saudi Arabia.

December 31, 1992
George Bush
Met with King Fahd.

October 28, 1994
William J. Clinton
King Khalid Military City
Met with King Fahd.

May 16-17, 2008
George W. Bush
Riyadh, al-Janadriyah
Met with King Abdullah

Short article from Time Magazine on the history for presidential travel abroad.