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Obama’s Latest Sacrificial Victim on Altar of Political Expediency

obama macchiavelli

Obama shadowed by Macchiavelli’s dark prince.

One of the things (one of the many things) I hate about Barack Obama’s presidency is the sense of political expediency divorced of any values or ethics.  We’ve seen this especially in his treatment of his nominees to senior positions.  Though it seemed to happen much more often in his first term, when he cut the legs out from under both Chas. Freeman and Rob Malley for key security and Middle East State Department positions, it’s just happened again with the scuttling of the Iranian appointment of its UN ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi.  Just as Freeman and Malley had liberal skeletons in their closet that spooked the Israel Lobby and allowed a manufactured crisis to destroy their candidacies, the administration has colluded with some former Iranian hostages and the GOP to blacklist Abutalebi.

What was his ‘crime?’  In 1979, he was associated with the student group whose members took over the U.S. embassy.  It should be noted that not every member of this group participated in the takeover, nor did Aboutalebi.  But at several junctures he was asked to serve as a translator at press conferences where hostages were freed.  This is his sole offense.  Someone took his picture at one such press conference and all you need is to have a picture in the embassy of yourself with a shaggy beard and you automatically become a hostage-taker.

This scurrilous, mendacious Bloomberg article began the onslaught with the spurious claim that the Iranian was directly involved in the hostage taking and embassy takeover.  The State Department has called his appointment “extremely troubling,” without offering any support for their alleged concern.  Members of Congress have already decided that he’s a bomb-throwing terrorist without offering any proof:

…Lawmakers have derided Aboutalebi as a terrorist and a key conspirator in the hostage crisis…

Who are these solons?  Why, Chuck Schumer’s Aipac’s water-carrier and Ted Cruz, the Tea Party’s chief tea-taster and KoolAid drinker.  What an unholy alliance!

Nima Shirazi’s comprehensive Muftah post unequivocally proves that Abutalebi had no leadership, organizational or substantive role in the 1979 embassy takeover.  His involvement was incidental and peripheral.   To paraphrase one of Nima’s interviewees–it’s as if you discovered that someone baked a casserole that was served at an SDS meeting in 1969.  In fact, the Iranian diplomat believes the embassy takeover severely damaged relations between Iran and the U.S., which is a development he’s trying to repair.

Robert Mackey wrote an interesting analysis which notes that both the radical cultist terror group, the MeK and the Revolutionary Guards both have made common cause in sabotaging the Iranian’s diplomat’s role.  Joining them is Ted Cruz, Tea Party darling, and Chuck Schumer, Bibi’s senate water-carrier, who each have falsely accused the Iranian of being a terrorist.  Can you think of a more unlikely set of bedfellows than the MeK, IRG, Tea Party and Israel Lobby?  None wants rapprochement between Iran and the west for which Abutalebi is a powerful advocate.  Hence he is a worthy target.  Killing his nomination will hurt the chances for an Iranian nuclear deal and reconciliation with the west.

Abutalebi was appointed to his position by the moderate Iranian government of Pres. Rouhani in January.  The former UN ambassador left New York to begin his next diplomatic rotation, leaving no one at the helm in New York for many months.  The U.S. never responded to Iranian requests for clarification of his status.  They just expected the Iranians would get the message and withdraw him.

There is a larger context to the U.S. rejection of this diplomat.  Though the UN is an international body with semi-autonomous status in both New York and the U.S., we have often used visas as a political tool to pursue our own vendettas and agendas.  Usually, we’ve only refused to approve visas for foreign leaders or officials seeking to attend a UN session.  We’ve done that regularly in the past with nations as varied as Russia, Iran, Libya, and Cuba.  I asked Colum Lynch, who wrote 2011 Foreign Policy article linked above, about political abuse of the U.S. visa process, and he isn’t aware of any other instance in which an ambassador was denied his UN job in this fashion.  So the Obama administration is setting yet another odious precedent in allowing international diplomacy to be subverted by petty political grandstanding.

Our involvement in the visa process of UN officials is governed by international treaties, which only allow us to deny approval if our national security is in danger.  There is, of course, no possible way in which a moderate Iranian diplomat who supports the policies of Hassan Rouhani (and Mohammed Khatami before him) could do so.  In other words, this is a pure cave in by Obama to anti-Iran interests.  And he’s sacrificing our own commitment to international treaties.  So we can expect countries sympathetic to Iran’s plight to do the same to us.  But we will scream bloody murder if it happens, because the world simply does not do that to Americans from the land of the free and home of the brave.  If it happens at all, we do it to you, not you to us.  And remember that.

Returning to the opponents of the nomination, while I can sympathize with former hostages who seek financial redress from Iran for their ordeal, the way to pursue their case is not by holding a decent, moderate diplomat hostage.  What sort of revenge is that?  The world seeks resolution of outstanding issues between Iran and the world and appoints a man who can help do it; so you decide that your own suffering trumps the interests of the world community?  Sorry, but that’s a no-win proposition.

The shame of it is that Obama has allowed himself to be spooked by all this.  He measured his own political interests: he has a delicate nuclear negotiation with Iran in process.  Anything can upset that apple cart.  Plus, he will need the support of Congress once the deal is made.  If he goes to the mat for an Iranian diplomat he may lose all the political capital he needs to accomplish tasks much more important to him.

So Hamid Aboutalebi is sacrificed on the altar of expediency.  That’s the shame of it and shame of Obama’s presidency.  It would be one thing if he made these choices and achieved great results.  But he rarely does.  He usually sheds nominees who become political dead-weight, but then gives away the store when it comes to achieving his larger goals, whether it be health care, financial reform, or national security.  What a waste of a bright, ambitious, innovative, progressive presidential candidacy.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Oui April 4, 2014, 1:14 AM

    Just part of the right-wing demonization to thwart a chance for successful diplomacy …

    Interview with Dr. Hamid Aboutalebi

    Dr. Hamid Aboutalebi, the Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs, has elaborated on the Iranian administration’s new approach to the issue of relations with the United States in the following interview.

    Q: Some domestic and foreign media and political circles have introduced you as the next ambassador and the permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations. At the same time, some foreign websites have introduced you as one of the students who took part in storming the US Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. By doing so, they have been certainly trying to shape a specific mentality around you before your presence in New York. Is this just a similarity of names or something else is involved here?

    Aboutalebi: When surfing the internet you come across such a high number of similar names and material that it totally amazes you. This is especially true about issues which are related to the past thirty and odd years. For example, you can find a person with my name and surname who has been martyred. In reality, however, on November 4 of that year and at the time of the occupation [of the US Embassy in Tehran], I was not in Tehran to be aware of this development or take part in it, so that my name can be mentioned in relation with it. When I heard of that incident, I was in [the southwestern Iranian city of] Ahvaz. Later on, when I came to Tehran, one day the late Martyr Dadman send a message to me through another commander of the imposed war [with Iraq], who was also martyred later and was called Zaker. He told me they needed somebody to do French translation for them. I accepted and went from my home to the airport. Therefore, accompanied with the special representative of the Pope – the leader of the world Catholic Christians –, who had already arrived in Tehran, I entered the [US] Embassy for the first time. On few other occasions, when they needed to translate something in relation with their contacts with other countries, I translated their material into English or French. For example, I did the translation during a press conference when the female and black staffers of the embassy were released and it was purely based on humanitarian motivations.

    Issue about controversy with U.S. State Department is found in Persian edition – KhabarOnline.

  • pabelmont April 4, 2014, 4:49 AM

    I would hope that Iran would seek to enforce international legitimacy (or whatever) and insist that the USA explain to the UN why it has denied a visa to Aboutalebi. Perhaps merely repeating the words, (now, repeat after me) “We have evidence that he is a security risk to the USA” will satisfy the UN, but I’d hope that a bit more would be required. After all, although any country can refuse to receive an ambassador to itself, here the USA is setting itself up to decide which people can be sent by other countries to be their UN ambassadors (and other UN personnel). The USA goes too far and, once again, the UN should begin talking about removing to a neutral place, perhaps Geneva.

  • irani April 4, 2014, 12:45 PM

    If you list the dates of Israeli concocted sabotages in Iran such as explosions, assassinates, false flag terrorist activities and the dates of schedules possible agreements between Iran and US then you`ll find a strong correlation between the two events. This, especially if one draws the corresponding dates on a multi-year calendar, vividly demonstrates that Israelis are very determined to stop the two sides from talking. (No diplomacy…only war?)

    For instance when Iran agreed in principle to swap its 20% enriched uranium with fuel for Tehran Research Reactor, days before the scheduled meeting between Iranian and Western negotiators, Jundullah terrorists used a suicide bomber to kill 40. Among the dead were five IRGC generals.

    This infuriated Iranians who, based on their knowledge of the group, thought that was a US anti-Iran operation thus refused to take part in the planned negotiation. Later Americans found out Mossad agents, impersonating as CIA men had lured Judullah to carry out the bombing. This, in my view, caused the designation of Jundullah as Terror Group by State Department. On the basis of that ordination and because of the sophistication of operation of capturing the Jundullah’s leader, some might guess, the Americans helped Iranians to snatch him. He and his brother were later executed after a revealing confession on the Iranian state TV.

    I am sure that multiple coincidences of dates of sabotages and dates of possible bilateral US/Iran talks (to pave the way for a possible rapprochement?) forced US to keep 2013 Oman talks secret.

    I think, now Israel is deadly determined to destroy the process of P5+1/Iran talks. As I read in someplace (Haaretz?) Netanyahu has assigned a special Mossad Unit to find Iranian deceptions in the talks (read this as to annihilate the negotiation process).

    Thus no doubt Israel will use ANY opportunity to achieve the above goal.

    Rouhani’s mistake of 1) not realizing how the US political system works and the ‘not so complex’ machinery of the Israel-US interactions and 2) picking someone for UN, who is just ripe for starting the agitation of deep Americans emotions is peculiar. I do not know Rouhani but I don’t trust Khamenei and Rafsanjani. I suspect their names and their European bank account number were given to Ansari by Ari Ben Menashe.

  • Clif Brown April 5, 2014, 3:29 PM

    Richard, you are so right about Obama. The longer he serves, the more he proves to be an almost empty suit, made worse by the fact that his high oratory shows some comprehension of what is right, they he then ditches, and his educational background in law, no evidence of which has shown up – just the opposite.

    His term will be up soon…yet what mediocrities (if no loonies) will we have to choose from for the next prez? Obama was an icon at the start, but he’s failed even at that – at least icons stand for something!

  • Yastreblyansky April 6, 2014, 12:11 PM

    Please note that your picture is not of one of the the remorseless and manipulative princes that Machiavelli wrote about but of the small-r republican Machiavelli himself. There’s a lesson there, though I’m not exactly sure what it is.

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