Obama speaks on Iran, again

The president says he doesn't want to be seen as meddling, but that the violence concerns him

By Alex Koppelman

Published June 16, 2009 4:55PM (EDT)

If you ever think to yourself, "Hey, I think I'd like to be president," just remember the job isn't all glamour and meetings with celebrities like Harry Reid. Sometimes, you have to meet with the president of South Korea and then take questions on two of the most difficult foreign policy issues of the day, North Korea and Iran.

Given the violence in Iran right now, it was Obama's statement on the situation there that will likely attract the most attention. That's despite the fact that, as Obama himself pointed out, he commented on Iran Monday afternoon. Still, he answered the question anyway, noting at one point the tightrope he has to walk in his public statements about the country, for fear of inadvertently helping President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters. For that reason, the president's latest statement isn't likely to placate his critics, who want to see condemnation, backlash be damned.

Obama's remarks:

It was only -- let's see -- I think seven hours ago or eight hours ago when I -- I have said before that I have deep concerns about the election. And I think that the world has deep concerns about the election. You've seen in Iran some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.

Now, 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. What I will repeat and what I said yesterday is that when I see violence directed at peaceful protestors, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, wherever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it's of concern to the American people. That is not how governments should interact with their people.

And my hope is, is that the Iranian people will make the right steps in order for them to be able to express their voices, to express their aspirations. I do believe that something has happened in Iran where 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 who want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy. How that plays out over the next several days and several weeks is something ultimately for the Iranian people to decide. But I stand strongly with the universal principle that people's voices should be heard and not suppressed.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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