John McCain and Barack Obama faltered in their recent comments about Iran's recent protests, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute. McCain (and others on the right) erred by attempting to score political points domestically, whereas Obama erred by discounting the differences between Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose post-election challenges run counter to the country's leading cleric.
"Nobody who openly disobeys Ayatollah Khamenei and places electoral legitimacy—and therefore government by consent—above the word of God emanating from the supreme leader, can be compared, until he proves otherwise, with the regime he is fighting against," writes Vargas Llosa in his latest op-ed. "Mousavi's followers obviously see it that way—including the women who march holding signs in English, Satan's language, or the students who tell us their revolutionary tales through Western technology, for whom Twitter, YouTube and Facebook mean what Gutenberg's printing press meant for Europe's Renaissance."
Vargas Llosa also notes that Iran's reformists can draw upon a tradition of liberal democracy that had long been suppressed. In 1906, for example, Iranians limited the power of the shah and forced him to accept an elected parliament and a liberal constitution. Unfortunately, Western powers thwarted Iranian liberalism in the 1920s when they backed a coup by Reza Pahlavi, and again in the 1950s when they helped topple Prime Minister Mossedegh, which served to create resentment of the West and momentum for the 1979 revolution that brought the Iranian theocrats to power. Western politicians faltered then, and they are faltering yet again.
Read the article "Not Their Finest Hour," here.