The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reports this morning that former Bush flack Ari Fleischer emailed fellow Post reporter Glenn Kessler before any results had been issued in Iran’s hotly-contested presidential election to give credit to his former boss for the “reformists’ surge” there. “[O]ne of the reasons there is a substantial reform movement in Iran — particularly among its young people — is because of George W. Bush’s tough policies,” Fleischer wrote. He continued:
“A big push for reform is because of the desire of Iranians to get out from sanctions, to put an end to the country’s international ostracism,” Fleischer wrote and, most interestingly, “because Shiites in particular see Shiites in Iraq having more freedoms than they do. Bush’s tough policies have helped give rise to the reformists and I think we’re witnessing that today.” [...]
So “I think it’s fair to say the George Bush’s Freedom Agenda planted seeds that have started to grow in the Middle East,” Fleischer concluded.
Aside from the fact that Fleischer’s claim cannot really ever be verified (a tactic former Bush administration officials use when defending their failed policies), it’s clear that Iran’s power in the region has grown significantly in the region since 2001 — a point one wonders if Fleischer will also give Bush credit for.
The Shiites’ “freedom” in Iraq has actually emboldened Iran’s standing and created a key new ally in the region. Iran has emerged as the chief beneficiary of Bush’s fool’s errand in Iraq. As journalist Robert Dreyfuss noted, “Washington’s decision to topple Saddam’s government has put in place a ruling elite that is far closer to Iran than it is to the United States.” But also, Iran’s nuclear program has progressed greatly during the Bush years. Despite his “tough” policies, Iran has inched closer to a nuclear weapon, raising the possibility of greater instability in the region and even perhaps a new war.
It is also worth noting that hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became Iran’s president in 2005 (during Bush’s presidency), supplanting a former moderate who held the office. In fact, reformers there said at the time that they wanted the Bush administration to tone down the harsh rhetoric:
“You are harmful for us. We try to tell politicians in Washington, D.C., please don’t do anything in favor of reform or to promote democracy in Iran. Because in 100% of the cases, it benefits the right wing,” said Saeed Leylaz, a business consultant and advocate of economic reform and greater dialogue with the West.
Steve Benen notes of Flesicher, “[W]hat’s a ‘veteran spinmeister’ to do? Tell reporters on Friday that before anyone looks favorably on the current American leadership, it’s more important to extol the previous American leadership — you know, the one who was widely reviled throughout the Middle East.”