Today, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest the election results declaring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner — results Vice President Biden said yesterday he had “doubts” about. Speaking on Fox News this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) condemned the Iranian election as a “sham,” declaring, “I hope that we will act“:
MCCAIN: It really is a sham that they’ve pulled off, and I hope that we will act. […]
CARLSON: How will the Obama administration react to this? Will they come out directly and say that this is unconscionable, that this can go on when they claim to be a democracy, or will they take an easier tact [sic] on it?
MCCAIN: Well, initial reports by, quote, administration officials, are that they say that they’re not going to change their policy of dialogue, et cetera, et cetera. I think they should be condemned, and it’s obvious that this was a rigged election and depriving the people of their democratic rights. We are for human rights all over the world.
As with McCain’s impetuous response to the Georgia crisis last summer, his first reaction to the events in Iran is condemnation and a call to “act.” By contrast, the Obama administration seems to understand that knowing when not to act is just as strategically important as knowing when to do so, and that the most productive thing the United States can do for Iran’s reform movement — and human rights — at the moment is to keep itself, to the extent possible, out of the equation.