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“You’ve got to be able to say, if you believe in Islam, that I believe in a God and a prophet strong enough to withstand the criticisms of petty, narrow-minded, mean-spirited people, I believe that the cultural crassness I abhor will, in the end, fall before the values that I exalt,” Clinton said.
One positive part of Obama’s speech was his admission that the Iranian regime follows a “violent and unaccountable ideology” that cannot be handled with a policy of containment.
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty,” Obama said.
This is a different tone than the one Obama took when he offered his “outstretched hand” to Iran upon taking office. This is a positive development but the Iranian regime may dismiss it as the political maneuvering of a president seeking re-election. The consistent statements from administration officials warning about the perils of an Israeli strike on Iran are more likely to impact the calculations of the Iranian regime than the words of a single speech less than two months before an election.
The acknowledgement that the Iranian regime is guided by a dangerous ideology is particularly significant because Obama has long been part of the school of thought that believes that the West’s enemies are mostly responding to policy disputes instead of the demands of a radical ideology.
In a little-noticed interview in May 2008, he said that Hamas and Hezbollah must be shown “they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims” (emphasis mine) but “if they decide to shift, we’re going to recognize that.”
He explained his belief that the behavior of Hamas and Hezbollah could be changed. “There are rarely purely ideological movements out there. We can encourage actors to think in practical and not ideological terms. We can strengthen those elements that are making practical calculations,” Obama said back then.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney focused on the ideological challenge in his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. He said that foreign aid must be “focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”
On his campaign website, Romney says he’ll appoint a single regional director and consolidate all efforts related to the Middle East under the director’s authority in order to project soft power. The goal would be to “advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and opposing any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence. “
Egyptian President Morsi and Iranian President Ahmadinejad speak on Wednesday. The importance of understanding the true Islamist ideology will be on full display, and don’t be surprised if they boast that the U.S. agrees with them about the danger of “Islamophobia.”
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
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