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Iran and Obama’s Second Envelope

Yowusa.com, June 14, 2009
Marshall Masters

Iran and Obama's Second EnvelopeAlthough many believe that President Obama is wisely threading a political needle through the recent disputed Iranian election, an old Soviet-era political anecdote is more to the point.

Interestingly enough, when this anecdote is woven together with a prediction from The Kolbrin Bible for modern Islam, a remarkable vision of the future appears.

Widely regarded as a rigged election by world leaders and the media at large, the latest Iranian experiment in democracy has only served to give notice to the rest of the world of an ominous trend. Iran has jumped upon a slippery slope towards becoming another militaristic, wag-the-dog Islamic state such as Egypt or Pakistan, and is going straight into the hands of militaristic Islamists bent on a final confrontation.

So how is President Obama dealing with this situation? He’s trying to change the tone of the rhetoric in a manner that is best described by an old Soviet-era political anecdote I first heard in Moscow back in the early 90’s, and here is how it goes.

The New Commissar

An ambitious young member of the party had finally worked his way up through the ranks to become the commissar (minister) of an important governmental division of the U.S.S.R. He arrived at his new office the first morning full of vim, vigor and self-confidence and sat at his desk for the first time, with a smug sense of accomplishment.

His aide brought him his tea and congratulated him on his new position as he lit his cigarette. Having served in his position for many years, the aide understood how these things were handled, and on his way out the door mentioned that he’d cleaned out the desk, save for some letters, and left.

The commissar opened his desk drawer, and there, as the aide had said, were two envelopes and nothing else. The first enveloped was simply addressed, “Open This After Your First Major Crisis.” The second was addressed, “Open This After Your Second Major Crisis.” Puzzled by the letters, but still confident in his own success, the new commissar pushed the envelopes to the back of the drawer and went on about his way.

Lavished with praise and heartfelt vodka toasts, the new commissar’s political fortunes bloomed as he set about the business of governance. All things looked bright for some time until that first major crisis fell upon him, and gone was the smug confidence. It was then he remembered the 2 envelopes he’d pushed to the back of his desk drawer and found they were still there. His aide has seen to that.

Nervously, he opened the letter addressed “Open This After Your First Major Crisis,” and as he began to read the enclosed letter, his hands stopped shaking.

All it said was, “blame everything on me, and you will be forgiven.” Doing exactly that, the new commissar was forgiven, and much to his relief, he escaped his political predicament unscathed.

Following that, the daily business of governance settled back down to its usual steady roar for some time. Then as before, the new commissar found himself at the center of new major crisis, and once again, he nervously returned to his desk with shaky hands. There waiting for him was the second envelope addressed, “Open This After Your Second Major Crisis.”

Hoping for another bit of redemption advice, the new commissar opened the envelope and read, “The time has come for you to sit down and write two letters.”

With regards to President Obama and Iran’s militarist ambitions, the first envelope has already been opened and played. President Obama has blamed all the major problems he has inherited on former President Bush.

Rightly or wrongly, that is how the first envelope was played, with President Obama's overtures of a new détente with the Muslim world in Cairo, earlier this month. Ergo, the first envelope was used for an “inherited” crisis as President Obama so frequently points out.

Now the question becomes, what will be his second envelope crisis, and this is the truly critical one, as it will be his crisis and none other. What will that crisis be, and what will he do?

Tortoise and the Hare

The overarching question we must keep in mind as we see the Iranian state crack down on post-election political dissent resulting from what many Iranians believe to be a rigged election is this: What exactly are Iran’s national interests at this time?

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