Merkel Plays Hard

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Kevin has hit the road for a few days. He’ll be back on Tuesday. I’m sitting in his cyber-chair until then.

After President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a sit-down at the White House this morning, the two held a joint press conference at the White House. There were a few questions about Iran, and Merkel talked tough on the subject without causing ruptures. She declared, “we will not forget” what has happened to participants in the Iranian oppoosition who have been suppressed, beaten, and killed. “We will do everything to identify the exact number of victims,” she said, and who they were. “Iran cannot count on the world community turning a blind eye,” she said. Merkel noted that it’s “so important” for dissidents “to know that people somewhere else in the world” are watching what they are doing. By speaking in such terms, she went–for good or bad–further than Obama, who did again condemn the Iranian crackdown on the opposition. Merkel referred to concrete steps that can be taken, at least in retrospect. And I wonder if Obama will feel compelled at some point to do likewise. Then again, that will probably depend on what happens with the opposition in Iran. If things quiet down, such pressure will ease.

At the same time, Merkel said, she “completely agreed” with Obama that the United States and Germany had to work with Russia and China to find productive ways of engaging with Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

Now, Germany ain’t the United States, and it certainly doesn’t have the same bad history with Iran. Merkel has far more latitude to express outrage and to propose responses. Obama is probably still getting the balance right. Sometimes it just doesn’t look pretty.

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