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American condolences for Raisi reflect a delicate diplomatic ritual

American condolences for Raisi reflect a delicate diplomatic ritual


In the eyes of the Biden administration, Ebrahim Raisi was a brutal tyrant, a sworn enemy, and a threat to world peace.

But hours after confirming that Mr Raisi, who had been Iran's president for three years, had been killed in a helicopter crash at the weekend, the US State Department announced its official condolences for his sudden death.

A terse statement, issued Monday under the name of State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, betrayed no sadness for the Iranian leader, who has frequently denounced the United States and is said to have at least tolerated attacks on American troops by Iranian-backed troops. proxy forces in Iraq and Syria.

The statement quickly sparked outrage among vocal critics of the Iranian government, who repeatedly argued that the United States should say nothing at all or harshly condemn Mr. Raisi, which Mr. Miller later did, when he was questioned by journalists during a daily press briefing.

It underscored the tightrope the U.S. government must walk after the death of a hated foreign leader, as it balances the need for empathy toward populations who may be grieving with the need to tell the truth and clearly express American principles. It's a dilemma that U.S. officials have faced repeatedly over the years following the deaths of hostile dictators in countries like the Soviet Union, North Korea and Venezuela, and have treated in various, and sometimes twisted, ways.

In Mr. Raisi's case, Mr. Miller's pointedly wooden statement simply acknowledged the death of the president as well as that of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and others aboard the helicopter, before sounding off on a political note that Iran's political establishment would find anything but comforting. .

As Iran chooses a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms, Miller said in a statement.

This was not the Hallmark card you could send to a grieving friend or colleague. But it still angered Iran hawks, who are quick to view Mr. Biden as too conciliatory toward Iran.

Offering condolences for the death of this monster is a shame, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton wrote on the social media site X.

It is worth noting that, when questioned at the briefing, Mr Miller was scathing: We have been very clear that Ebrahim Raisi was a brutal participant in the repression of the Iranian people for almost four decades, a- he declared. Some of the worst human rights violations took place during his tenure as president, particularly human rights violations against the women and girls of Iran.

Whatever its merits, this statement set a clear precedent: after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in March 2013 from cancer, President Barack Obama issued a statement to the people of the country, in which he expressed no real remorse for the anti-American strongman.

During this difficult time following the death of President Hugo Chavez, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government, Obama said. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Mr. Obama, however, was more descriptive when former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died of natural causes in November 2016. Mr. Obama, who had recently restored diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana after several decades, opened his statement saying that he had extended a hand of friendship to the Cuban people.

But when it came to the substantial record of Mr. Castro, a repressive strongman and longtime Soviet ally who helped bring the world to the brink of nuclear war, Mr. Obama, probably aware of the fragility of his new diplomatic openness, carefully avoided any judgment.

History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular character on the people and the world around him, his statement said. (Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a staunch critic of the Castro regime, called the statement pathetic.)

These leaders deserved at least presidential statements, unlike Mr. Raisi, whose death was referred to the State Department and its spokesman, Mr. Miller.

Some leaders are so reviled and relations with their countries so poisoned that no statement can suffice. Rather than making a direct statement following the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il in December 2011, the White House simply announced that Mr. Obama had a midnight phone call with his South Korean counterpart to discuss the situation in South Korea. Peninsula following the death of Kim Jong-il.

More often than not, the nuances are complicated, even in the case of infamous tyrants. When Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died of a stroke in March 1953, it was left to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to respond.

As an Army general, Eisenhower had led Allied forces in Europe in common cause with Stalin's Soviet army against Nazi Germany. But in 1953, Stalin was a bitter enemy of the United States. In a statement after Stalin's stroke, Eisenhower gave no assessment of the man himself, saying that America's thoughts are with all the peoples of the USSR, both men and women , to boys and girls from villages, towns, farms and factories of the USSR. their homeland.

They are children of the same God who is the Father of all people throughout the world. And like all people, millions of Russians share our aspiration for a friendly and peaceful world, Eisenhower said.

This is true, he added, regardless of the identity of government figures.




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