That Richard Perle and Frank Gaffney, two of the neocon cheerleaders for the disaster in Iraq, would blame President Obama for the election fraud in Iran is unsurprising. That once and future Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney of all people would parrot the charge is hilarious. After all, from his repeated conflation of Shiite and Sunni to his aborted crusade for disinvestment from Tehran and other jaw-droppers, Mitt Romney's pronouncements on Iran have been a comedy of errors.
Just days after he slammed President Obama's unprecedented and widely praised address in Cairo, Romney appeared on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopolous to lay Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's apparent sham reelection at Obama's feet:
"The comments by the president last week, that there was a robust debate going on in iran, was obviously entirely wrong-headed. What has occurred is the election is a fraud, the results are inaccurate, and you're seeing a brutal repression of the people as they protest. ... It's very clear that the president's policies of going around the world and apologizing for America aren't working. ... Look, just sweet talk and criticizing America is not going to enhance freedom in the world."
Of course, comic pandering to the Republican Party's conservative base won't enhance freedom in the world, either. And to be sure, it certainly hasn't helped candidate Mitt Romney in the United States.
Consider, for example, Romney's 24 hour disinvestment campaign in early 2007, an effort cut short by revelations his own former employer had recent business dealings with Tehran.
Following the lead of then-former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Romney began his grandstanding on Iranian disinvestment by targeting the Democratic-controlled states of New York and Massachusetts. On February 22, Romney sent letters to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton as well as state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli urging a policy of "strategic disinvestment from companies linked to the Iranian regime." Romney's theatrics continued:
"With your new responsibilities overseeing one of America's largest pension funds, you have a unique opportunity to lead an effort to isolate Iran as it pursues nuclear armament. I request that you immediately launch a policy of strategic disinvestment from companies linked to the Iranian regime. Screening pension investments and divesting from companies providing financial support to the Iranian regime or linked to Iran's weapons programs and terrorist activities could have a powerful impact. New investments should be scrutinized as long as Iran's regime continues its current, dangerous course."
As it turns out, scrutiny begins at home. As the AP detailed, Romney's former employer and the company he founded had links to very recent Iranian business deals:
Romney joined Boston-based Bain & Co., a management consulting firm, in 1978 and worked there until 1984. He was CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, from 1984 to 1999, despite a two-year return as Bain & Co.'s chief executive officer from 1991 to 1992.
Bain & Co. Italy, described in company literature as "the Italian branch of Bain & Co.," received a $2.3 million contract from the National Iranian Oil Co., in September 2004. Its task was to develop a master plan so NIOC -- the state oil company of Iran -- could become one of the world's top oil companies, according to Iranian and U.S. news accounts of the deal.
Bain Capital, the venture capital firm that Romney started and made him a multimillionaire, teamed up with the Haier Group, a Chinese appliance maker that has a factory in Iran, in an unsuccessful 2005 buyout effort.
Caught flat-footed by his hypocrisy that took the AP less than a day to uncover, Romney feebly responded:
"This is something for now-forward. I wouldn't begin to say that people who, in the past, have been doing business with Iran, are subject to the same scrutiny as that which is going on from a prospective basis."
Despite that fiasco, Romney was undeterred. As the GOP primaries approached, the former Massachusetts Governor in September 2007 was talking tough on Tehran again.
With President Ahmadinejad scheduled to speak at the United Nations in New York that fall, Romney sent a letter to UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon in protest. The UN, Romney insisted, should "revoke any invitation to President Ahmadinejad to address the General Assembly." Not content to rest there, Romney demanded the UN prosecute the Iranian President for war crimes over his 2006 boast that he would "wipe Israel off the map." Influenced perhaps by hate speech laws or the 2002 Spielberg sci-fi stinker Minority Report, Mitt believed the Tehran tyrant should be arrested for speaking of crimes he has not yet committed:
"If president Ahmadinejad sets foot in the United States, he should be handed an indictment under the Genocide Convention."
Romney then offered right-wing Republicans, virtually none of whom supported American action to halt actual genocide and ethnic cleansing Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo or Sudan, a two-fer. If the UN failed to act against Ahmadinejad, he suggested a President Romney would retaliate against the hated United Nations itself:
"A failure by the United Nations to take a strong stand against Iran's President Ahmadinejad would be especially disturbing given the United Nations' record of failure to prevent genocide in other circumstances and the failure of the United Nations Human Rights Council to confront the Iranian regime and others among the world's worst human rights abusers. The United States must reconsider its level of support and funding for the United Nations as we look to rebuild and revitalize effective international partnerships to meet 21st century threats."
Alas, like his divestment flop, Romney's showboating again came to nothing.
As it turns out, Romney's difficulties with Iran stem at least in prt from his shocking insistence on conflating all Muslims into a single jihadist threat. In May 2007, Romney alarmingly - and erroneously - equated Sunni and Shiite, friend and foe, the guilty and the innocent across the Islamic world:
"But I don't want to buy into the Democratic pitch, that this is all about one person, Osama bin Laden. Because after we get him, there's going to be another and another. This is about Shia and Sunni. This is about Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the worldwide jihadist effort to try and cause the collapse of all moderate Islamic governments and replace them with a caliphate."
By the fall of 2007, Mitt expanded his umbrella to include Iran. In an October 2007 campaign ad simply titled, "Jihad," Romney amazingly explained that Shiite Iran wanted to join Sunni Muslims in extending their dominion over the entire world:
"We can and will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons...It's this century's nightmare, jihadism - violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism. Their goal is to unite the world under a single jihadist caliphate."
That doubtless came as a surprise to the mullahs in Tehran.
As did, perhaps, the impact of President Obama's powerful Cairo speech on Iranian voters. Appearing on the same ABC program as Romney today, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough reached exactly the opposite conclusion as the would-be GOP presidential nominee:
"I suspect that Cairo speech really scared the grand ayatollahs in Iran...I think in the long term, though -- if the ayatollahs are seen stealing an election, as a result from what Barack Obama did in Cairo -- I actually think that's a positive for the United States and Iran in the long run."
That, of course, is conjecture. But when it comes to Iran, it makes a lot more sense than anything coming from Mitt Romney.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)