Will Iran Slap Obama's Peace Overtures?
The Middle East - and Iran issue specifically - lies at the center of so many foreign policy hurdles for the United States. The pursuit of peace in the Middle East and the reestablishment of a legitimate U.N. entity can only start with a proven warming of relations between the U.S. and Iran.
- A thawing of tensions with Iran helps smooth the way for Israeli / Arab coexistence.
- The skittish global community would benefit greatly from the reduction in its daily dose of death in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Lebanon and a multitude of state-sponsored actions throughout the region
- The fracturing of regional / national allegiances either uniting against U.S. interests or floundering in miserable confusion for the status quo of U.S. dominance - is wholly dependent on the middle east question being resolved peacefully.
So will President Obama's gentle overtures - soothing words, flamboyant gestures and smiling mannerisms be met with interest, curiosity, dismissal or derision by Iran?
Who is even in charge of Iran? the Supreme Leader - Ayatollah Khomeini - or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Some clearly and blatantly indicate the Ayatollah as the clear and indelible force within the Iranian regime - whereas others indicate a shift in power towards President Ahmadinejad.
In the eyes of the Iranian people - long exhausted by economic sanctions, the tug-of-war between the Clerics, the Government and the often confusing opposition politicians - perhaps Obama's speech to the Iranian people on 'Nowruz' - the Persian News Year's day - is the opportunity they've been waiting for?
Predictable Reactions from Iran (already):
- Ayatollah Khomeini: (LA Times)
"... Iran's highest spiritual, military and political authority, told supporters in his hometown of Mashhad today that "changes in words" won't be enough to convince Iran that the Obama administration is sincere in its outlook.
"We do not have any record of the new U.S. president," he said in a live television broadcast. "We are observing, watching and judging. If you change, we will also change our behavior. If you do not change, we will be the same nation as 30 years ago. "
- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration: (Associated Press)
"... said "minor changes will not end the differences" between Tehran and Washington.
"Obama has talked of change but has taken no practical measures to address America's past mistakes in Iran. If Mr. Obama takes concrete actions and makes fundamental changes in U.S. foreign policy toward other nations including Iran, the Iranian government and people will not turn their back on him,"
If Iran seeks changes in U.S. policy towards Iran as measurements of sincerity by the Obama administration then they should look no further than recent statements by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at a Pentagon press conference earlier this week.
"In a television interview on March 12, Gates appeared to reverse years of U.S. warnings that it would consider all options, including military, to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Instead, Gates asserted that neither Obama nor his successor would rely on U.S. intelligence assessments on whether Iran has already reached the capability to produce atomic bombs."
The U.S. and Iran have been fighting a proxy war against each other both inside Iranian territory and inside Iraq and surrounding nation states.
It will be interesting to see if CIA-sponsored insurgency actions within Iran - by anti-Mullah factions (such as the MEK) are ceased or at least suspended as President Obama further extends evidence of detente with the complex Iranian regime.
Similarly, will Iran suspend its funding and arming of insurgency groups fighting the U.S. and Iraqi forces inside Iraq territory? Those forces include the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) - a particularly nasty terrorist group notorious for roadside bombs, targeted assassinations and mass murders.
The history of animosity between Iran and the U.S. is deep and bloody. Examples include the U.S. support for once-bretheren Iraq (during the Iran-Iraq War) - which will take a lot of sugar, spice and all-things-nice to remove from the Iranian psyche.
It will be very interesting to see what the next steps are from Iran to match the hand-braking reverse course Obama seeks to take from the aggressive policies of the previous Bush administration.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad faces upcoming elections with an electorate potentially enthusiastic and excited by the warming of policies towards Iran by the U.S. The President, a coy and careful judge of political pulse may move carefully towards Obama's outreach of diplomacy?
One thing is for sure! - It is clearly in the U.S.'s best interests to remove the major obstacle in middle east peace accords - the Iranian / US mutual hatred that has raged for over 30 years. Think tank after think tank concur with the need for diplomacy and not saber rattling.
- About Iran
- Council on Foreign Relations: Restoring the Balance - a Middle East Strategy for the Next President
- NYTimes - Iranian 101 - A Lesson for Americans; the Fine Art of Hiding What You Mean to Say