Browsing the archives for the Iran tag.

Obama’s First Foreign Policy Success

International Politics, Politics

Less than a month in, President Obama can claim his first foreign policy success, if only quietly.  During the run up to the election, Obama said he was willing to have discussions with countries the US has been avoiding for decades, notably Iran.  After the election, he reiterated the point, tossing a bomb shell into Iranian politics.  For the last several years, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has scored political points pitting himself against a politically inept Bush administration.  At every turn, Ahmadinejad has come out on top in the view of his constituents and the larger Muslim world that is his major theater of operations.  Whether he was allowing himself to be battered by aggressive university crowds in the US (see how poor the hospitality is in the US) or refusing to correct poor translations in the NY Times (Ahmadinejad never said anything remotely like Israel “should be wiped off the face of the Earth”), he effortlessly outwitted his US opponents who weren’t able or willing to put in the effort to court Muslim opinion.  Those efforts have been critical to his administration because the tide of economic discontent that brought him into power is still there and growing.  In a country with huge oil reserves, there are routine power outages in Tehran.  The economy continues to sputter and the best and brightest in Iran leave. If he could have prompted a military strike, his reelection would probably have been guaranteed.

But the Obama administration presented Ahmadinejad with a new challenge and so far he seems not to know how to handle it.  Apparently, Ahmadinejad perceived Obama’s open hand remark as a weakness because his first response was an anti-US tirade perhaps meant to test which way the Obama team would jump.  But the Obama team didn’t jump, not to a reflexively defensive position, nor to an aggressive position.  That open hand just sits out there.  Ahmadinejad’s demands for apologies seemed to get no where in the international press with some outlets pointing out that the Clinton administration had already apologized for just about everything where Iran was concerned.  Without a radical US response, grumblings in Iran’s progressive communities started to percolate.  Former President Khatami, a well known reformist, had been vacillating on whether to jump into this year’s election, but with Ahmadinejad’s fiery late January speech failing to rouse, Khatami decided to toss his hat into the ring, offering the Iranian people a real, sharp choice in how they want their country to proceed.  Last week, Ahmadinejad had to backtrack, saying

The Iranian nation is prepared to talk. However, these talks should be held in a fair atmosphere in which there is mutual respect.

This seems to be the first diplomatic round the US has won since Ahmadinejad has come to power.  The rhetoric has failed, at least temporarily.  Between now and June, the Iranian people will have to look at that extended hand to determine if they want to reach out for it.  Not that a Khatami victory will change the world overnight.  Despite real efforts from the Clinton administration, Khatami could not overcome interference from the theocracy to affect real change in the ’90s.  Still, it’s a chance and that is more than we had last month.


Is the “Great Satan” missing a Great Opportunity with Iran?

International Politics, Politics

In the Axis of Evil, there is one evil that stands above the rest, a country whose president will cause protests and allows commentators to rant for days in advance of his visits.  Of course that country is Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

President Ahmadinejad visited the UN last week and we were treated to all the usual fireworks.  Senator Clinton and Governor Palin jostled to attend a National Coalition to Stop Iran Now protest, President Ahmadinejad made more anti-Zionist remarks and generally heaped ridicule on the US and both Senators McCain and Obama vowed to prevent Iran from getting the bomb in last Friday’s debate.  More important though, are Obama’s and McCain’s positions on negotiating directly with Tehran.  Are we missing a rare opportunity to actually make some progress with a country that has been a thorn in our side for twenty five years?

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