Iran,  Obama

Obama’s positive New Year message to Iran

Guest post by Kamran Ashtary

Kamran Ashtary, an Iranian, and his wife Tori Egherman, an American, lived and blogged in Tehran from 2003 to 2007. Their blog is at Tori’s guest post appears above.

The Iranian regime wants us Iranians to believe that President Obama is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This message is their response to Obama’s election and policies regarding talks with Iran. Don’t forget that Ahmadinejad said that a black man could never be president of America. That means they were not prepared to deal with someone who would publicly offer a hand for dialogue and a better relationship.

Is President Obama sincere in his attempts to start a better relationship with Iran? We still need to wait and see. What is clear by now, is that if his policy of engagement fails it won’t be the fault of the US alone. It is fine if Obama want to quote our beloved poet, Saadi, to show respect and understanding of our long history, but we have heard this before, we have been there, and we know that game very well,

The US needs to come up with concrete steps and let us Iranians know what they are offering publicly. The one thing that Iranians from all walks of life agree on is our desire to be an independent nation. We won’t accept anything less.

There are a lot of measures that the US government can take to build trust. Not all of those have to do with the Iranian government’s willingness to start dialogue with the US. I see Obama’s New Year message as positive, but we need more than that.

At the same time the response of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, can be understood as nothing other than asking the US to go down on its knees and beg for forgiveness and take responsibility for the manipulation of the last 500 years of Iranian society. His demand for changes without discussion is the same as the American policy of demanding preconditions for talks.

Khamanei said, “They are talking of extending a hand to Iran on the occasion of the New Year and they are congratulating the Iranian people…At the same time, they are accusing [Iran] of terrorism and the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.” He also said, “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.” There has already been a change. Is he not paying attention?

I remember very clearly that power freaks in Iran said they would never negotiate with anyone if there are preconditions for talks. Since Obama has become president, I have not heard of any preconditions from the US. This in itself is a huge change in policy and a good step forward. Now the Iranian regime is setting up preconditions for talks with the US, which we all know, will never be accepted. They want an end to the economic embargo before they even sit down at the table together. They use the renewal of sanctions as a reason not to trust Obama. This game of diplomacy has not delivered anything so far and cannot open any doors for dialogue. Maybe Iran needs to realize that they finally have a partner who knows which game they are actually playing. It seems to me that Obama can play as well as the regime itself.

I truly believe most of the time that the Islamic Republic of Iran is not capable of having a normal relationship with the US because negotiation requires openness and a fair understanding of each other’s concerns. They have invested too much in defining themselves as anti-American, which has been especially effective for them among the populations of many Arab countries. I think this coy game that the Iranian regime is playing is designed to remove any discussion of human rights and democratic values. They are playing hard to get, hoping that they will be offered more and more and more.