President Obama's Norooz (Iranian New Year) message to the people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran was hailed as a groundbreaking effort, a clear departure from the Bush administration's stance, in reaching out to Iran. America's hand, as promised earlier by Mr. Obama, was stretched toward Iran, hoping to encounter the unclenched hand of Iran from the other side.
While most Americans are primarily concerned with the economic downturns affecting everyone's lives these days, some do go past the diversionary trivia saturating the news and entertainment media and do pay attention to other global events that could prove consequential to the welfare of the nation. Among such events is the US/Iran relation which has come t o the fore with the announcement of America's new foreign policy tactics and strategies under the new administration.
It is in the opinion and editorial pages of the newspapers and TV commentaries that we find reactions to and analyses of Obama's message to Iran and Iran's response to that gesture. And the few among the public who do show interest in such developments have seldom anything to go by other than what could be gleaned from the same news and entertainment media in the first place. In this circular catch 22, it is not surprising that a recent AOL survey finds that 80% of the respondents consider Iran a "threat" to America! It is safe to say that better than 80% of Americans cannot even locate Iran on the map of the world.
It is in this kind of atmosphere that President Obama's message to Iran is being hailed as a grand gesture of magnanimity in America's part, and a new opportunity for the Iranians to shake the hand that is stretched out to them in earnest - or else!
Or else?! Let us see if "or else" is embedded in Mr. Obama's message to the Iranian people.
The general tone of the President's message is quite friendly to the point, at times, of sounding almost condescending, and that is where the tone of the message becomes less than 100% sincere. And, in between all the candy coated phrases we can clearly detect the "iron hand" that is also candy wrapped, with no effort to actually disguise its true contents: The President warned Iran that it cannot "take its rightful place in the community of nations....... through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization." This is clearly implying that the President has not let go of the long-running accusations against Iran of supporting terrorism and the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Aren't we looking at the Carrots-and-Sticks strategy approach all over again - offer the donkey some carrots from one hand and make sure the animal sees the stick in your other hand?
Well, Iran does not perceive itself as some donkey facing its benefactor, an errant schoolchild being gently reprimanded by the school superintendent, or a disturbed patient under the care of a psychiatrist. No negotiation or attempt at a rapprochement can ever take place, not just with Iran, but with any other sovereign nation big or small, if one side insists on playing the dominant role and dictating the terms. This method has not worked to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and will not work in resolving the apparent impasse the United States faces with Iran.
Here, of course, I am analyzing and commenting on the first stage and clearly the superficial aspect of America's new approach to the Iranian government, as well as Iran's expected response, which would be just as superficial and for public consumption, to Mr. Obama's message. As I have expressed before in my previous articles on this subject, I am quite hopeful, if not 100% convinced, that real and honest negotiations have been and are taking place behind the scenes.
Contrary to what the mad-dog media pundits, the neoconservatives, Zionist lobbyists and Israel-firsters portray, the so-called "Mullahs" that govern the Islamic Republic of Iran are not a bunch of 10th century Islamic fanatics ignorant of the workings of the modern world. The average seminarian in the city of Qum knows more about the current world affairs than the opinionated pipsqueaks, Sean Hannity or Glen Beck, of Fox TV.
Iran's source of authority, Ayatollah Khamene'i, who has the last word on major policy decisions of the country, including matters of foreign policy, did not send an official reply to President Obama's Norooz message but, instead, referred to that message within the context of his own Norooz greetings to the people of Iran during his visit to the holy city of Mashhad.
Mr. Khamene'i could have easily sufficed by an official thank you message returning Mr. Obama's complements, accompanied by a short response which would read in part: ...And yes, we also agree that America can not regain its rightful respect in the eyes of the international community and its place within the civilized world through the show of its might, threats of war and regime change, intimidation and interference in the affairs of other nations, but rather through peaceful actions and show of respect for the international law, demonstrating America's true greatness.
This way, Mr. Khamene'i's reiteration during his speech in Mashhad of old grievances, such as the American supported attack against Iran by Saddam Hussein, the downing of Iran's passenger jet by an American warship in the Persian Gulf, the withholding of billions of dollars of Iran's funds for three decades, etc., would have been unnecessary. This is especially true when, as we have seen numerous times, a lengthy and needlessly detailed speech provides ample fodder for reinterpretation, misinterpretation and deliberate distortion by the overzealous analysts, most with their own ulterior motives. A perfect case in point was the speech by Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran about the "Zionist usurpers", which has become firmly established as his declaration to "wipe Israel off the face of the map."
Finally, in response to the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, who so shrewdly piggybacked his own Norooz greetings to the Iranian people with that of President Obama, the Iranian President Ahmadinejad, not Ayatollah Khamene'i, should have replied: We understand very well your gesture of goodwill toward the Iranian people, hoping that they would rise up against their regime and establish a more progressive and friendly society conducive to a peaceful and constructive relationship with their neighbors and the region. Likewise, I, as well as the large Jewish community of Iran, the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel, similarly wish that the progressive, intelligent and peace-loving people of Israel would topple the radical rightwing Zionist regime that continue to bring mayhem and devastation to the region as well as to the honorable Israeli people, and replace it with peace-loving, fair and honest leaders that your ancient civilization deserves.
Needless to say, the Israeli President's message to the Iranian people was not only a rather amateurish redundancy, it was a counterproductive gesture by a senior politician whose diplomatic skills are quickly fading with the onset of senility. To the Israeli leadership's surprise, the White House was clearly displeased with that incidence.
Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to , with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at email@example.com. More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: www.intellectualdiscourse.com.
... Payvand News - 03/23/09 ... --