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06/01/10

One Year after Obama's Cairo Speech

By Dr. Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Deputy Director; Tehran International Studies and Research Institute (Source:  Iran Review)

In his article, Arab Attitudes One Year after Cairo, which was covered both by newspapers and online news websites, Dr. James Zogby, has first discussed reasons for the primary positive attitude of Arab experts and public opinion toward President Obama before adding, "But as our polls made clear, there was also a deep-seated and well-founded wariness that after decades of hopes betrayed and promises broken, as some respondents told us, 'no US President can change American policy'."

In addition to being true reflection of Obama's policies in the Arab public opinion, the above sentence can also account for the current attitude of Iranians toward the US President. A few hours after Obama addressed the audience in Cairo last year, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei noted that a change in ways cannot be made through words and rhetoric alone, but needs action and compensation for the wrongs done to Iran and other regional nations by the United States.

One year after Obama's promising address in Cairo, which contained the following highlights:

- "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone;"

- "...any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty;"

- "...in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education;"

- "...while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement;"

the Iranian public opinion has lost hope in realization of his "change" motto and now believes in the Supreme Leader's proposition, which had been echoed in Zogby's international polls: "No US President can change American policy."

Last year, however, was a special period for international relations and its varied impacts on those relations cannot be denied. The sweeping economic crisis in the United States as a result of global economic recession, post-election unrests in Iran and subsequent reaction of Obama and other American statesmen to them, unexpected stalemate over Arab - Israeli peace talks, security developments in Iraq and Afghanistan and US interactions with Pakistan have added to communication complexities which Obama promised in Cairo to make fundamental changes to.

However, as a Palestinian citizen in West Bank or Gaza witnesses the United States rejection of Richard Goldstone's report on war crimes in Gaza while being unable to stop construction of new Jewish settlements, he/she cannot trust US vows to pressure Israel into compliance with international regulations. Also, as an Afghan citizen cannot understand why civilian casualties are rising in US military assaults while Bagram Prison is still operational despite international protests; and as an Iraqi or Jordanian citizen indicates his/her disapproval of Obama's policies by supporting only 30 percent of them1 ; an Iranian citizen, likewise, has every right to doubt the truth of Obama's "change" motto when observing US-orchestrated drafting of the fourth Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran at a time that the declaration issued by Iran, Brazil, and Turkey is still new and after hearing Turkish foreign minister saying that the political initiative taken by his country and Brazil has been encouraged by the United States in the first place.

Unfortunately, no scientific figures are available on the general attitude of Iranians toward Obama's performance in recent weeks. Although to Iranians, Obama and his policies are much more valuable than Bush and his approach, if the present conditions lingered and US policies toward Iran did not change compared to Bush Administration, then Obama's cultural messages to Iranians at the beginning of the Iranian new year and his rhetoric about necessity of better interaction with Islam and Muslims would appear more like empty promises.

Obama initially proved that he knows where the main problem lies by putting emphasis on improving "Muslim perceptions of America." However, one year after his historical address in Cairo, international polls conducted by Zogby as well as Pechter Middle East Polls show that Muslims are losing hope at Obama as rapidly as they placed their hope in his post-election policy announcements.

Related Link: Obama's Address: A Point of View

Notes:

1.http://bitterlemons-international.org/inside.php?id=1272

About Iran Review: Iran Review (www.iranreview.org) is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

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