Should Iran negotiate with Obama?

How Iranians see America's new president

Obama “is offering the hand of friendship” to Iran, said the Tehran E’temad-e Melli in an editorial. According to reports in American newspapers, Obama plans to make good on his campaign promise to break with eight years of belligerence and isolation, and negotiate with Iran “without preconditions.” His early actions indicate that this new president is indeed someone we could talk to. He has already ordered the closure of the horrid Guantánamo prison camp. In his first foreign interview, which he gave to an Arab network, he emphasized “mutual interests and mutual respect” as a basis for dialogue with Muslims. And, tellingly, his inaugural address did not mention Israel at all—probably “the first speech made by an American president during the past couple of decades that makes no mention of support for Israel.”

Not so fast, said Ja’far Golabi, also in E’temad-e Melli. Obama also failed to condemn Israel’s attack on Gaza, an inexcusable omission. True, Obama was not yet president when that travesty occurred, but still, “he might at least have expressed concern as an American citizen over continuing violence in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need to respect human rights there.” So it remains unclear whether Obama’s approach to the Middle East really will be fundamentally different from that of George W. Bush. Still, at least he seems sincere about pursuing American policy through diplomacy, rather than “militarism” and war. “While the shift is entirely calculated and political, a world hungry for humanity can use it and turn the world into the realm of the meeting of ideas, opinions, cultures, and writing.”

If Obama is abandoning militarism, it’s only because America has been defeated on the battlefield, said Tehran’s Siyasat-e Ruz in an unsigned commentary. Don’t mistake his new approach for moderation or enlightenment—it is born of desperation. America is still America, no matter who presides in the White House. Many Iranian politicians agree that if there are to be negotiations with Obama, Iran is the one that should set preconditions. “America must withdraw its military troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and take its troops out of the Persian Gulf region.” Then it should apologize for the threats and false accusations it has made against Iran. If, at that point, the Supreme Leader agrees to accept the apology, we might be willing to open negotiations.

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Note the “mixture of relief and contempt” the Iranians are displaying toward Obama, said Caroline Glick in The Jerusalem Post. Pleased to be accommodated, they are also disdainful of anyone foolish enough to accommodate them. What’s worrying is that Obama seems “convinced that the U.S. is indeed to blame for the supposed crisis of confidence that the Islamic world suffers from in its dealings with America.” He really thinks it’s his job to show them he is contrite, rather than their job to prove they have stopped sponsoring terrorists and stopped trying to build nuclear weapons. With Obama in the White House, “Israel is alone in recognizing the necessity of preventing Iran from acquiring the means to destroy the Jewish state.” That means that the next Israeli government will have to “take whatever actions are necessary to prevent Israel’s destruction."

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