Nowruz Mobaarak نوروز مبارک

Today the Obama Admin’s gesture to the Iranian people was a well thought out gem. It was an important moment to reach out, and will cause a lot of stir around Iran. Especially with his use of Persian, and his usage of Sa’adi, a poet whose beautiful poetry is on the lips of every Iranian, along with Hafiz , Rumi and Omar Khayyam. It was a complete extension of the US ‘hand’ to show that the US is committed and respectful of the people. He talked directly to the regime, rather than just the Iranian public, committing to a policy, not of regime change, but of “mutual respect”.

Unfortunately the press in Iran is really not reporting reaction to Obama’s speech because during this two-week holiday, it is closed for celebrations. But the Washington Post reports comments from an aid to Ahmadinejad:

A spokesman for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed Obama’s overture, but told Reuters news service the United States can only forge new ties with Iran “by fundamentally changing its behavior,” including reversing support for Israel and sanctions against Tehran.

“So far what we have received have been unfriendly fists,” Ali Akbar Javanfekr told Reuters. “Unlimited sanctions which still continue and have been renewed by the United States are wrong and need to be reviewed . . .Supporting Israel is not a friendly gesture and the New Year is an opportunity for the United States to change this policy.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, Javanfekr said the United States must also apologize for long-ago actions, including supporting Iraq in its war with Iran in the 1980s; downing of an Iranian civilian aircraft with 290 passengers on board in 1988 (the U.S. has expressed regret for the loss of life and paid damages, but has not apologized directly to the Iranian government); and helping to organize a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government in 1953.

“As Mr. Obama said, Nowruz is a time for new beginnings. This can be a lesson for Mr. Obama,” Javanfekr said. “The fact that Mr. Obama in his letter mentioned that we should speak with mutual respect is very good.”

So as Obama’s comments are welcoming, the regime presents more of the same. And if the Iranian press was active it would be reporting more of this, sometimes harsher, sometimes softer, from all the top regime officials who comment on US-Iran relations almost daily. Additionally my guess would be that they would be complaining that Obama’s veiled demands are reverberations of Bush rhetoric, and that his gesture comes on the heels of a renewal of yearly sanctions just last week, not showing ‘change’ or ‘mutual respect’ at all.

This is classic regime rhetoric, and has been the same ‘talking point’ since Obama has taken office and presented more outreach to the Islamic Republic. They still want an apology and fundamental impossible changes in US policy in the region. The conditions the regime sets before possible rapprochement with Iran include things such as apologizing for everything the West has perpetrated against Iran, breaking ties with Israel, removing troops from the region, etc., etc.

The usually marvelous Spencer Ackerman argues, ‘Why not apologize?’. But apologizing to the regime will only embolden their resolve to stand against US interest. Sure, it may open quicker discussions, and the US sure has dark moments vis-à-vis Iran, but the Islamic Republic will only use the gesture as proof that the Great Satan has bowed to the Revolution. The stubborn stance in opposition to the US will be payed off by US apology. Not apologizing is not about keeping US pride, but about how the Islamic Republic will use this overture of US regret to further the regime’s stability and strengthen the Revolutionary millenarianism.

Moreover, a regime with such vehement human rights abuses should have no apologies extended its way just yet. Apology would embolden its Revolutionary resolve. Dissidents fill their prisons, and regime apparatus is always on ready to shut down any action that smells of opposition to the fundamentals of the Revolution. So many Iranians within and without the Iranian state are fighting to reform the Revolutionary stance and allow for a greater civil society. A complete and absolute gesture to Iran such as an admittance of guilt can work to subvert the work done by these Iranians.

As soon as the US apologizes, the Islamic Republic has the upper hand. IF the US ever does use the gesture of apology to get something one day, it has to be within the context of discussions, and targeted at certain concessions. Let the US utilize this current overture of peace, internationalism, and cooperation as a stepping stone and let the Islamic Republic do something this time.

UPDATE: Via The Cable: More reaction and analysis from University of Hawaii Iran expert Farideh Farhi and the Carnegie Endowment’s Karim Sadjadpour: “With Obama having clearly expressed his support for reconciliation with Iran, this becomes an internal Iranian battle, and unfortunately, it won’t be resolved anytime soon. But Obama shows in this video that instead of tipping the scales in favor of the radicals, as the Bush administration did, he will pursue diplomacy to undermine their narrative that a hostile U.S. government is bent on oppressing Iran.” Farhi analyzes Khamenei’s response.

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~ by The Common Man on March 20, 2009.

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