Thursday, November 5, 2009

Obama Administration on Anniversary of Embassy and Hostage Seizure in Iran: We're trying to be Friends!

By Barry Rubin

Will Rogers, the great American comedian of the 1920s and 1930s, famously said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The problem with the Obama Administration, at least so far, is that it has never met an enemy that it could identify as such.

Of course, the story isn’t over yet. Indeed, one does see signs of change. But we are still getting prologue. Consider for example the Statement by the President of November 4, 2009, on the thirtieth anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy by Iran and the holding of American diplomats and citizens as hostages, an unprecedented act of terrestrial piracy.

Yes, there is a good case for not making such a statement an opportunity for blustering against Tehran, but—like the similar announcement on the anniversary of the murder of 241 American servicemen in Beirut by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah—it doesn’t even mention who were the perpetrators.

After thanking the American victims—“unjustly held hostage”—the statement says in a rather neutral tone:

“This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation.”

That’s f like saying the attack on Pearl Harbor created certain problems between the United States and Japan.

President Barack Obama then says America “wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.” Again, this is an understandable approach. But it is followed by no criticism, no threats, no pressure, and no remarks about Iran’s behavior in recent years or recent days, and then lists a series of nice things the United States has done for Iran:

“We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community.”

And so, he concludes, “Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for.”

Here’s the problem: the Iranian regime has chosen and shows us all every day what kind of future it is for. The only question is when or whether the Obama administration will recognize that fact.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Guide, the country’s most powerful man in the country, made his own statement on the embassy seizure. It’s worth comparing to the one Obama issued.

Khamenei called negotiating with the United States a "naive and perverted" act into which Iran should not be "deceived," which seems a rather non-subtle hint of how willing Iran’s regime is to talk seriously, much less make a deal. He added that the Obama administration has bad intentions against Iran and not to be trusted. In fact, he discounts the long list of supposed nice deeds and concessions Obama listed in his statement on the anniversary.

Khamenei added:

"Whenever they smile at the officials of the Islamic revolution, when we carefully look at the situation, we notice that they are hiding a dagger behind their back," he said. "They have not changed their intentions."
Maybe Obama should start doing some mirror-imaging on that one.

For example, in recent days, the regime has:

--Apparently pulled back from even the not-so-great deal discussed with it for reprocessing its uranium, both stalling, demanding huge changes, and even a totally different arrangement.

--Was shown to have been working frantically at increasing uranium production in a suspicious manner, giving it uninspected and additional sources of raw material for making nuclear weapons. Last year the mine wasn’t in operation. This follows discovery recently of another massive hidden Iranian facility. What else is going on?

--An Iranian ship was caught by Israel smuggling 600 tons of missiles and anti-tank weapons to Hizballah, a client of Iran which gets all its arms and much of its money from Tehran. Hizballah is trying either to take over Lebanon or, more modestly, just to have veto power over that country’s policies while maintaining the most powerful militia, intimidating opponents, and threatening war with Israel. These shipments are in violation of UN resolutions on sanctions against Iran.

--The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a growing power in the country and future direct owner of the country’s nuclear weapons, is starting its own massive press agency as part of its step-by-step program in dominating Iran. While the armed force, which far outstrips the “regular” military, is a close ally of President Ahmad Ahmadinejad, it seems to be extending its power with full support from the supreme guide.

--Iranian security forces beat up peaceful demonstrators yet again.

There's an old military saying: one time is an accident; two times is a coincidence; three times is enemy action. How about dozens of times? When will the message penetrate with the administration's "Will Rogers" policy toward enemies?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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