By Iran Review
By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
The US presidential election ended on November 6 and the incumbent President Barack Obama won another four years in office as the president of the United States. Without a doubt, speculations by political experts are now rife as to the possible foreign policy approaches that Obama will adopt during his second term. Here, I, as an Iranian, want to make three wishes for the next four years of the United States’ and its president, Obama.
1) I hope when Obama is outlining his new Middle East policy, he will have one more opportunity to review the transcript of his address in Cairo to remember what promises he gave during that address and what new horizons he illuminated. Perhaps, the political developments in the Middle East have totally changed and rearranged the political scene in this region, but a review of the perspective that Obama presented in his Cairo address, and later in another address in Indonesia, represented a basic approach independent of any kind of developments, to the Islamic world. That viewpoint had embedded in it a balanced attitude mingled with respect for cultural differences which tried to understand the sensitivities of the Muslim nations. As such, it proved that for the first time, such issues will not be subject to Washington’s double standards in order to facilitate the realization of the United States’ national interests. This mentality was predominant, at least, in the minds of many Muslims across the world.
2) I hope Obama will remember what promises he gave about the rights of Palestinians and what ideas he put forth on this issue at the beginning of his term as president in the White House. He will also hopefully remember what hope he gave the people of the Middle East (who consider the issue of Palestine and Palestinians an everyday reality of their lives regardless of whether they are Muslims, Christians, or Jews) that the new president of the United States would be different from former American chief executives. In fact, Obama’s proclaimed policies gave people the hope that for the first time there would be a firm resolve to restore the rights of Palestinians or, at least, to create a new balance in the severely unbalanced relations between the United States and Israel.
3) As for Iran, I wish Obama will remember what he said in his first Norouz (Iranian new year) message to Iranians: “…I would like to speak clearly to Iran leaders…. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right, but it comes with real responsibilities. That place … [can be only achieved] through peaceful actions which demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.” He further referred to the tradition of Norouz festival among the Iranians, noting, “So on the occasion of your new year, I want you people and leaders of Iran to understand the future that we seek. It’s a future with renewed exchanges among our people and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It’s a future where the all divisions are overcome; where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.”
Let’s not forget that in the final part of his message, Obama read a poem from the world-famous Iranian poet, Sa’di, and said, “There are those who insist that we be defined by our differences, but let us remember the words that were written by the poet Sa’di so many years ago.” He added, “For nearly three decades, relations between our nations have been strained…. With the coming of the new season, we’re reminded of this precious humanity that we all share.”
That message was met with a logical and positive reaction from the highest-ranking Iranian authority, that is, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. In a public address, the Leader said, “…They say they have stretched out their hand to Iran [for friendship]; we say, if the United States is holding a cast-iron hand beneath the apparently velvet glove, this measure will have no meaning and value.”
Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized in the same address that “Any change should not be simply rhetoric and with impure intention. If you want to simply change policies and tactics while maintaining the same goals, this is a trick, not change. And if you intend to make a real change, it should be seen in action. At any rate, all American officials and others should know that the Iranian nation cannot be duped or scared.”
The Iranian leader then rounded up his remarks by saying, “Our argument is that as long as the US government has not changed its methods, policies, measures and hostile approaches that it has followed in the past 30 years, our nation will be the same nation [that it was] in the past 30 years, which has also become stronger, more stout and more experienced in the course of time. Our nation hates it to be spoken to with a language of threat or subornation; of course, we have no past record on the new US president and government; therefore, we will judge them on the basis of their performance.”
The main point, however, which Obama has apparently forgotten is that at the same time that he was reading out his new year message, key people in his country’s foreign policy apparatus, including his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Dennis Ross (Clinton’s Special Advisor for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia) held different viewpoints and, unfortunately, their cynical views took the center stage in the US foreign policy. Approving frequent budgetary allocations to help the opposition of the Iranian government, making serious moves in order to have the United Nations Security Council approve its Resolution 1929 against Iran, as well as taking rapid and hasty measures to intensify sanctions against Iran proved that the American officials made no effort to keep Obama’s promises creditable, at least, for a few months. The way that Obama dealt with Tehran Declaration, which had been worked out through joint efforts of Iran, Brazil, and Turkey, and inattention to the letter the Obama himself had written to the then Brazilian president (Lola da Silva) only a month earlier, clearly proved that either Obama had no genuine intention to bring about change, or Iranians had reckoned too much on the power of the US president in the face of pressures from the Congress as well as the political lobbies which were opposed to Iran.
In conclusion, I hope Obama will remember that during the past four years, he has introduced Iran as the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world because of Tehran’s support for such resistance groups as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas movement. He has spared no effort to make the United States’ European and Asian allies accept this idea. The reality of what has happened in past years, however, shows that these groups have only taken steps to defend their territories and the lives of their people only when their territories were attacked and invaded by Israel. Also, let’s not forget that Israel has had – and will continue to have – the worst record in the contemporary history in terms of occupying other countries’ lands and also holds a record in terms of the resolutions that the United Nations has issued to condemn Tel Aviv for human rights violations. On the other hand, Salafi groups and members of al-Qaeda are currently active in terrorist operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and even the United States while Washington continues to support countries that are openly supporting such groups. Do Al-Qaeda and Salafis stand for real terrorism, or Hezbollah and Hamas? Apart from propaganda claims by Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas, how many real terrorist operations have been actually recorded to have been carried out by these liberation movements in the past years? Can the same be possibly said about Salafis and Al-Qaeda?
At any rate, under the pretext of the continuation of diplomatic efforts, the Iranian people are under such heavy sanctions which have had no precedence under any of the former US presidents. Perhaps, it made no difference to us, Iranians, whether Obama became the president or Romney; in any case, it seems that there is no more left to be made subject to further sanctions! However, if Obama could remember what viewpoint he had set forth for Iran and the Middle East and what policies he has actually implemented in practice, perhaps he would consider we, the people of the Middle East, entitled to reach the conclusion that he has not been honest in his foreign policy as he has rapidly changed his promises and positions with any development in the region. I wish we could make a fourth wish for the US president and could have faith and hope that it would finally come true: “Evolution of a balanced and logical change in Obama’s policies toward the Middle East during the next four years, especially with regard to Iran, which would include good understanding of Iran’s viewpoints as well as its political and security concerns.”
Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review