President Obama made a significant statement about Iran yesterday, a seeming reversal of attitude, but it did not get the attention it deserved in the mainstream press here.
“The difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised,” the president said in an interview with CNBC and the New York Times.
“Either way,” he continued, “we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighborhood and is pursuing nuclear weapons.”
That doesn’t sound like the Obama who for many months has been focusing on diplomacy and finding common ground with the Islamic theocracy.
It was quite an understatement to say that the leadership in Teheran “has caused some problems in the neighborhood” — like undermining Western military and political efforts in Iraq and scaring the hell out of Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, and Israel, with plans to dominate the region militarily.
But the New York Times ran the story on the bottom of page 13, and the thrust of that report was about Obama avoiding U.S. interference with Iran’s election turmoil.
Perhaps Obama is coming to understand, in the wake of the apparently rigged national election in Iran and the repressive response to mass demonstrations, that there is little motivation among Teheran’s top leadership to accommodate the U.S.
Let’s be clear: Iran is led by religious and military forces that vigorously oppose the West. The candidates for president were carefully chosen and are part of the system of theocratic rule. Moussavi does not deny the Holocaust but he supports Iran’s nuclear program. There is no reason to think he would take the country in a progressive direction, since he or whoever else serves as president does so at the discretion of the supreme religious leader.
The question now is how this realization will effect Obama’s calculations about negotiations with Iran in the coming months, and what happens if those talks go nowhere.