Stanley's blog

President Barack Obama is to be congratulated on his video message to Tehran, but he spoiled it by unnecessarily saying:

“You, too, have a choice. 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, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded:

“Our nation cannot be talked to like this. In the same congratulatory message they [the Obama administration] accuse the Iranian nation of supporting terrorism, pursuing nuclear arms, and such things. What has changed?”

Unfortunately, to Iranian ears, the president sounds like George W. Bush with better manners. The truth is quite different. He understands the need for dialogue and the video was intended to be a step in this direction. Why then spoil its effect this way? As the entire message was short, it must be assumed that it was carefully crafted before recording. If the objective was to obtain a favourable reaction, these words were unnecessary and would inevitably upset the Iranians. This suggests that, however good-intentioned the

President is, he is seeing things solely through an American prism.

Iranian support of Hamas and Hizballah is unacceptable. But so was US policy in deposing Mossadeq, keeping the Shah on the throne and actively supporting Saddam Hussein in his war (which involved the use of chemicals) against Iran.

The first leader in today’s Financial Times describes the video as “a smart move, tone-perfectly delivered…” This lack of sensitivity towards the Iranians is widespread in the West.

(This post was inspired by an oped written by the columnist, Gwynne Dyer.)

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