Pepe Escobar: How the Obama presidency is developing its Iran strategy

Dandelion Salad



January 30, 2009
12:00 PM
Contact: The Real News Network
Geraldine Cahill 416.916.5202 Ext:423

The letter to Iran

How long will Obama’s self-declared mutual understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim world last?

Almost three months after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory letter to Barack Obama, the new administration in Washington is set to respond with its own ‘symbolic gesture’ designed to usher in a new era of détente. Pepe Escobar, political commentator for The Real News, asks whether reiterating Republican rhetoric that accuses Iran of ‘sponsoring terrorism,’ will jeopardize the opportunity for progress in relations between the two countries. Iran, Escobar states, may counter demands that Iran cease or change its behavior with similar requests of its own, as has been the status quo for many decades.

As ever, actions will speak louder than words, and the presumed appointment of Dennis Ross as one of the new Middle East envoys should worry the Iranians considerably. Ross is the co-founder and chairman of an organization called ‘United Against Nuclear Iran’, whose website offers pre-emptive congratulations to Ross on his recent appointment to the Department of State, even before any such news was announced officially. In addition, Ross is a ‘counselor and distinguished fellow’ of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described by scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as ‘the crucial think tank of the Israel lobby.’

The next presidential elections in Iran are scheduled for June, and Escobar contends that Ahmadinejad retains a ‘good chance of winning’, despite the diplomatic and economic blunders of his term so far, because the specific apologies he has demanded from the US are popular with the Iranian people. Firstly for the CIA-financed coup of 1953 that placed the Shah in power, and secondly for the shooting down of Iranian Air Flight 655 in 1988, a disaster which claimed the lives of 290 civilians. Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen has recently told the Jerusalem Post that the use of force against Iran is still an option, albeit a ‘last resort.’ In both Washington and Tehran, moderates and radicals are fighting for leverage in the policy-making process, and the stakes remain extremely high in these first tentative steps towards improved relations and diplomacy.