Friday, November 7, 2008

Letters...of hope

The world keeled over with joy at around GMT 4:20 early Wednesday when Barack Obama secured the states of California, Oregon and Washington and with it the necessary votes to win the Presidency. Throughout America, people reveled in their new found sense of self-confidence. Internationally, peopled basked in the realization that this impending version of America would not be as foolish as its predecessors.
Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saw something in Barack Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" mantra, congratulating our new President-Elect on "gaining the majority of the vote. The Iranian President went on to remark on Obama's proposed foreign policy mindset, saying that, "Iranians will welcome such changes." Them and me too. The 30th anniversary of the 1979 Embassy siege is quickly advancing and yet the thaw of diplomatic relations between the two countries has not been forthcoming. The unfortunate thing is that if it was the Iranian Government that served its purpose in governing the country and did not let the Ayatollahs run around, Iranian-American relations would be a lot more amicable. Obviously that's like Gordon Brown telling the Queen where to go but nonetheless, proof lays in the friendship that has developed between Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mayor of Tehran. Now with Ahmadinejad's virtual statement of intent and Obama's promises, maybe, just maybe, US-Iranian relations can begin to approach stability.
Of course, the power of the Ayatollahs is not to be underestimated - they were rumored to be behind the temporary displacement of Ahmadinejad earlier this month, which was officially put down to exhaustion. A man who is threatened like that will be less inclined to break from the past, due largely to the sheer difficultly of such an action. It seems as if it was truly Ahmadinejad and Qalibaf who controlled the country, Iran would be well on the way to reconciliation with the community but unfortunately such a situation is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future. That isn't to say such a situation would be unsavory - a secular society will have to be put in place for that to happen, another unlikely event. After all, who would want to relinquish power.
Unfortunately, in a move that underlined the political and religious complexities of the Middle East, Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister warned against unconditional dialogue between the American and Iranian Presidencies: "dialogue at this time is liable to broadcast weakness." Livni is missing the point. As Obama himself said in reference to the poorer, rural White Americans, "
It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy." That quote also transfers beautifully the situation of Israel: surrounded by those with opposing views, it follows the suite of the aforementioned demographic. Unfortunately, this mindset - which, thankfully, is restricted largely to the Army and Government, has the ability to destabilize a whole region, as it has for so long. As soon as that changes, things can begin to seriously progress. Until that point, Livni's perception that her government's word can send ripples through the region will remain frighteningly true.
As if echoing that last thought, Barack Obama today declared that he
would be reviewing the Iranian president's letter of congratulations and responding appropriately, rather than reacting in a "knee-jerk fashion". Had Livni not gone and ruined this sense of goodwill, perhaps Obama would not have been dragged into discussion in the Iranian Parliament, where he was criticised. The Speaker, Ali Larijani said "It [Obama's reviewing of the letter] signals a continuation of the erroneous policies of the past," he said. "Change has to be strategic, not just cosmetic."A fair analysis - at least Larijani had enough to dexterity to not throw a spanner too far into the works. On the other hand, Livni and the Kadima Party are putting one-upmanship over their country's safety, blind to the fact that a resolution of differences between the US and Iran and all its implications can only be beneficial to Israel. We can only hope Barack Obama does not pick up her rose-tinted spectacles.

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