[Marxism] Iran dismisses Obama overture

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 21 06:40:12 MDT 2009

Iran's supreme leader dismisses Obama overtures

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 21, 2009; 7:45 AM

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed 
overtures from President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran does 
not see any change in U.S. policy under its new administration.

Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday in 
which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new 
year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of 
strained relations.

Khamenei holds the last word on major policy decisions, and how Iran 
ultimately responds to any concrete U.S. effort to engage the country 
will depend largely on his say.

In his most direct assessment of Obama and prospects for better ties, 
Khamenei said there will be no change between the two countries unless 
the American president puts an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and 
brings "real changes" in foreign policy.

"They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We 
haven't seen any change," Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of 
tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

In his video message, Obama said the United States wants to engage Iran, 
but he also warned that a right place for Iran in the international 
community "cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through 
peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian 
people and civilization."

Khamenei asked how Obama could congratulate Iranians on the new year and 
accuse the country of supporting terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons 
in the same message.

Khamenei said there has been no change even in Obama's language compared 
to that of his predecessor.

"He (Obama) insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day. If 
you are right that change has come, where is that change? What is the 
sign of that change? Make it clear for us what has changed."

Still, Khamenei left the door open to better ties with America, saying 
"should you change, our behavior will change too."

Diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iran were cut after the U.S. 
Embassy hostage-taking after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which toppled 
the pro-U.S. shah and brought to power a government of Islamic clerics.

The United States cooperated with Iran in late 2001 and 2002 in the 
Afghanistan conflict, but the promising contacts fizzled _ and were 
extinguished completely when Bush branded Tehran part of the "Axis of Evil."

Khamenei enumerated a long list of Iranian grievances against the United 
States over the past 30 years and said the U.S. was still interfering in 
Iranian affairs.

He mentioned U.S. sanctions against Iran, U.S. support for Iraqi 
dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980-88 war against Iran and the 
downing of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988.

He also accused the U.S. of provoking ethnic tension in Iran and said 
Washington's accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a sign 
of U.S. hostility. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful 
purposes, like energy production, not for building weapons.

"Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? 
Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great 
Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional 
support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged," 
Khamenei said.

Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated 
around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted "Death to America."

Obama has signaled a willingness to speak directly with Iran about its 
nuclear program and hostility toward Israel, a key U.S. ally. At his 
inauguration last month, the president said his administration would 
reach out to rival states, declaring "we will extend a hand if you are 
willing to unclench your fist."

"They say we have stretched a hand toward Iran. ... If a hand is 
stretched covered with a velvet glove but it is cast iron inside, that 
makes no sense," he said.

Khamenei said sanctions only served to make Iran self-reliant. Iran 
frequently boasts of achievements in various technological fields, 
including uranium enrichment, space technology, missiles and passenger 
and fighter plane production, despite sanctions.

"Sanctions benefited us. We have to thank the Americans in this sector. 
If sanctions had not been imposed, we would have not reached the point 
of progress and technology we are in now," he said.

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