[Marxism] Iran leader to Obama: "If you change your attitude, we will change ours"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Mar 22 08:40:18 MDT 2009

Informed Comment
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Khamenei Adopts a Wait and See Attitude to Obama; 
"If You Change Your Attitude, We Will Change Ours" 

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday, "Of course, we
have no prior experience of the new president of the American republic and
of the government, and therefore we shall make our judgment based on his

The US corporate media mysteriously interpreted Khamenei's words as a rebuff
to Obama, but in light of the phrase I just quoted, I can't understand how
they reached that conclusion. Certainly, he did say repeatedly that Iran has
had a pretty horrible experience with the United States, and that it would
take more than some nice words to change Iranian minds about Washington. You
could say that this was a grumpy old man response to Obama's call for
engagement. But you can't call it a rebuff, since Khamenei explicitly says
that he has no basis for making a judgment about the Obama administration as
yet, and will respond to its actual concrete policies.

Interestingly, the French news agency, Agence France Presse, got the story
right, entitling their article, "Iran ready to change if US leads way:

And, the Iranian PressTV had an even more enthusiastic headline: "Iran vows
response to real US change." 

He said that the Iranian public would be offended if anyone addressed it
with a discourse of carrots or sticks. That was when he immediately excused
Obama from any such charge, saying the latter had a clean slate. 

Elsewhere in the address he pledged, in AFP's translation, "If you change
your attitude, we will change our attitude."

Iran's leader pointed out that the name of the US in the world at large is
mud because of offensive US policies (he is probably thinking of wars of
aggression, torture, etc.). He counsels that the US should change its
behavior so that gradually its would gain the esteem of the world.

Khamenei did specify the practical steps the US might take to show it was in

1. He implied that the US was behind Sunni terrorism against the regime in
Iranian Balunchistan near the the Pakistani border (Baluch are Sunnis and
tribal and dislike the Persian, Shiite government in Tehran. Some observers
have accused the US of fomenting terrorism among such minorities, and
Khamenei appears to accept the theory).

2. He implicitly complained about continued US support for and use of the
Iranian terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), whose base in Iraq
(given them by Saddam to harass Iran) the US continues to maintain and guard
despite the Iraqi government's desire to close it down and expel the
Mojahedin. The US State Department has declared the MEK a terrorist
organization, but the Pentagon is said to still deploy its members for
covert ops inside Iran. In these two points, which are allusive in the
speech, he is essentially accusing the US of being a major sponsor of

3. He complained that the US continued to accuse Iran of sponsoring

4. He complained that the US continues to accuse Iran of trying to build a
nuclear bomb. (Khamenei and all Iranian government officials strongly deny
that charge, saying they only have a civilian research program for energy
purposes; US intelligence assessments back Khamenei up on all this, but the
Washington politicians still routinely speak of taking strong measures
stopping Iran from getting the bomb. Khamenei views such talk as a threat of
aggression and sees the nuclear issue as a mere pretext for US
neo-imperialism. The US dominated Iran during and after WW II and made a
pro-monarchy coup in 1953, saddling the country with a megalomaniac shah who
was subservient to US interests, until the 1979 Islamic Revolution).

5. He complained of continued US economic sanctions and boycotts.

6. He complained of US support for Israel.

This speech laid out the initial Iranian bargaining position. It has
everything but the kitchen sink, and maybe it even has the kitchen sink. It
is like in a US department store when the salesman tells you the
refrigerator is $1200 but in fact you can bargain him down to $1050.

Khamenei also warned Obama to listen directly to Khamenei's own words:
"Contemplate carefully my words. You must under no circumstances give them
to Zionists to translate. Rather, consult with righteous persons." Well, the
crack about Zionists is unfair, but Khamenei is obviously correct that his
speech will be distorted by the Neoconservatives who desperately want the US
to go to war against Iran.

I hope Obama will in fact get a good translation and analysis of the speech,
which is far more welcoming of a potential change in Washington, and shows
far more willingness to negotiate, than the corporate media in the US are

Daniel Brumberg points to Iranian desires for a concrete set of achievable
proposals and impatience with a vague "process" of open-ended talks. It
should be remembered that the would be a domestic cost for hardliners to pay
if they opened to the US, and the cost would be perhaps unbearable if they
brought nothing back from the negotiations in the end.


More information about the Marxism mailing list