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Obama on Iran

Posted by Jill Marie Parillo on February 2, 2009

More hints on what new U.S. policy on Iran will look like from an interview President Obama did on Al-Arabiya Arab TV Network January 26. Highlights and why they are important:

"And so what I told him [George Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating...he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response."

This is important for two reasons. One, there is no sign of transformational change on the horizon for U.S. policy on Iran, but maybe after taking stock of the players and current debates/deadlocks by "listening," we will see this Administration implement a very different policy. Two, if Mitchell is not just reporting to Clinton (as I thought previously), then Obama will make his own judgments based on firsthand accounts. This also means that Obama he is prioritizing this issue. Hopefully his Iran envoy will report directly to him once in a while as well.

"...ultimately, people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration's actions."

Obama says that his actions will speak louder than his words, including the actions of his Administration, which include people in important posts, like Gary Samore (super senior NSC director), who have said drastically different things on Iran than Obama. It is too early to tell if Obama will be able to turn his words into actions, taken by him and his team.

"...as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that."

A welcome change in our President's respectful tone, very important if we are going to decrease tension in US-Iranian relations.

"Iran has acted in ways that's not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon..."

When you read the transcript, this could be taken as if Obama is talking about the past, but when you listen to the video, it sounds like he is saying that Iran has already made the decision to pursue a nuclear weapon capability. Iranian officials will not take this lightly.

Full Text of interview here.

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