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The Race for Iran


After our visit to Tehran a couple of weeks ago, we wanted to share some of our observations.  We highlight six points, in particular.    

First, we are struck by how much hope was invested in President Obama by a wide range of Iranians—from students to senior officials and other important elites.  Iranians were positively impressed by Senator Obama’s courageous campaign stand in favor of U.S. engagement with the Islamic Republic, which stood in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s threat to “totally obliterate” Iran.  Like people in many other parts of the world, Iranians were struck by the election of the first African-American President of the United States, and by the many unique and compelling aspects of Barack Obama’s personal story.  The Tehran University graduate students in American studies with whom we spent time told us that both of Obama’s books had been required reading in some of their classes.  Moreover, we saw that Obama’s books were available in Persian translations, making them accessible to a much wider Iranian audience.  Even today, Iranian policymakers and other elites seem strongly inclined in private conversation to draw a distinction between Obama the individual—who is still seen as a highly intelligent and basically good man—and the American political system of which he is a part.  (And, of course, Obama’s name provides the basis for an Iranian pun—ū bā mā means “he is with us” in Persian.)    

Second, Iranian policymakers and other elites believe that their government tried to respond positively to President Obama’s early efforts at rhetorical outreach to the Islamic Republic.  In this regard, our Iranian interlocutors underscored the significance of the public remarks made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei two days after Obama issued his Nowruz message last March.  Perhaps most importantly, Khamenei said in these remarks that, if the United States were to change its behavior toward the Islamic Republic, the Islamic Republic would change its behavior as well.  Our Iranian interlocutors emphasized that this statement represented a calculated and rapid response to Obama’s Nowruz message from the Islamic Republic’s highest level of authority.  Some of our interlocutors pointed out that Khamenei’s formulation—which left it up to Obama to determine what “change” in American behavior he was prepared to pursue—was deliberately crafted to maximize Obama’s room to maneuver.       

Third, we are struck by how much disappointment there is among Iranians that Obama now appears unwilling and/or incapable of changing U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic.  We wrote last week about the corrosive effect that the perception of continuing U.S. involvement with groups such as Jundallah is having on Iranian assessments of the Obama Administration’s seriousness and good intentions.  More broadly, from an Iranian perspective, there has been no substantively meaningful change in U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic during Obama’s presidency.        

In some cases, this perception has sparked a rhetorical backlash against President Obama.  This was perhaps most prominently displayed in January, when Mohammad Javad Larijani—a former parliamentarian and deputy Foreign Minister who is one of Iran’s leading physicists, head of the country’s human rights council, and brother to both the parliament speaker and the head of the judiciary—made a widely noticed statement while addressing the Islamic Society of Engineers in Tehran: 

“When Barack Obama was sworn into office he talked of verbally engaging Iran.  What has changed is that today the kaka siah [a racial term, described in some commentaries as ‘the equivalent of the N-word in Farsi’] talks of regime change in Iran…I am not a racist, but I must respond to this man somehow.” 

Some of our interlocutors put this observation in a more structural context, expressing concern that the U.S. political system will not allow Obama—however well-intentioned he may be—to take America’s Iran policy in a fundamentally different direction, and that these structural constraints may be more acute for Obama because he is African-American.        

Fourth, we believe even more strongly than before our trip that the Islamic Republic is in no way a society on the verge of fundamental political upheaval.  Since the Islamic Republic’s presidential election last June, we have come under much criticism for arguing that Mousavi’s supporters in that election and the Green Movement which arose in the election’s wake did not represent a majority of Iran’s population.  We were in Tehran just after 22 Bahman (February 11), the anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding, which was widely seen as a manifestation of the Green Movement’s attenuation and the extent of popular support for the Islamic Republic. 

For all of the critical discussion of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, Tehran stores are fully stocked, with a wide range of consumer goods and foreign products, including automobiles, personal computers, and high-end Asian electronics. Notwithstanding the global financial crisis that broke in the summer of 2008, Iran’s economy has not gone into recession and continues to grow.  According to the IMF’s latest assessment of the Iranian economy, published last month,

“Iran’s economic performance was strong in recent years…at the same time inflation has declined significantly.  The current account surplus is estimated to have remained strong in 2008-09 despite the drop in oil prices reflecting good performance in non-oil exports.”

Unlike virtually every other large Middle Eastern city, there are no visible signs of grinding poverty in Tehran—e.g., slum neighborhoods, beggars on the streets, etc.     

Slowly and reluctantly, some of those who let themselves be swept up in a wave of enthusiasm for the Green Movement are beginning to acknowledge, however grudgingly, the accuracy of our analysis.  (Our favorite example of this so far is a sentence in a recent article about us by Michael Crowley in The New Republic.  While trying to muster as much criticism of us as he could, after summarizing our analysis of Iranian domestic politics since the June 12, 2009 presidential election, Crowley wrote, “It is not obvious that this analysis is wrong.”)  Conversations and observations in Tehran confirm our assessment that the Green Movement’s social base is shrinking, not growing.  We met a number of young people who claimed they had supported Mousavi’s presidential candidacy (and, in some cases, said they had participated in demonstrations against the results in the first few days after the election) but who now say they are deeply disappointed in Mousavi—in particular, for having continued protesting against the outcome after failing to produce evidence of electoral fraud. 

There is no significant elite challenge to the current political structure.  Mousavi is increasingly marginalized.  Former President Khatami has been publicly silent of late.  While we were in Tehran, the Islamic Republic’s Assembly of Experts—headed by former President and current chairman of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—convened for one of its regular, twice-a-year meetings.  In his opening address, Rafsanjani—whom a number of Western analysts had mistakenly estimated would lead a behind-the-scenes effort to remove the Supreme Leader—said that

those who care for the revolution must clarify their position vis-à-vis supporters of regime change and opponents of the Supreme Leader, and must regard him as the center of unit.”

Fifth, Iranian assessments of President Obama’s seriousness and good intentions are also being negatively affected by the Obama Administration’s evolving positions on post-conflict stabilization in Afghanistan and Iraq.  With regard to Afghanistan, Iranian policymaking elites are appalled at the Administration’s willingness to engage the Taliban about prospective power-sharing with the Karzai government.  As one of our interlocutors put it to us, “if you [the United States] want to make a deal with the Taliban, why did you come to Afghanistan in the first place?”  Similarly, with regard to Iraq, Iranian policymaking elites are put off by the Obama Administration’s championing of the cause of former Ba’athists who have been disqualified from participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections.  In this regard, one of our interlocutors said that the United States would lose all influence in Iraqi affairs if it continued to champion the cause of the disqualified Ba’athists.  Iran, though, has such wide and deep influence in Iraq that it could work productively with virtually any of the Shi’a political slates.    

Sixth, President Obama’s statement in his State of the Union address linking the Green Movement and grassroots efforts to promote the status of Iranian women strikes us as both ill-informed and misleading about the issues confronting women in the Islamic Republic.  There are certainly restrictions on women in the Islamic Republic that we would challenge in our own society.  However, it would be a serious mistake for the United States to base its Iran policy on a faulty premise that the Islamic Republic is a misogynistic political order which systematically represses women and that the United States should, therefore, seek to “help” Iranian women by promoting regime change. 

As far as the status of women is concerned, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It is also not Afghanistan.  Women in the Islamic Republic vote and are represented throughout the Iranian government, including at the ministerial level.  Women are now the majority of the students in many schools and departments in Iranian universities (including medical faculties); in the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran, which hosted us, women constituted a clear majority of the graduate students.  Women hold faculty positions at Iran’s leading universities, including as department chairs at the University of Tehran.  (We even saw a female bus driver in Tehran.)  From our conversations with female graduate students at the University of Tehran, we got the impression that those women see themselves as having real choices in life—e.g., what to study, what profession to enter, etc.  They also face dilemmas and challenges that would be very familiar to professional women in the United States today—such as how to find a husband who is as educated as they are. 

The political views of Iranian women seem to cut across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum.  Certainly that was our impression of the political views of the educated, professionally-oriented young women we met at the University of Tehran.  In this regard, Western polling data suggest that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad carried the women’s vote in the June 12, 2009 presidential election.  While Western media exhibited a strong proclivity for posting pictures of Green Movement rallies in which women were prominently featured, a review of any reasonable sample of photos of “pro-government” demonstrations would suggest that at least as high a percentage of women were involved in those gatherings.  (Perhaps the women captured in photos of pro-government rallies are somewhat more conservatively dressed than those in the Green Movement gatherings, but they were present in large numbers.)      

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett



  1. pablo says:

    It seems to be that the Leveretts have tied themselves up in knots over Iran and their analysis looks more and more like an apologia for the actions of the Iranian regime. Any rational human being would accept the reality that Iran has become a police state which is underpinned by the might of the Sepah and Baseej. You trash the Green Movement to suit your analysis and by doing so you effectively condone the regime’s thuggish behavior. Now wonder they gave you visas.

  2. To Integrity:

    Who gives the mantle of dictating human rights to the United States or any Western colonial powers? The U.S. is simply using the human rights issue as another attempt to interfere in the affairs of other countries. Have you ever taken a look at the human rights record of the United States? If not maybe you should.

    Our double standards and hypocrisy is the reason why we as a nation we do not have any credibility to discuss human rights abuses until we put our own house in order.

    Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009


  3. integrity says:

    if you do not believe in universality of the human rights YOU are racists. islamist regime in Tehran –like you– does not believe in universal human rights and easily practices gender, religion, ethnic discrimination –exactly like your fascist beliefs. which racist organizations are paying you?

  4. Eric A. Brill says:


    “But thinking a bit laterally, that could be the ace up the US sleeve. They know the Israelis behave in a certain way; give them cause to do a bit more of it, but this time leave it unsanitised. I’ve said it before, but I think the only way to cut the legs out from under the Lobby is a rapid public awareness programme.”

    I share your sentiments completely, Alan – or at least the part of me that looks forward with hope shares them. As is probably true for you too, there’s another part of me that looks back, decades back, and that part of me isn’t quite so optimistic that it will be different this time. I hope so, but I’m not going to bet any portion of my retirement funds on it.

  5. Alan says:

    Eric – yes, it has worked for decades. But thinking a bit laterally, that could be the ace up the US sleeve. They know the Israelis behave in a certain way; give them cause to do a bit more of it, but this time leave it unsanitised.

    I’ve said it before, but I think the only way to cut the legs out from under the Lobby is a rapid public awareness programme.

    Also, while Israeli belligerence or the threat thereof in the region has leveraged certain policies out of the US in the past, I don’t think threatening Palestinians with either violence or landgrabs has ever been on the US Richter scale (much to my disgust).

    So when it comes to dealing with Israel over Iran, I just think Obama holds all the cards – he’s just got to play them.

  6. Eric A. Brill says:


    “Give them the rope, and see if they hang themselves. If they do, it prepares Obama’s ground for him. Mind you, I never thought Israel would be as stupid as this. Maybe they think they can use I/P as leverage to get Obama to attack Iran. They really live in a weird self-deluded bubble if they do.”

    Who’s deluded — they or we? It’s worked for several decades. Biden may have shown up 90 minutes late, and in a grumpy mood, but he finished his meal, didn’t he?

  7. Eric A. Brill says:


    Thanks, but I assure you I don’t get all of my news from the NY Times. I read it principally to see what it leaves out, as you pointed out it had here. (In this case, I had NOT yet read other accounts of Biden’s dinner with Netanyahu.)

    It’s often worse. Consider this passage (from a draft article on the 2009 Iran election I’ve been working on — footnotes omitted here):

    “The year [2009] closed with a multi-day protest held during the Muslim holiday of Ashura, culminating with a large opposition rally on December 27, which was followed by a larger pro-government demonstration three days later. As had occurred before the election, Western press coverage focused narrowly on the opposition rally. According to a guest op-ed published a week later in the New York Times [penned by our own Flynt and Hillary, published 1/5/10], opposition sources had estimated the December 27 protest crowd in the “tens of thousands” and other sources had estimated “2,000 to 4,000.” A third source, said to be an opponent of Ahmadinejad, had estimated the crowd at the December 30 pro-government rally at 1,000,000 people. The last of these estimates may have surprised readers, since most Western news accounts had reported a much smaller pro-government crowd. The most extreme example had appeared in a long article by Michael Slackman published by the New York Times on January 1, 2010. In an otherwise detailed account of the preceding five days’ events, Mr. Slackman estimated the December 27 protest crowd at “tens of thousands,” but did not even mention that a pro-government rally had occurred.”

  8. Matthew Sutton says:

    Eric, I do hope you do not get all of your news from the New York Times. Here is one of the sources reporting on the “90 minute delay.” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8098c658-2bc0-11df-a5c7-00144feabdc0.html

  9. Alan says:

    kooshy – fair comment, but I think if there is to be change, and assuming Obama wants it, he still has to prepare the ground for it first.

    This is why, perhaps, Biden’s trip to Israel is now significant, where it wasn’t before. Israel announcing those 1600 houses was startling for the brazen audacity of it, and the outright disrespect it showed to Biden, Obama and the US. Biden’s deliberate 90 minute delay, accompanied by a statement that basically said Israel was saying one thing to his face while physically doing the exact opposite, turned all the sycophantic, sick-making overtures he had been making to Israel the previous day into about as hard a line as the US have managed on Israel for years.

    Give them the rope, and see if they hang themselves. If they do, it prepares Obama’s ground for him. Mind you, I never thought Israel would be as stupid as this. Maybe they think they can use I/P as leverage to get Obama to attack Iran. They really live in a weird self-deluded bubble if they do.

  10. Eric A. Brill says:

    “Reports are that Biden was 90 minutes late to the dinner that Eric referred to.”

    I’ll be darned — the New York Times article on Biden’s visit neglected to mention that — guess they must have run out of space.

  11. Matthew Sutton says:

    The settlement announcement during Biden’s visit was a genuine slap in the face to the U.S. Reports are that Biden was 90 minutes late to the dinner that Eric referred to. I think the Obama Administration, despite its various mistakes, genuinely wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who Obama was criticized for expressing compassion for during the Presidential campaign. I think they are putting their best face on the Israeli announcement in hopes of getting these “indirect” talks started, but I suspect that they are privately fuming.

  12. kooshy says:

    Here is one even better,

    Biden: You Don’t Have to be Jewish to be a Zionist


  13. Eric A. Brill says:


    “Look in to Biden’s recent trip to the region , how much change can you see?”

    Great photo in today’s NY Times, front page, top center. Biden and Netanyahu sitting down to dinner, with their wives, and with numerous Israeli and US flags on the table and in the background. I can just imagine the dinner table conversation:

    Netanyahu: Joe, did you happen to catch our announcement, just before your plane touched down, that we’re going to build 1,600 more settlers’ units in East Jerusalem?

    Biden: Yeah, I noticed it, Bibi, and I want you to know we’re pretty upset about that. Ooh, what’s that in the little white dish over there? That looks yummy!

  14. kooshy says:

    You are right there, nothing new on Linda’s,
    I just posted it because I thought is good to know what is been put out in the Persian Gulf region

    Fully agreed, but like what the great philosopher of our time Donald Rumsfeld said (with a small twist)
    You go to war/ sanctions with the Foreign Policy you currently have not the one you wish to have.

    Look in to Biden’s recent trip to the region , how much change can you see ?


  15. Eric A. Brill says:


    Thanks for the link, though I didn’t see anything new in Linda Heard’s article.


    P.S. One exception: Her sentence below may have increased the risk that yet another noun will be transformed into an acceptable verb, which, of course, could adversely “impact” the English language:

    “Like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, any attack on Iran would not pass muster in the UNSC unless there is proof that Iran is physically aggressing another country.”

  16. Roger Thomas says:

    It’s very sad how gullible people can be.

    A change in US foreign policy in the Middle East?

  17. Alan says:

    kooshy – I think you’re right about the basic conflict at the core of US regional strategy – that it relies on “governments” rather than “nations”. However, wouldn’t it be of major strategic advantage for the US if they reversed that approach, to concentrate on nations rather than governments?

    The US are in a strategic cul-de-sac with their current approach. There is no escape if they maintain it, and the risks of maintaining it grow by the day. Change is required, so today’s “fundamentals” may not be quite as fundamental for the US as they appear.

  18. Iranian@Iran says:

    For me this was the most interesting part:

    “Our Iranian interlocutors emphasized that this statement represented a calculated and rapid response to Obama’s Nowruz message from the Islamic Republic’s highest level of authority. Some of our interlocutors pointed out that Khamenei’s formulation—which left it up to Obama to determine what “change” in American behavior he was prepared to pursue—was deliberately crafted to maximize Obama’s room to maneuver.”

  19. kooshy says:

    It’s all about who controls the Gulf
    By Linda S. Heard, Special to Gulf News
    Published: March 9, 2010

  20. kooshy says:


    “I think that there is a strategic conflict of un-compromise able interests between the US and Iran, unlikely to be resolved in any predictable future.”

    You are precisely correct in your analysis of existing “strategic conflict of un-compromise able interests” for a rapprochement between Iran and US,

    I like to add, contrary to the perception propagandized by US media and the hopeful foreign policy elites, Obama’s election did not and could not have changed these fundamental differences that has existed since the Iranian revolution, regardless of Mr. Obama’s views or strategy before his delectation.

    There is a fundamental misunderstanding with American strategic view of the Middle East, which every day you will hear “we are there just because we need the energy.”

    Well fine and dandy, what Americans don’t understand is, that the Iranians are not there because of the oil or energy, they actually live there along with all sort of people, their neighbors, being it Shih , Sunni , Arab, Turk, Kurd ,etc. and they can’t change that.

    The United States’ policies for Middle East is totally based on the Governments of the region and not the Nations of the Region, obviously is simpler and cheaper to work with a few kings and presidents then investing with the nations.

    Since the revolution of 1979 that resulted in Iran’s independence from US’s regional/global policy, Iran’s regional policy requirements are completely opposite of the current US Middle East policy. Iran needs and must base its regional view on the nations of the region and keep the streets pleased with its regional policy positions; US cannot have any of it, they have long broken every hearts and minds that at one point they might have had.

  21. Liz says:

    There is poverty everywhere in the world. However, Tehran is much much better off than other capitals of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Subcontinent. If you include the millions of indentured servants (virtual slaves) in the UAE, Saudi, Bahrain…It is better off than them as well. You would rarely see a begger in Tehran, a homeless person, and there are no slums neighborhoods unlike in most of these country’s capitals.

  22. Dan cooper says:

    U.S. criticized on Iran sanctions:

    The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said.


  23. Dan cooper says:


    I could not agree more with your statment regarding Israel lobby.

    Israel lobby is also dameging US/Turkey bilateral relationship.


    ‘Jewish lobby behind U.S. Armenia genocide vote’:

    Pro-Israel lobbyists had previously backed Turkey on the issue ? but changed tack in retaliation for Turkish condemnation of Israel’s policies in the Gaza Strip, the Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily said in an editorial, according to Israel Radio reports.

    Pro-Israel activists manipulated Congress to damage Turkey, says London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

  24. Chris says:

    An issue that is sometimes missing in a discourse on US-Iran relations is the role of the Israel lobby in setting the tone and agenda for Washington. Israel is parading itself as an ally of the United States while at the same time pushing for policies that is harmful to the United States in the long run.
    The role of the Israel lobby in setting US policy in the Middle East has to be brought into the open and fully analyzed. Until this is done, one cannot fully dissect the subject in a meaningful way.

  25. Mohammad says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your analysis of the situation in Iran and Iranian perceptions of Obama and his attitude towards Iran. Iranians have failed to communicate their impression that Obama’s failure in engaging Iran was not Iran’s fault, and no real change happened in US attitude towards Iran. Obama seemed to hope that beautiful words would make a change, while his administration failed to compromise on serious issues. Most American analysts who I have read, have not understood this. I’m not implying that Obama was not sincere, I think that there is a strategic conflict of un-compromiseable interests between the US and Iran, unlikely to be resolved in any predictable future. I just hope the two countries manage to prevent the escalation of the situation to a more destructive one.

    And two corrections: First, Mohammad-Javad Larijani is not a physicist; he is a mathematician (as well as a cleric and an engineer by education) who left his PhD in mathematics in the University of California, Berkeley unfinished to return to Iran at the wake of the 1979 revolution. He is the founder and director of the prestigious Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (formerly Institute for Research in Theoritical Physics and Mathematics, a.k.a. IPM, see ipm.ac.ir).
    Second, I am a Tehran-dweller and I think your description of signs of poverty in Tehran is not accurate: “Unlike virtually every other large Middle Eastern city, there are no visible signs of grinding poverty in Tehran—e.g., slum neighborhoods, beggars on the streets, etc.” There *are* visible signs of grinding poverty in Tehran (esp. beggars on the streets, even slum neighborhoods), albeit not as some people would exaggerate.

  26. Iranian says:

    By far the majority of Iranians living inside Iran prefer their own culture to some of the cultural trends existing in the US today. While Iranian women (and men) would all like to see constant improvements it their situation, they do not see all of these so called restrictions as necessarily negative. For example, many believe that in order for the family as an institution to be protected certain restrictions for men and women are a positive thing. Western values aren’t necessarily the values that all educated and normal people would prefer.
    In any case, as pointed out, even by western standards (which are not universal), Iran is far more open and progressive than any of the US allies in the region.

  27. Liz says:

    What is pathetic is that we’ve been hearing the same thing from Washington for three decades and the people there still don’t seem to learn. Today the US is growing relatively weaker as its global rivals grow more powerful almost on a daily basis, but the US governments is still more inclined to make things more difficult for itself and others by pursuing perpetual conflict.

  28. Mehdi says:

    Jay Leno, John Stewart, Bill Mahr … all need to start using some of your material aka analysis for their routine :-))

  29. kooshy says:

    Iran officials lash out at ‘thug’ Petraeus
    (AFP) – 7 hours ago

    TEHRAN — Top Iranian officials lashed out on Tuesday at US General David Petraeus for his comments asserting the Islamic republic is becoming a “thugocracy”, saying such terms are only used by “thugs.”

    “The murderous government of the United States is a government of thugs which has killed thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said in the assembly.

    “This exhausted general has insulted the Iranian government by calling it a government of thugocracy. It is understandable why you (Petraeus) utter such comments because the people of the region hate you,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Larijani as saying.

    Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, said on Sunday that Iran is becoming a “thugocracy” given its attempts to suppress popular anger over last year’s contested presidential vote results.

    “I think you’ve heard it said by pundits that Iran has gone from being a theocracy to a thugocracy,” Petraeus, whose command stretches from Egypt to Pakistan and includes Iran, said on CNN.

    Washington has sharply criticised Tehran for its crackdown on anti-government protesters since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June last year.

    Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between security forces and protesters since the election dispute erupted, while hundreds have been put on trial for plotting to topple the Islamic regime.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast too hit out at Petraeus.

    “Such language is used by thugs… this attitude is of thugs,” Mehmanparast said at his weekly press conference.

    “We feel officials in the United States are furious. We don’t know why they are furious… maybe due to their failure in launching a soft war (against Iran) or that the role of their intelligence services has been revealed in the case of (Abdolmalek) Rigi,” he said.

    Iran captured top Sunni militant Rigi last month and accused US, Britain and Israel of supporting him in carrying out attacks against the Islamic republic.

  30. Iranian@Iran says:

    Larijani did not say that and it should be removed from the website.

  31. kooshy says:

    On this point (choice of Ross) you are correct, comments on the Iranian media was very negative when WINEP spread the leak of his appointment with the Iran portfolio. More importantly what triggered Iran’s consciousness prior to Ross’s appointment was the appointment of Hillary, they were questioning how could he advocate change of policy toward Iran (perhaps he needed to get the left vote) and appoint the ever Iran obliterating madam as your chief diplomat. With the Ross’s appointment in state, they understood that the change he is talking about is the regime change in Tehran (same as Condi’s). This is why that Mr. Khamenie in his response to Mr. Obama’s Norouz message responded with you (US) show a real tangible change in your policy then we (Iran) will show you ours. He went on to say that, so far you are reaching your Iron feast inside a velvet glove. With regard to the inaugural speech.

    With reference to Sakineh’s comment

    In Persian “MUST,” means yogurt, when a person is called like “MUST,” it means that person is lazily incapable

  32. Dan cooper says:

    Washington’s Road to Ruin

    US – China: Provoking the Creditor, Hugging the Holy Man

    By James Petras


    Ultimately what we have is a conflict between two diametrically opposing political economic systems.

    On the one hand, a United States military driven empire, which focuses on conquering Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, backs the ambitions of a militarist Israel, seeks marginal client states in Latin America and militarizes Pakistan, Colombia and Mexico.

    On the other hand, China deepens its economic ties with dynamic Asian countries; increases its oil links with Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Gulf States, Venezuela, Russia and Angola; displaces the US as the leading trading partner of Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile; and increases its trade and investment links with Southern Africa in minerals and related infrastructure projects. The contrast is striking.

    China’s global economic expansion is confronted by US military encirclement, diplomatic provocations and a massive anti-Chinese propaganda campaign designed to deflect US public attention from the extreme imbalances in its domestic economy.

    Instead of looking inward to understand why the US is declining, the Obama regime encourages the public to blame China’s supposedly unfair trade policies, its ‘restrictive’ investment policies, its manipulated currency rate and its tough response to secessionist movements funded by the US.

    In the end the US will not resolve its budget deficits and trade imbalances, not to mention its endless imperial wars, by pandering to self-described divine rulers, like the Dali Lama, and provoking a dynamic economic power such as China. Nor can Washington escape its profound economic imbalances by catering to Wall Street speculators and ignoring the decline of America’s productive forces.

    Drones, military surges and surrogate puppet armies engaged in endless wars are no match for the surging investments, robust developing markets and joint ventures linking China with the dynamic emerging economies of the world.

  33. JohnH says:

    Obama has been drifting, allowing–almost inviting–powerful forces to force him onto the shoals.

    In the case of Iran, he could have shown more leadership in pursuing negotiations. Instead he’s on the verge of being eaten by the Israeli lobby and their neocon allies.

    Nowhere is this clearer than in the timing of Berman’s resolution condemning the Turkish genocide of Armenians. It comes at such at a critical juncture that it is hard to imagine any intent besides torpedoing the imposition of effective UNSC sanctions against Iran, where Turkey holds a key vote.

    That would put Obama into the trap that Likudniks and neocons seem to have been building for him, forcing a binary decision on the only two remaining choices–war or being cast as Neville Chamberlain II.

    The buck stops squarely with Obama and his passively letting powerful forces drive him to disastrous choices. Will he learn to steer the ship of state before it’s too late?

  34. Dan cooper says:

    Attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

    Mullen Wary of Israeli Attack on Iran

    By Ray McGovern


  35. Sekineh Bagoom says:

    Flynt and Hillary, thank you for this!

    What is also not understood in the West is how much Iranians like the U.S. (Amrika) Americans, in particular of African American. Regardless of the Kaka Siah comment, Iranians have special affinity for the black race. Ask Muhammad Ali for example when he stepped out of his car in Esfahan and saw thousands gathered to see him(admittedly, he is the Champ, so it’s bigger that the black issue). Ask the first hostages to be release in the Iranian hostage crisis. YES, the first hostages to be released in the first few days were women, and African Americans. Look it up.
    With regard to ū bā māst (he is with us – mast=yogurt), I’d like to add, since coming to office he is more like watered-down version of his former self, so it’s more like ū bā doogh (doogh = yogurt drink, sorry, couldn’t resist this Farsi pun).
    ū bā doogh has been hamstrung by U.S. military industrial complex and The Lobby, who say beat them till they submit.

  36. Eric A. Brill says:

    Thanks, Flynt and Hillary, for a really useful report and analysis.

    One thing not mentioned was Iranians’ reaction to Obama’s choice of Dennis Ross as the State Department’s point man on Iran. It struck me as a bad omen, and many Iranian commentators felt the same way, when the choice was announced. Maybe other Iranians were willing then to withhold judgment, but now that Obama has failed to follow through, don’t more of them openly question whether the choice of Ross suggests that Obama wasn’t sincere from the start?