Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama Wishes Iranians Happy Nowruz, Quotes Saadi, Gives Liberals Everywhere Massive Hard-On

Holy cultural sensitivity, Batman! In the midst of the greatest economic crisis in almost 100 years, and a massive and near-unprecedented overhaul of domestic priorities, Barack Obama has decided to wish Iranians a Happy New (Iranian) Year. In his message, he managed to quote an ancient Persian poet. He also posted transcripts of his remarks in English and Persian at (I kid you not) www.whitehouse.gov/Nowruz. No, seriously.



The IR interpretation of this is pretty simple: Obama is a defensive realist, conceives of Iran as a security-seeking and not a greedy state, and is attempting to reassure them in an attempt to strike a Pareto efficient bargain on the nukes question. The only problem with this plan, I think, is that Iranian acquisition of nukes is fueled -- no pun intended -- more by Israel than by the U.S. [to be clear, this is just my personal opinion and in no way represents a consensus in the security/IR worlds].

I also think the timing of this is not coincidental in the sense that he is probably seeking to influence the Iranian election this year by trying to secure a more moderate leadership. Though the extent of his influence on that issue is also questionable, at least for me.

But man, no one can say that dude isn't trying.

14 comments:

sarasays said...

i absolutely love the title of this post!

somethingrichandstrange said...

whoa, love it! now if he could only extend this attitude to other countries too (read: pakistan & afghanistan)

somethingrichandstrange said...

after my initial happiness, i was looking this up online, and a little part of me died when i saw bush had made nowruz greeting videos as well. then i checked them out and realized his tone/content had been very different. phew!

Ahsan said...

Somethingrichandstrange:

I think the comparison to Pakistan-Afghanistan breaks down for one important reason. That is the fact that Obama is trying to change the way the state of Iran deals with other states, whereas in Pak-Afghan he is trying to change the way substate actors deal with the state(s) in question.

Also, his administration has made noise about talking to "moderate" Taliban, whatever that/they may be.

supe said...

obama is such a copycat.
ahmedinejad actually made the first move by addressing britons on christmas day '08 (watch it, it was quite lovely and inspirational).

supe said...

might as well link it:
video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wImsDbuDQAI

a small idea of the british reaction :- http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/anger-over-ahmadinejad-christmas-message/2008/12/25/1229998659730.html

Anonymous said...

@ Supe:
Copycat? No, not really. I'm not sure if you're aware, but you're average first-world citizen thinks of Mr Ahmedinejad as a terrorist (I don't necessarily share that opinion), so a Christmas message from him is taken with cynicism. A message from the most popular US President since God-knows-when is taken much differently. What he is aiming for is peaceful cooperation and, at the end of the day, increased multiculturalism within the US, and he might reach his aim, considering how "feel-good" his message is. Secondly, Christmas is pretty much an international holiday, whereas Nowruz is restricted to the Persian community (even Persian expats aren't very numerous in number). So Obama's message is directly aimed at Iran's people and policy-makers. He is assuring the people the US is not a threat, but he is also telling the policy-makers that if they don't fix the problem, the US might be a threat.

Oh, and before Supe's comment distracted me, I was going to comment on that Obama pronounced Iran as it should be pronounced, and not "I-raaaaan". I think my heart just fluttered a bit. I love this guy!

Trevor said...

Oh you just killed the beauty of that speech by bringing that IR crap in. Politics is beautiful but political science is not.

What you did is sort of like explaining a good joke.

Ahsan said...

Trevor:

Hahaha ok. How about I offer you guys a 4 day moratorium on Poli Sci-ese?

Jadev,India said...

If anybody is getting a hard-on by this 'wishing' gimmick..IMAO they should jack-off and relieve their expectations. My reading from all the signals is that across the board there is a consensus that Iran's hardliners have an octopus type grip on the country and they are irreconcilable. So the gestures are to clear the smoke, and let Iranian people see that hard-line clerics are the real problem and hopefully give a boost to reformists in elections(I don't believe in this theory as reformists are split in many ways..).That means Obama will go all the way ..in saying all the nice things and start a methodical climbdown from that position putting all the blame for 'unclenched fist' on Iran..worsening to heavy sanctions..in turn leading to a sea-route blockade. Then, give green light to Israel to mash them up. Though, this scenario doesn't look pretty, alternative is a nuclear-armed Egypt,Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the immediate term which is an unthinkable scenario for Israel and US-EU-Russia-China combined. Anyway with Libermann-Nethanyahu coalition..bombing Iran is a foregone conclusion. Obama has an unenviable term that will see economy, Pak-Af and Iran situation messed-up at the same time..So,its natural that Obama will by design or default will screw himself up..An economy at war is a good way to increase spending and delay effects of recession..so it all makes sense in a way.

Clovis said...

Haha what a perfect title for the piece..I couldn't agree more...
This is why Obama is a statesman...a cut above to say the least.

However, that being said, I was just going to say, that while your point regarding Obama seeing Iran as a security-seeking state is very accurate, and also while I do agree that this is timed with the Irani election, I'm not sure whether they wish to moderate the current leadership or replace it with a more moderate leadership. From where I see it, I don't think that a more moderate replacement such as Khatami is very plausible right now, though correct me if I'm wrong. At present, the Ayatollah has backed Ahmedinejad, and so with the state apparatus on his side, it seems doubtful that he can lose. Moreover, I think the US might be hoping one, for a more narrow victory, perhaps to reduce Ahmedenijads public mandate, and make him more pliable to pressure from the powers at the back, namely Khameini and Rafsanjani, and two, I think these overtures are more directed to give impetus to people like Rafsanjani to push for the Councils to pressure Ahmedenijad into taking the hostility a few steps down, kind of bring them out of their seige mentality, which quite honestly, given their history with the US etc, I cannot totally blame them for. Of course, I can't be too sure of my assessment of things, with such a complex power structure in Iran its really hard to tell. But I definitely do not see the scenarios described in the comment above panning out, Israel is not going to attack Iran without US backing, that would be suicidal for them..and judging by the Obama administration's current approach there is no way theyd back such a move from Israel, they seem to be planning to invest a lot of time and effort into this Irani policy redirection, and I'm quite glad to see this. What do you think?

Trevor said...

yes, please! love the way you write, but keep the foreign languages out (i.e. polisci). btw, liberals still have the hard on...i think they're about to out-procreate the conservatives.

Ahsan said...

Jadev:

A couple of points. I certainly think it's a *possibility* that Obama climbs down from this rhetoric, and that this rhetoric is a way of showing the world/Iranian population that their leaders are the ones unwilling to "unclench their fist". However, it's also a possibility that his overtures open up political space for the Grand Bargain everyone keeps talking about. The point is, there's only one way to find out, which is to *try* in the first place, something the Bushies were unwilling to do.

I don't think Obama will "give the green light" to the Israelis to do anything; though it bears mentioning that they may do so anyway. But Israel would be very foolish to do such a thing.

Clovis:

I agree with pretty much everything you say. Everything is contingent right now and there's simply no way of knowing the answers to these questions (i.e. what the result of the Iranian elections would be, what the inner workings of the clerics are at this point etc). But it's taken balls to at least see what solutions are available in this situation.

Asfandyar said...

Hasn't Khatami excused himself from the elections? I remember reading about it...

Obama's overture's seem to be more to the people of Iran rather than the government to be honest. Primarily, I think, because everytime he's brought out the olive tree the Irani government has acted like dicks and talked about the US pretty much having to bend over for them.