The United States, Iran, and The New Revolution
Can Obama Make it Happen?
On the 30th anniversary of the Iranian Hostage crisis Iran’s Supreme leader responds to US President Obama’s video message with sound defiance suggesting that until they see the changes US President Obama preached during his election campaign then don’t expect much of a policy shift from Tehran. During the election most Iranians were intensely enthusiastic to see a US Black man with Hussein as his middle name take the highest office of the United States. The name "Hussein" is very sacred for Shia Iranians as this was the name of their third beloved Imam who, even today maintains a very controversial shrine in Iraq. Iranians are proud of their history which suggests that Black people were never discriminated against during the Persian Empire and, during the US Hostage Crisis Black people were among the first released along with the women.
Their excitement however, was quickly tempered when US President Obama did not immediately respond to President Ahmadinejad's message of congratulations. This message was seen as historic in Iran as this was the first time an Iranian leader had offered such wishes to an American president-elect since the Islamic Revolution. US President Obama’s lack of response immediately developed into distrust as the Iranians took his actions as a sign that US foreign policy towards the Middle East, especially the Iran and Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain as it has been for the past 30+ years. They now believe that such policy is so entrenched in the US States Capital that it can not be modified by a simple changing of the guard.
The tone in US President Obama’s video message highlighted a stark understanding of Iranian politics and unlike his predecessor George Bush, US President Obama is the first US President to address Iranian "leaders" directly and in the ‘plural'. In doing so US President Obama demonstrated that he is well-informed of the various political and religious factions in Iran today and that the country is ruled by different leaders. Among the more prominent are the President, the Ayatollahs and the Supreme Leader. The Iranian government has made strong efforts to portray the President as head of the state but US President Obama has been coached well enough to know that the Iranian President is but one leader among many. Therefore, by addressing all leaders US President Obama has set the stage to decide which group he will be corresponding with - thereby opening the door for any one of the groups for dialog. This action was a slap in the face for the Supreme Leader who will probably implement a 1970’s revolution mentality in negotiating with the US.
The previous Revolution in 1979 was based on Islamic Ideology, and its success manifested a sense of destiny for the new Iranian clerical elite whose ultimate desire was to export Islam deep into the trenches of all societies until the entire world was one large Islamic family. The only obstacles were America and the Soviet Union, who was always looking over Iran's shoulders, monitoring their every move. Since the Soviet Union were heavily invested in the local economy, Iran - through clandestine processes, decided to make America the enemy by seizing American hostages thereby bringing the Iranian Revolution, and its Islamic theology, to the forefront of every news channel across the globe, leading to the recognition of an ongoing campaign of terror against the West, The ‘ideology’ of the 1979 revolution so inspired Iran’s Islamic neighbors that it gave Iran such clout in the middle east and from that day they have played an important role in shaping, and supporting organizations like Hezbollah without fear of attack or outright reprisal from Israel or the West.
Iran is a state of multiple factions and although some leaders of these various factions want peace with the US, the Khamenei and his inner circle from the 70’s are using every opportunity to stay true to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the political narrative of rejecting any efforts of peaceful communications with the United States. They are cautious to not give any appearance of softening or mending ties with Washington as it could be perceived by hard-liners as a betrayal of the revolution. These non-elected leaders are also careful not to do anything which may jeopardize their chances of maintaining a strong Islamic hold on the country. They want to ensure a win in the June 12 presidential race for their hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against reformists led by a former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi. This may be another reason why US President Obama will have a difficult time making reasonable political gains and why negotiating with the Iranian hardliners will be a very slow, very tedious, and a very complicated process.
The old theocracy can be pragmatic and if they maintain political power through the reelection of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they will negotiate with the US, but only if they feel it's in their best national interest to do so. If they win the election they will certainly not come to the table of negotiations until the US answers the following questions; "Have the Iranian assets been released? Has the oppressive sanctions been lifted? Has the US given up mudslinging and character assassinations of leaders of the great Iranian nation?" "Will the US stop accusing the great Iranian Nation of producing nuclear technology for nuclear weaponry?" They will use these questions as leverage to bring US President Obama to the table. Understanding that the US will not concede they will then point a finger directly at the US President Obama Administration, blaming them for not being fair in an effort to justify their hardline actions thereby solidifying their Islamic hold of the regions politics. As in the seventies, they will rally their people behind their radical leader Ahmadinejad by making the US the enemy.
The New Revolution:
While this strategy has worked for the past 30+ years, discontented young Iranians are forcing the pace of political change from within. From the busy atmosphere of an internet café to the private chat lines, from North Tehran to the working class suburbs of the socio-politically depressed south, young Iranians deliver a unified message to their radical cleric rulers over and over again – a message of freedom! Their frustration is running high and they feel change must come, and come soon! The generation that has little interests in the 1979 Islamic revolution and the overthrow of the US-backed Shah is on a mission of change which puts them on the forefront of a different type of revolution – a profound movement propelling Iran to a critical juncture. They want the freedom to do what they want, think how they want to think, to have a government that responds to the wishes of the people, and a foreign policy that helps Iran and does not isolate it. They want democracy and they want it now! They realize that The U.S. is perhaps, the only country in the world capable of , and willing to - destabilize Iran – so they want a change from within, and fast. They want their chance at governing, before Iran becomes another Iraq. Khamenei himself is aware of this and understands that Iran’s radical Islamic government is operating on borrowed time. This was evident in his recent comment to the United Nations “If Iran's concerns are eased, it will be willing to have relations with the U.S. in the same way it has relations with the U.K." Unfortunately, even with this statement the Iranian hardliners are not about concessions at this stage. They're still all about ideology, ideologies the young people no longer accepts – and are willing to battle the old Islamic guard and if necessary - die to change the direction of the country.
Therefore, it was wise for US President Obama, in his video message to not address the Iranian people in Islamic terms but in general terms, thereby reaching the massive audience who oppose the status quo. He understands that if change is going to come to Iran, which will benefit the US and the region as a whole, it will come from the secular (non- radical Islamic) corners, which are comprised mostly of the young people who are demanding change, and if necessary…….
A New Revolution!