The Islamic Post Blog

Unlikely Congratulations For Obama Presidency by Khalida
January 2, 2009, 8:01 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, World | Tags:

By Abu Rashid Qadri

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Iranian traditional chants in the streets of “Death to America and Death to Israel,” following the Friday (Jumma) congregational prayer in Tehran University, did not mirror the sermon that was delivered behind the mosque walls.  Who would have thought that words of optimism would come from the mouth of the University’s imam, Ayatollah Mohammed Emami Kashani.  Reports said he actually celebrated the election of Barack Obama and the defeat of the Republican Party.  He said it would change history and perhaps America’s policy towards Iran.  Ali Larijani, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator and now the speaker of the Majlis, or parliament, listened attentively to the address.
Despite all the opposition to Iran, its hatred of Israel and its insistence of continuing its nuclear program, the President-Elect took an unpopular stance and announced he would sit with and negotiate, without pre-conditions, with those seen as a threat to world peace. Barack Hussein Obama will be confronted by conservatives in particular who have taken a hard line stance, citing security issues and serious disagreements with Iranian politics and military policies.
Most know that Iranian society is saturated with skepticism from the religious leaders and other factions.  Nevertheless, If there is one unifying theme among Iranians, it is this: It’s up to Obama to make the first move.
“The ball’s in your court now,” said Kazem Jalali, an independent member of parliament who serves as a spokesman on national security matters. President Ahmadinejad took the unusual step of congratulating Obama on his election, Jalali pointed out.
Obama’s response: “We will need to decline comment, as there is one president at a time and we intend to respect that,” said the transition’s chief national-security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson.   A recent study by The Brookings Institution, a centrist research center in Washington, recommended that Obama shift the focal point of U.S. Middle East policy from Iraq to Iran and open direct talks without preconditions.
The United States, along with Israel, consider Shiite Iran one of its primary security challenges. Washington accuses Iran of funding militias in Iraq and sponsoring terrorist groups from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.  However, Iran asserts the little known fact that, after quietly helping the United States in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, they were stung when President George W. Bush named their country part of an “axis of evil.” Yet if Obama follows up with an outreach to Iran, it could prove just as frightening to Iran’s leadership as Bush’s hostility. Anti-Americanism is an unchanging cornerstone of public rhetoric there.
Obama is “more dangerous for Tehran, especially for the radicals,” or conservatives, said Saeed Laylaz, a reform-minded economist who is close to former President Mohammad Khatami, and who is considered to be a moderate.  Laylaz said that Bush’s aggressive posture boosted the position of Ahmadinejad, who is otherwise unpopular in many sectors of Iranian society. Because of the President-Elect’s rhetoric of peace, “I think Obama will be a bigger threat,” he said.


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