Obama’s Nowruz Message

This is significant. Despite the obligatory admonishments, Obama’s tone was respectful, and showed cultural sensitivity. The message has shortcomings, no doubt. But what is important is that he is bucking neocon/Israel lobby pressure to opt for engagement. As John Mearsheimer notes in his latest LRB piece, the Israel lobby may have won a tactical battle over Freeman, but the hysterical approach it employed has only brought more intense scrutiny to its activities. It is faltering. And here finally is proof. However, there is need for some caution. The US knows, as Andrew Bacevich points out, that its only consideration in Iraq now is how best to minimize the humiliation of its inevitable withdrawal.

Toward that end, Iran’s cooperation could be invaluable. It would also be necessary if the US is indeed going to proceed with the plan for widening its war inside Pakistan to Baluchistan. If so, it would be very unwise for the Iranians to go along. According to recent polls Iran’s influence is already resented by most Iraqis (next only to the US in that regard), and any cooperation with the US against Pakistan could have consequences for the stability of both countries.

But from the tone of the message, and the decision to address the people as well as the government (in the past US leaders would condescendingly bypass the government to address the people directly), it is clear that Obama is cognizant of the regional balance of power; he is not in a position to dictate. So long as Iran retains the independence of its foreign policy, there is much cause for celebration in this. This is the clearest repudiation of a foreign policy posture that had for at least twenty years been dictated very much by the lobby. If you want to judge how much of a milestone this is, just wait for the reactions. (Over at Salon, Glen Greenwald is keeping a tab on the ’38/’appeasement’ references. As someone had once put it, to be a neocon is to bear witness to the resurrection of Hitler everyday).

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

7 thoughts on “Obama’s Nowruz Message”

  1. Posturing with rhetorical “changiness” sets the stage for an atrocious violent snap back. It’s the “smart” way to start wars of aggression.


    … Dennis Ross, recently named as Hillary Clinton’s special advisor for Iran, is publicly on the record as favoring a brief but visibly intensified “diplomatic” effort to convince Iran to bow to Israeli/American demands — which would, inevitably and necessarily, be unsuccessful — before proceeding on to the attack on Iran which he deems essential to protect Israel’s security interests.

    If Dennis Ross recommended that President Obama celebrate the Persian New Year in this peculiar manner (or even wrote the statement read by the president), the cynical and sinister view may, unfortunately, be the more realistic one.


  3. Yes, this is very positive. But still I worry. If there is no understanding of the justice of some Iranian positions, I wonder how far this can go. If ‘responsibilities’ means abandoning resistance movements, support for which Obama calls ‘violence’ and ‘destruction’, I hope Iran doesn’t become ‘responsible’. And if it doesn’t, what then? Is Obama not setting his initiative up to fail? As for the veiled reference to the nuclear weapons programme, given that the NIE said there is no weapons programme, I wonder what Iran can do to prove responsibility here?

  4. Amongst the many speculations will be the timing and method of this message.

    The main point is the bypassing of Congress and the Senate ( and hence the lobby) by a direct television appeal to the Target Audience.
    It should now hand Ahmedinejad the next election , if there was any doubt about it.

    It seems a combination of genuine US security concerns , and Israels new reputation of “failing in its military objectives” has made the lobbys very strength ( the complete strangulation of the Congress and Senate , and correspondingly the President) into its chief one-dimensional weakness.

    It seems the Prime Obama concern is that Pakistan is fast leaving the orbit of control; NATO is not up for the graveyard shift in Afghanistan and Iran is the only ally that can deliver up a stable hiatus whilst the US flees Iraq.The only way Obama can work this is by using the Reagan approach of bypassing Congress ( and the lobby) by continuing this strategy of appealing direct to his target audience within the US via TV.

  5. m.idrees,

    Can you post the relevant part of the Boston.com article that you feel precludes Obama getting advice from his Special Advisor for Iran Dennis Ross?

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