Does the media know what it's talking about when analyzing US - Iranian relations?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Herat was an important part of several Persian empires. During the period of the Median Empire (about 600 BCE), Herat was recognized as Aria.

It's not at all uncommon in politics that people say one thing to one audience and something else to another, and I was curious about the analysis put forth after Khamenei's supposed "rejection" of Barack Obama's Nowruz message. The reason for that is quite simple: if you look at the video of him actually giving the speech he's talking in front of a large crowd, and speeches for domestic audiences are always different than those of foreign ones. It's also similar to the speeches given by people during party primaries vs. general elections - GOP candidates almost always start out trying to look as tough as possible to the base and then move to the centre during the election, and the opposite occurs for the Democrats.

Given that, it's not a surprise that some think that the media has gotten it entirely wrong on this "rejection". Quoth the editorial:

Last week, when President Obama sent a Persian new year's greeting to Iran calling for "new beginnings" in relations between the two countries, it elicited an immediate response from Iran's highest authority, the spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who stated Iran's readiness to respond positively to Obama's offer of sincere engagement.

Sure, the Iranian leader's response was peppered with negative reactions to Obama's video message - to both the Iranian public and its leaders - linking Iran with terrorism and nuclear proliferation. But much of the Western media seriously misinterpreted Khamenei's response by saying that he had rebuffed, dismissed, or "brushed aside" Obama's important overture.

On the contrary, the instant response by the leader has been widely interpreted in Iran as a sign of respect for Obama. Khamenei challenged the president to back up words with action, adding "change only in words is not enough, change must be real." This means Khamenei has taken charge of Iran's US policy, preempting often-fractious voices in Iranian politics that could hamper evolution of a US-Iran dialogue.


There is a real convergence of interests between the United States and Iran on Afghanistan. Both oppose the Taliban and their Wahhabi Al Qaeda supporters, support the Kabul government, and fight the drug smugglers, who kill hundreds of Iran's drug officials each year. Iran has given generous economic assistance to Kabul and has contributed to Afghanistan's reconstruction by giving a 90 percent discount on duties for Afghan goods. Last year's trade between the countries approached $1 billion and this figure is anticipated to grow now that Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan have agreed to connect railways and ship water and electricity into Iran from Tajikistan via Afghanistan. There is already a well-built highway from Iran to Herat in western Afghanistan and plans are underway to connect the landlocked Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chahbahar.


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