Obama and Iran

President-elect Barack Obama said Friday that “Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, I believe is unacceptable. . . Iran’s support of terrorist organizations, I think is something that has to cease.”

What I cannot understand is why American politicians who speak publicly on this issue do not at least acknowledge that to the best information of the American intelligence community, Iran has no nuclear weapons research program,as opposed to a civilian enrichment research program. A pdf of the National Intelligence Estimate on this issue is here. The Bushies and “anonymous senior officials” vowed that the NIE would not be allowed to enter the national debate on this issue and that they would ignore it and go on insisting that Iran has a weapons program. Since they lost, can’t we lose the alarmist rhetoric on all this? Some of the information in the NIE was based on information brought out of Iran by defectors.

It is legitimate to maintain suspicions of Iranian intentions and activities in this regard. I’m not saying we should be patsies. But let’s just talk straight about the issue, based on what real evidence is available.

Also, if the only real reason Iran is accused of supporting international terrorism is its arming of Hizbullah in south Lebanon, that is a pretty problematic charge. The recent agreement among political parties in Lebanon recognized Hizbullah as a kind of Lebanese national guard charged with defending the Lebanese south against Israeli aggression.The cabinet statement refered to “the right of Lebanon’s people, army, and resistance to liberate the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, Kafar Shuba Hills, and the Lebanese section of Ghajar village, and defend the country using all legal and possible means.” The word “resistance” refers to Hizbullah. The European Union has declined to designate Hizbuallah a terrorist group.

Usually the phrase “supporter of terrorism” conjures up the image of shadowy groups plotting to blow things up in Vienna or something, not a militia defending national territory against foreign incursions. Hizbullah did commit terrorist acts in the 1980s and 1990s, but I’m not sure what it has done that would technically deserve the name in the past 10 years.

It would be nice if Washington would itself foreswear all deployment of terrorist groups to obtain its goals.

Anyway, can’t a new administration speak in a more nuanced way about all this?

Obama also said he would respond “appropriately” to the letter recently sent to him by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (the first such missive sent by an Iranian president to an American one on the occasion of the latter’s election since the 1979 revolution).

Ahmadinejad wrote to Obama,

‘ “As you know the opportunities provided by the Almighty God, which can be used for elevation of nations, or God forbid, for their collapse, are transient. I hope you will prefer real public interests and justice to the never ending demands of a selfish minority and seize the opportunity to serve people so that you will be remembered with high esteem.

On the other hand, the Americans who have spiritual tendencies expect the government to spend all its power in line with serving the people, rectify the critical situation facing the US, restore lost reputation as well as their hope and spirit, fully respect human rights and strengthen family foundations.

Other nations also expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, contempt of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them to be replaced by the ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.

They also want US intervention to be limited to its borders, especially in the Middle East. It is highly expected to reverse the unfair attitude towards restoring the rights of the Palestinians, Iraqis and Afghans.

The great nation of Iran welcomes basic and fair changes in US policies and conducts, especially in the region.’

Reuters shows scenes of Iran and interviews Iranians on the street about their hopes for an Obama administration.

Despite its religious conservatism, Iran has announced a $2.5 bn. stem cell research program that resembles Obama’s aspirations far more than it reflects the politics of George W. Bush.

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