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Ash-Sharq al-awsat, Saudi Arabia

Obama’s ‘Extended Hand’ to Iran


By Tariq al-Hameed

Translated By Chris Marrs

6 February 2013

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger


Saudi Arabia - Ash-Sharq al-awsat - Original Article (Arabic)

Ever since he took office, the American president has adopted the policy of the ‘extended hand’ to Iran to no avail. Today, after four years, Washington has once again renewed this policy toward Tehran, this time through the vice president, who warned that the “diplomatic window is closing.”

Through its foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, Tehran quickly responded to the U.S. offer outlining the need for negotiations regarding the nuclear issue positively but with “specific conditions.” Salehi himself asked “how do we trust again this new gesture?" So, it is Iran who is distrustful of Washington, and not the other way around, despite the fact that Washington knows full well that Iran has been planting its agents all over to destabilize the region, thereby threatening the interests of the international community.

Consider what Iran is doing in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and, of course, Syria. All that, and yet Iran says that it is distrustful of Obama’s call for negotiations! Ridiculous. The most ridiculous aspect of it all is that the ‘extended hand’ policy is always enacted at times of internal strife in Tehran. In 2009, following the Green Revolution that resulted from perceived fraud in the Iranian presidential elections, Obama adopted the ‘extended hand’ policy. And today, despite everything Iran is doing, as well as the coming presidential elections in Tehran and the tension between Ahmadinejad and his rivals in the Iranian regime, Washington is once again returning to the extended hand policy!

Of course, America isn’t expected to start a war with Iran. Rather, it should take a clear, serious look at the situation. Economic sanctions are not the only means to curb Iranian recklessness, whether regarding the nuclear issue or its attempts to destabilize the region. There are, in fact, a number of other steps that should be taken. The problem is that the Obama administration lost several opportunities to reign in the Iranian regime: the Green Revolution, the hasty withdrawal from Iraq, and enabling al-Maliki to stay in power as Prime Minister without a price. The fear today is that the Obama administration will repeat the same mistake regarding other issues. President Obama has before him the chance of a lifetime to deal a decisive blow to the Iranian ploy in the region via the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, which will have serious implications in the region. We should carefully consider Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cairo. Sensing the danger of the fall of al-Assad, Tehran is trying to break Iran’s isolation from the Arabs via Egypt. Obama could incapacitate Iran internationally through the toppling of Tehran’s Syrian ally, pressuring Iraq to remain independent and avoiding a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan lest it become another stage for Iranian expansion. All of this could be possible if only there were a clear and serious American policy. If the Obama administration were to adopt these positions, it wouldn’t be long before Iran itself came asking for negotiations.

It is important that American policy makers who are dealing with Iran remember the African proverb favored by Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” This is the language that Iran understands, and anything short of it is merely a waste of time.



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