In the realm of foreign affairs, the two wars that America is fighting, in Iraq and Afghanistan, may have higher priority for President Obama than the war it isn’t fighting, namely, with Iran. But the battle lines are being drawn already, on all sides of the Iran issue.
During the campaign, Obama stated repeatedly that he is prepared for unconditional, but well “prepared,” talks with Tehran. Yesterday, seizing the moment, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a meandering open letter to Obama, which included the following, according to the New York Times translation:
“I congratulate you for attracting the majority of votes in the election. As you know, opportunities that are bestowed upon humans are short lived.
“People in the world expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, deception and intimidation of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them and international affairs, which have evoked hatred toward American leaders, to be replaced by ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and noninterference in other countries’ affairs.
“They also want the US intervention to be limited to its borders, especially in the sensitive region of the Middle East. It is expected to reverse the unfair attitude of the past 60 years to restore the rights of people in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Post translation, cited here, provides a much fuller sense of the religious-themed rhetoric of Ahmadinejad’s letter, such as:
“If steps are taken in the path of righteousness, toward the goal of carrying out the teachings of the holy prophets, it is hoped that almighty God will help and that the enormous damage done in the past will be somewhat diminished.”
Still the letter is clearly a serious effort by Iran to reach out to Obama, in expectation that the new president will open a dialogue with Tehran. “The great civilization-building and justice-seeking nation of Iran would welcome major, fair and real changes, in policies and actions, especially in this region,” wrote Ahmadinejad.
On the other hand, in a direct challenge to Obama, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the US and Israel “could have differences of opinion” on Iran. Speaking on Radio Israel, she warned the president-elect against dialogue with Iran, suggesting that it might be construed as a sign of weakness:
“I think that dialogue at this time is liable to send a message of weakness. What the United States or Europe intends is not always interpreted that way in the Arab world. I think that a situation of early dialogue at a time when it seems to Iran that the world is giving up on sanctions can be problematic.”