On air: Can Obama heal the rift with Iran?


Vigorous diplomacy, direct talks, an extended hand to an unclenched fist and now a letter to Iran. All of these are concrete signs that the Obama administration is adopting a completely different approach to the Islamic Republic than that of his predecessor.

In the latest move to reach out to Iran, the Obama administration has drafted a letter  form the president aimed at thawing relations between the two countries. The letter gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Islamic regime, but merely seeks a change in its behavior.

The letters contains suggestion that vary from Iran looking at its poor standard of living to stopping what the US called state sponsorship of terror.

In his first interview with a foreign media outlet – Al-Arabiya television – President Barack Obama promised to extend the hand of American diplomacy to Tehran if the regime froze its nuclear programme. And the new UN envoy Susan Rice said that “Vigorous diplomacy with Iran”  is a top priority for the Obama administration.

Despite welcoming the change of tone in US foreign policy towards his country, Iran’s president demanded an apology for past US “crimes” committed against Iran.

The new US Middle East envoy George Mitchell  is due to meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas today to talk about a long stalled peace process and amid continuous violence in Gaza.

Is Obama’s new approach the right one? Reading various blogs today many people are suggesting that to move forward both sides need to apologise for past mistakes – would it work and is it realistic? And how important is Iran in bringing peace to the middle east?

Also read Randa Takkieddine’s article in Dar Al Hayat examining Obama’s new tone with Iran and the difficult road ahead.

95 Responses to “On air: Can Obama heal the rift with Iran?”

  1. 1 justin Mann
    January 29, 2009 at 10:23

    It is important that the U.S engage Iran in hopes of a workable peace soluton for the middleeast. WIth a current administration that is not guided by religious idiology I think we can all-should expect better results.

  2. 2 Mohammed Ali
    January 29, 2009 at 11:17

    With Iran been accused of supporting the Hezbollah and Hamas which are some of the major players in the Middle East conflict, Iran must surely be a major part in the peace process.
    I also think that the step Obama is taking by directly contacting the Iranian leadership is in the interest of peace. One thing I am certain of is that there can be no peace in the Middle East especially pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the active participation of Iran. Ostracizing Iran means more support for Hamas which in turn will keep draging the conflict.

  3. 3 Barry Tait
    January 29, 2009 at 11:53

    Iran is the problem, not the solution.

    The Iranians sense another Carter in Obama and will use this as they have done before – as a stalling exercise. Whilst the democrats talk and have their photos taken with Islamic leaders to the approval of the likes of the Obama-sycophants at the BBC, the Iranians will be doubling their effort to acquire nukes.

    The neo-left and their baffling alliance with Muslim groups appear to be Iran’s new cheerleaders and are willing them on to get nukes.

    It’s pretty hard to distinguish the left from Islamic radicals these days. The left have become as extreme, use the same rhetoric as Islamic extremists and the same insidious references to Israel and Nazism.

  4. January 29, 2009 at 12:21

    Try Grass Roots!
    TEHRAN – Torn between Moscow, Peking and London! Add Rome, Berlin and Damascus! That’s us.
    Through thick and thin, Russia has been at our side from day one of the Revolution. Don’t bully Russia. Keep to your own sphere of influence. Leave us to administer our own affairs.
    We eat well. We work hard. We don’t earn much but that is offset by enormous food and energy subsidies.
    The worst is over for Iran. What is President Obama saying?
    What’s your human rights record? How many political prisoners are there in Iran? Why are people in the provinces living in squalor? Why doesn’t everyone have access to the Internet? Don’t fight!
    We are not fighting but Washington is! Stop the war in Afghanistan! Get the US fleet out of the Persian Gulf and leave Hamas well alone and we will remain the best of enemies.

  5. January 29, 2009 at 12:28

    If Iran was taken out of the equation Hezbollah would just find other financial backing. A far better tactic would be to broker a real and lasting peace between Israel and their arab neighbours. If Iran didn’t have a dispute to meddle in, they’d lose much of their supposed power.

  6. January 29, 2009 at 12:44

    The differences between Iran and the US are so deep extending from Iran nuclear program to the attitudes towards the conflicts in the Middle East, involving Israel with Hamas, Hezbullah and Syria. In view of this complexity, there is so much hard work to do on both sides to heal the rifts that has been taking place since 1979.

    The US and Iran can be friends if they leave the past behind them and turn a new page. However the harsh tone of Iranian president in his last speech in which he demanded an apology from the US for its “crimes” against his country and the extended hand of friendship from Obama to the Iranian leaders shows that there is “love” just from one side. The rift whose causes are much more complex can’t be healed easily.

  7. 7 Peter
    January 29, 2009 at 12:52

    1st move is to push Israel to talk to them. Then let them escalate the tension and go into a war footing and whoever gets the black eye , the US step in and be the peace maker. Same strategy applies for Palestinians. Everyone wants to play games. Outsiders like us can just watch.

  8. 8 Nischal K Acharya
    January 29, 2009 at 12:58

    There was no any good relatoin with Iran in which there is high chance of increasing enemies.We can remeber Obama’s “change”. If the nation wants peace in their country it is important to improve their rude relation with Iran.I hope Obama can understand about it.If it is not done then the massacre might occur.

  9. 9 Steve in Boston
    January 29, 2009 at 13:02

    Although not publicized by the mainstream media, it has been reported for at least the last five years that Iran is the source of weapons and support for Hamas and Hezbollah.

    Peace is not goal #1 for Iran. Defeating Israel is what they are focused on. They will only respond to Obama’s overtures if it can be used in their quest against Israel.

    Ahmadinejad and his cronies surely look at Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness. I think it’s fine for Obama to try this tactic for a short period, but if he is rebuffed he has to pull back and not be seen to be begging, or he will only further embolden Iran.

  10. 10 Mohammed Ali
    January 29, 2009 at 13:06

    Whether Obama can heal the rift with Iran largely depends on how he conducts his policy with Iran. If Iran is treated as an important player in the middle east we just might see a change.

  11. 11 Peter, Portland, OR, USA
    January 29, 2009 at 13:42

    Well, can Iran heal the rift with the United States? (Remember our embassy employees were held hostage for 444 days.

    There’s obviously responsibility for the failed relationship on both sides here. And both sides must offer an olive branch for there to be the beginnings of solutions. Both sides must stop saber-rattling as well.

    Israel’s conflict with Palestine is one of the biggest challenges in this relationship. Until this is satisfactorily resolved (and history infers it may go on for centuries) there will continue to be tensions between Persia and the West.

    I think Obama has made a solid step. He has responded to Ahmadinejad’s letter of congratulations. However, Amidenajad’s tone is, “if you publicly apologize for being mean and nasty we can maybe begin to get along.” That’s not productive diplomacy. Productive diplomacy is mutual discovery on how both sides can save face, and then jointly taking those actions.

  12. 12 Barry Tait
    January 29, 2009 at 14:13

    Reply to Steve in Boston – Hezbollah belongs exclusively to Tehran. They were created, funded and armed by Iran in the early 80’s. Hezbollah were responsible for the bombing of the Barracks in Beirut which killed 241 peace-keeping US marines as well as some 35 French peace keepers.

    Israel and Iran don’t actually have reason to be in conflict, they have no territorial dispute. In fact Israel and Iran were allies during the 50’s and 60’s when Arab nationalism culminating in the form of Nasser, threatened both Israel and Iran.

    It was only in 1979 when the Islamists took over in a coup (some call it a revolution) that they declared “death to Israel”. They quickly went onto form Hezbollah.

    Israel has no conflict with Iran. It is Iran that declared war on Israel in 1979 purely because of religion, but veiled it as ‘solidarity with palestinians’ – even though Palestinians are mainly Sunni and Iranians have never had much love for the Arab world.

  13. 13 jamily5
    January 29, 2009 at 14:16

    I don’t know if Iran’s request for an appology is a way to find out if Obama will cower.
    But, what I do know is that Bush’s way was not working and we need someone who will want to be more peaceful in their dealings — at least, reach for fair and just dealings.
    Akbar’s sentaments are interesting.
    But, I ask, could we really leave the middle east alone entirely?
    And, would Obama really be trusted, or would he always be mistrusted by Iran and other countries?
    I could ask the same about Iran.

    What does Obama’s stance mean for the ordinary nonpolitical Iranian? How would Obama’s stance effect the ordinary nonpolitical US citizen?

  14. January 29, 2009 at 14:21

    I hope Obama will deal all the conditions presented by Iranian leadership because Obama has been lawyer and have good experience in the law including inter national law.

    On the other hand,secretary of foriegn affaire has also a good knowlege in the field of foriegn relations.
    she will convince and succeed in the mission started by newly elected president.

    Iranian have presented condition but like to have negotiations on the subject of good relations with single superpower.
    it is admitted fact that Iran is passing through a tough time in presence of sanctions imposed by United Nations.

    It can not be disregard,United States paid a crucial role and got passed resolution and resulting in Iran had to face financial and commercial crisis.

    Iran have reservations about the American policy in re Israel.
    No doubt, it longstanding issue,but the fact is that Obama have changed mind in the comparesion of Bush.

    Obama, i hope,will deal with Iranian nuclear issue.
    receiving congratulation,state department has prepared a letter and subsequentely negotiations are expected.

    Obama can heel the rift with Iran,so answer is in positive.

  15. January 29, 2009 at 14:32

    Hi Barry Tait
    Obama is subtle, diplomatic and articulate, everything that Carter wasn’t!
    It is up to Washington to adopt a bipartisan political stance.
    Regarding Muslims and the left, perhaps you are right. It is an alternative. I was at the Synagogue today. I said my Shema like anyone else and cherish the Siddur, but that is no reason to ram it down everyone’s throat.

  16. January 29, 2009 at 14:33

    Iran is a Sharia law based society. they are ruled by the Ayatollah Khameni. He dictates every single word that comes out of Amidenajad’s mouth, and every single policy the country has toward the outside world. The Koran considers every single individual who is not a Muslim to be an infidel, and commands that infidels be defeated, by any means, including deceit. It is ridiculous to imagine that the west can negotiate with any confidence so long as Iran is controlled by Sharia law, whose tenants include the right of Muslims to lie to anyone who is not a Muslim. So until the west becomes Sharia based, negotiating with Sharias is pointless.

  17. 17 Peter
    January 29, 2009 at 14:50

    Yes Obama Can. If Obama could approach the subject in a pragmatic manner without threats from the white house, I am confident Iran would fall in line.

  18. 18 Ramesh
    January 29, 2009 at 14:58

    The first thing americans should stop talking is about Iranian nuclear ambitions. For more than a decade, they talked about Iraq’s nuclear ambitions and have done major blunders by overstating Iraq’s nuclear capabilities. Even if Iran is set to become a nuclear power by illegal means, the americans don’t have any right to attack Iran on that pretext.

  19. 19 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    January 29, 2009 at 15:13

    Obama cannot heal the rift with Iran. It takes two to tango. If Iran wants to work with the USA–a big if–it might be possible to heal the rift. So far, all Iran seems to want to do is quarrel about the past. Discussions can go nowhere if Iran continues to have a backward-looking attitude instead of a forward-looking one.

  20. 20 DOLAPO AINA
    January 29, 2009 at 16:14

    President Obama has to talk with the Iranians. Since his administration is about change, then do the right thing, which is table talks. The world is tired of the rhetoric the two countries have been talking about for over 30 years due to politically bruised egos.

    The world needs a break from the past which has brought no one any tangible results.
    Dolapo Aina,
    Lagos, Nigeria

  21. 21 Justin from Iowa
    January 29, 2009 at 16:20

    My opinion is that the US needs to recognize the equality of other countries. I mean, you could draw correlations between racism in the US through history and its foreign policy. Minorities were treated with disrespect, discrimination, and a heavy hand. Even from those who believed that persecutorial racism was wrong, there was often a belief that minorities were less intelligent, less able to manage their own lives – a caretaker response.

    The US foreign policy needs to move into a post-racism mindset. The US isn’t smarter than every country out there. The US does not necessarily know what’s best for Iran or Israel or Egypt or Norway or Nicaragua or… etc. A recognition of this in how we perform foreign policy is important for the US. And if an apology for past mistakes helps in this, then it should be made.

    Recognition for all the good that the US has done, though, would also be appreciated.

  22. January 29, 2009 at 16:22

    I salute your actions President Obama…
    Keep it up!

  23. 23 Roy, Washington DC
    January 29, 2009 at 16:29

    Let’s hope he can. One of the Bush administration’s biggest problems (and that’s really saying something) was its complete lack of diplomacy. Obama has a lot of work to do to restore the USA’s reputation. The fact that he is trying to open up a dialogue is a good sign; only time will tell if he will succeed.

  24. 24 David In Oregon
    January 29, 2009 at 16:50

    If Obama first re-defines America’s relationship with Iran as just that, and not purely as the US military standing in the background of Israel’s interests, we will be on the path to whatever peaceful relations are possible.

    Remember that the first thing America has to do world-wide is to reintroduce ourselves with a redefined set of national interests which we hope are more productive and intelligent that those of the recent past.

  25. 25 Steve
    January 29, 2009 at 16:56

    @ Roy

    Yes, perhaps Obama can go to Iran’s next holocaust denial conference as clearly the USA is the only nation capable of doing any wrong. Nothing shouts dipolomacy like a holocaust denial conference, so maybe Iran will have another one soon.

  26. January 29, 2009 at 16:56

    A different face always helps. After 16 years of Bush rule(father and son), there’s gotta be some change.

  27. 27 Amadeo
    January 29, 2009 at 17:01

    Iran supports Hezbollah and Hamas.
    USA supports Israel /

    SO WHAT?

  28. January 29, 2009 at 17:09

    I dont think so. The Iranian leadership is such that no amount of diplomacy will be able to steer Iran from its determination to acquire atomic weapons.
    George Mitchell trip to Iran will produce no results only that Iran will consider his proposals after which Iran will continue their present course.
    Several years ago a minister of Iran was interviewed by the BBC and was asked if Iran was developing neucler weapons, he denied that they were, I knew he was lieing in the way he answered, we now know that he lied. Lieing comes very easily for them and they will continue to lie in the future. Their Prime Minister openly stated they intend to destroy Israel that was no lie, it is a fact, also they were instrumental in supplying arms and money to Hamas and Hisbollah, so the question has to be asked, are they going to stop and back off from their present course, I think not.
    One way or another Iran will have to be stopped from developing weapons of distruction, the sooner the better.

  29. 29 alby
    January 29, 2009 at 17:10

    to eric usa

    how much do you know about Iranians and the Iranian public? the reform movement there? The difference between the hard-right and everybody else?

    You talk about sharia law, but I have to say I am appalled at how many Fundamentalist Christians are in Congress here, who want to push their theocratic agenda right here. And, also the fact that you can’t get a civil marriage in Israel because of the theocratic tendencies there too. With Chief Rabbis making rules for the society and stuff.

    I am not sure we can expect any negotiations with Iran from the US and Israel either because of the religious zealotry of so many leaders and right-wing movements of voters themselves who refer to the Old Testament anytime they have troubles with Islamic countries. I wouldn’t pin it all on Sharia, we’ve got a lot of religious law right here clouding up rational thinking.

    All of these religions come from the same original books and the same original ethnocentric ideas, which are way out of date for a crowded planet that has been over exploited by the command to “go out and have dominion over the earth”.

    They all need to get swept out of government in the US and Israel who are also among the most religious countries in the world! But, fat chance. It is just getting worse with economic collapse and apocalyptic fears, not better.

  30. 30 Justin from Iowa
    January 29, 2009 at 17:16


    We can continue hostile toned relations with Iran, and hope for the best, similarly to how Israel and Palestine relations have progressed for the last 15 years… How’s that working out, by the way?

    Or we can take the initiative and extend the hand first, and hope for the best.

    America is a place full of people who care about their fellow human beings. We’ve been extending the fist for so long trying to enforce our values upon others, that the open hand has been lost. If, to use the wording of the moment, Obama chooses to unclench the fist, I applaud him for it.

    Our country’s worth is not judged by how other countries act, but how WE act. We can only control, at the end of the day, our selves and our own country.

    Make ourselves as good as we can and help our neighbors when we can. That is a policy to live your life, and run your country by, in my humble opinion. And I hope that Obama’s foreign policy actions will reflect a similar mindset.

  31. 31 Susan Miles
    January 29, 2009 at 17:30

    I still disagree with the media perpetuating the myth that Iran has called for Israel’s destruction. It has been discussed many times (just not reported as headline news) that the translation is loose and that other translations do not state it as call for Israel’s destruction.
    Furthermore, I feel it irresponsible to still demand halting of Iran’s nuclear program before diplomacy can proceed. The funny thing is that Iran has in fact signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Israel never has. In fact Israel has never confirmed nor denied having nuclear weapons when we know they do. Second, India also has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, yet they have nuclear weapons and we recently agreed to share more technology with them. I feel this is a double standard in a bass ackwards way of continuing to bend over for Israel while they continue to assist with the downfall of America’s standing in the world. But that is a whole different blog.
    Basically, there is no need for pre-conditions, Iran helped us at the start of the war in Aghganistan then felt burned by Bush labeling them part of the Axis of Evil. I feel they do not need to extend a hand but rather we do and we should. This time of immature playground antics is over – its time for serious diplomacy and I think Obama should pick up the phone and call them and say Hi I’m the President of the United States, lets work together for the betterment of the world. And if anyone can do it – without getting sucked into the political blackhole – its Obama.

  32. January 29, 2009 at 17:30

    I hope and pray that President Obama can heal the rift with Iran…The problems that Iran has to deal with is Hezbollah, Hamas and other problems…..

    ~Dennis Junior~

  33. 33 Jeff in Cleveland Heights
    January 29, 2009 at 17:47

    I think that if anybody can heal relations with Iran it will be Barack Obama. It’s such a refreshing change to hear that he told his new US Middle East envoy George Mitchell that he wants him to start his assignment by listening to these countries rather than arrogantly making demands. If the previous administration had done more of that I think the US would have had much better results in stopping nuclear proliferation and our planet would be a safer place than it is today.

  34. 34 Roberto
    January 29, 2009 at 17:52

    RE “” One of the Bush administration’s biggest problems (and that’s really saying something) was its complete lack of diplomacy. “”

    —————————- The biggest problem was an abunDUNCE of idiocy.

    Poor chap brought down the intelligence level of rocks. Oddly enough he had plenty of intelligent folk around him, but Rice never had an original idea in her life and Rummy and Dickster had covert geo/economic upheavals as their agenda.

    Iran actually would like diplomatic relations with the US if the politics can be mooted long enough to establish. Like Cuba, the US policies towards Iran have been irrational and counter productive. China is a lot more dangerous to the world democracies than Cuba and Iran.

    Who really knows what Iranian Mullahs want though? They were lobbying the Saudis to declare a Fatwah on the Israelis during the recent conflict in Gaza.

  35. 35 Vijay
    January 29, 2009 at 18:04

    Yes Obama can and should heal the rift with Iran because
    1 The USA does not need another foreign entanglemant right now.
    2 Iran has an influence in western Afghanistan(the USAs number one stated priority)
    3 Iran can help stabilise shia majority Iraq.
    4 Iran can act as a counter to Russia.
    5 The USA can help ease Israeli concerns by developing good relations with Iran.

  36. January 29, 2009 at 18:04

    If , even if only just within this discussion , we could get past Hamas or Hezbollah or the Holocaust Denial syndrom, or the Shah or the CIA, or the mistakenly downed passenger plane, the world might get some hope that the fine, intelligent citizenry of Iran, and the fine, intelligent citizenry of the United States can agree to disagree on HOW to live, and just get on with the business of giving our families and their descendents better lives. i remind you all that Ahmadinejad was voted in and he can be voted out, just like Bush. Regardless of religion, Ayatollah Khameni wants what is best for his people, I grant him the grace of having that belief. Let’s start from there and see what happens.

  37. 37 tope
    January 29, 2009 at 18:07

    are you saying that it is america’s fault that ayatollah khomeini called for the destruction of the big and small satatn’s (the U.S. and Israel) at the foundation of the islamic republic?

  38. 38 tope
    January 29, 2009 at 18:09

    the BBC only seeks to weaken western governments who guarantee the freedom the likes of the BBC enjoy which countries like Iran seek to destroy. what an irony!

  39. 39 Nathalie
    January 29, 2009 at 18:09

    Obama can only help or “heal” iff the leaders finally listen and act. Otherwise if it fails they will say it was his fault – which its not! This has been going on long before Obama was around I just hope it will end whilst he is around!

  40. 40 Dan
    January 29, 2009 at 18:09

    In Iran you have a leader that promotes a religious philosophy from a political pulpit, is spending the country’s treasury developing nuclear weapons despite increasing poverty and economic disruption within the country, threatens a U.N. member country with annihilation, and demands that America come on its knees to beg forgiveness just does not understand America or Americans.
    Ahmenidijad may think he is a player and has another idiot like carter in President Obama but he will be shocked.
    Ahmenidijad needs to dial down his rhetoric to be able to gain advantages for his people.

  41. January 29, 2009 at 18:10

    The approach to Iran must be an open approach without strings attached by either side. I do believe President Obama desires a peace deal to bring to an end to what up to now has been a one sided affair. He must insist on the return of occupied Arab territory in return for peace between the Arab states and Israel.
    Until now all meetings and words have carried no weight and no pressure.
    The world cries out for peace particularly in the Middle East

  42. 42 Scott or Not
    January 29, 2009 at 18:11


    How can you ever heal a rift between an irrational and intolerant group of people? Especially when their leadership and world-view is based on the illogical fiction of religion. It is a nice idea to use diplomacy and it should be done, but you can’t find a middle-ground between dumb and dumber.

    Even in the US, the house can’t even agree on a bail-out bill because half the country is guided by the faith of religion. You can’t possibly reason with people who have abandoned all reason. It isn’t just a case of his favorite food is pizza, and my favorite food is chips, and we are both equally valid to our opinions. These aren’t opinions of personal preference or style they are fundamental questions of philosophical intelligence. You can’t ever find an acceptable or intelligent middle-ground between people whose lives are based on myth versus people whose lives are based on somewhat-logical thought. This isn’t possible and it never can be. This is exactly the problem.

  43. 43 Chibili from Zambia
    January 29, 2009 at 18:12

    Fighting fire with fire is exactly what the Bush policy on iran was all about. This hasn’t stopped or reduced the middle east fued. Obama’s approach makes way for a brighter future for all parties involved including the U.S.

  44. 44 tope
    January 29, 2009 at 18:12

    you mean the object of destruction should lower her standards for the group that wants her wiped off the map?

  45. January 29, 2009 at 18:14

    The approach to Iran must be an open approach without strings attached by either side. I do believe President Obama desires a peace deal to bring to an end to war in the Middle East. He must hope for the return of occupied Arab territory in return for peace between the Arab states and Israel.
    Until now all meetings and words have carried no weight and no pressure.
    The world cries out for peace particularly in the Middle East

  46. 46 Ibrahim, Baghdad
    January 29, 2009 at 18:15

    Iran has a crucial role in the Middle East. It’s not for nothing that the first Gulf War had been “fuelled” by the US and the former USSR for eight years–Iran’s ideology and growing influence in the region has never been appealing to the Western World and some Arab countries. It’s a key player, thus its involvement in any attempt to bring settlement to the region is inevitable.

    In the interview, Mr. Obama referred to “Persian Civilization”, and to the best of my knowledge, he is the first US president to mention this phrase; this is extremely important to the people of Iran to have such acknowledgement from a US president–people’s cultures had always been ignored by the US. I think that the change of tone in US foreign policy towards Iran is a very good start and will bring up positive responds by Iran eventually.

    As for the apologies: I think by electing and supporting the new president of the US, the American people have clearly expressed their condemnation to the former US policy. The new president is not entitled to apologize for his predecessor’s policy–if he is, he would be spending all of his presidency period writing letters! He is doing what is much better: clearing the mess caused.

    In fact, Iran should be thankful to the US; Iran has never been stronger and more influential than it has become after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003!

  47. 47 Justin from Iowa
    January 29, 2009 at 18:18

    The US needs a dialogue of ACTION.

    The US must be less hostile. The US needs to take more of a hands-off approach.

    When the US has proved that it is trustworthy (and yes, this is something we need to prove now, that is how far we have fallen) then Iran can afford to talk to the US on more of an equal level.

    There is no quick cheap fast solution. That’s what people need to recognize.

  48. 48 Nate, Portland, OR
    January 29, 2009 at 18:20

    Obama should talk to Iran. The USA needs to appear to be the reasonable ones. With Iran run by totalitarian theocrats (unconvincingly coated with a sham of a democracy) it should be fairly easy. Unfortunately, after the last 8 years the question of who is most reasonable is very much in doubt. If Iran refuses to make reasonable comprimises that involve removal of sanctions and an improvemnt in economic ties in return for verifiable abandonment of nuclear weapons and a canceling of support for repressive Islamists in the ME, then the US may be able to get neutral countries to solidify the sanctions.

    Achmadenijad was right when he said the USA owes Iran a major apology for its actions in 1953 when the CIA facilitated the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadeq (sp?) government. Unfortunately for Achmadenijad, a major reason for that apology is that the blowback from that 1953 deed and the subsequent support of the Shah created the circumstances for the current theocratic thugs to violently take and repressively maintain power. We owe an apology to the Iranian people, not to the the Ayatollahs and their puppet president.

    I think we should always appear reasonable, firm but generous to Iran. At worst it would produce more international support for sanctions and the current low-grade cold war. At best in would slowly enable the empowerment of the majority of Iranians who don’t like their oppressor theocrats and want to be peaceful, productive and respected members of the world community.

  49. 49 John Foster
    January 29, 2009 at 18:21

    The fact is we have had to talk with Iran, either directly or indirectly. We did it when we invaded Afghanistan and needed Iran’s consent for over flight. And we have had to deal with them indirectly over Iraq.

    I heard a former CIA analyst speak about Iran a while back. Perhaps the first thing we should acknowledge is that they are a regional power, that has rational interests, but also has real internal divisions in its internal politics.

  50. 50 M. Carter
    January 29, 2009 at 18:25

    The bribery and threats method of diplomacy is very primitive. The major tool of diplomacy should be respect for a fellow human being regardless of how great the differences in opinion. Pres. Obama will be very effective if he stops waving his own fist/stick in the air and gets down to listening and then discussion. The stick should be held very firmly but very quietly and invisibly in the background. Sticks are not diplomacy; they are the complete opposite of diplomacy.

  51. 51 JohnKelly
    January 29, 2009 at 18:25

    The exit of George Bush provides a huge opportunity for the Iranian leadership to negotiate with the U.S. without losing face. Let’s not forget the spontaneous demonstrations of sympathy for the U.S. that occurred in Iran after the 9/11 attacks. Bush squandered that goodwill, and now that he – one of the most hated and divisive leaders in the world – is out of the picture, I strongly suspect that many governments will find their populations far more supportive of working with the U.S.

  52. 52 John in Scotland
    January 29, 2009 at 18:29

    Sadly ,despite the fact that I,m sure Obama wants a co operative and peaceful middle East in his ‘ head ‘ , the’ reality’ is that this cannot be acheived in a world economy that is now fracturing on all fault lines .

    Conflicting interests are going to intensify because of the nature of the world crisis. So in reality ‘these objective interests ‘will dictate the outcome of relations between nation states .

    Obamas language is the same ‘idealist double speak’ that Brown comes out with .

  53. 53 Tom D Ford
    January 29, 2009 at 18:29

    The ignored elephant in the room about Iran is Oil.

    When they revolted and threw out the International Oil Company’s puppet “Shah”, they also threw out the Oil Companies. They have been demonized ever since and I have to suspect that the question of Oil has to be at the center of whatever talks happen.

    If I was a wise Iranian, I would develop nuclear power to run Iran and sell the Oil to the wasteful West so that Iran ends up with all the money and the West just ends up with the smoke left from burning Oil in cars, trucks, trains, and US Military vehicles like ships, tanks, and airplanes.

    Let’s remember that Bush/Cheney/Rice were first and foremost Oil Industry people who did everything they could to get and maintain control of Oil. So they had to demonize the Iranians in order to try and justify a war against Iran to get control of Iranian Oil.

    Lets keep Oil in mind!

  54. January 29, 2009 at 18:29

    It’s nothing new since before election Barack Hussein Obama is already declared that he wants to talk with Osama Bin Laden or terrorists and appeasement policy to Iran, definitely Barack Hussein Obama policy will be strengthen the global terrorists power and it will helpful to wide range of Iran’s nuclear programme. Also his policy will beneath super power dignity and its status. Iran will be succeeded its nuclear programme within Barack Hussein Obama tenure of office and that would be heading to nuclear war or that would be worsen to next president’s tenure of office. Barack Hussein Obama is elected as US president by and because of most of American people and media are extremely hate on G.W Bush and Republican party. Actually he is not a qualify person for super power nation or its constitutions and policy. Within his tenure of office Will be destroyed historic super power status and its constitutions and policy.

  55. 55 Jean-Jules Fogang, MD USA
    January 29, 2009 at 18:30

    The Obama Administration is poised to address the standstill that has long caractherized the relationship between the US and Iran. It was one of his campain promises. But as he relevantly pointed during his inauguration speech, all will be done based on mutual respect and change in attidute on both sides.
    The fact that Obama still has a very high popularity around the world can help move things forward at this time around. Hopes are high that opneness on both sides could defuse the current situation that has long been blamed on the Bush Administration and the Iranian regime.

  56. 56 Vijay
    January 29, 2009 at 18:31

    As a goodwill gesture Obama could offer college scholarships to thousands of poor Iranian wrestlers.
    Wrestling is a popular sport in Iran as well as the USA ..

  57. 57 Patrick from New York
    January 29, 2009 at 18:32

    I’d like to hear a brief discussion of US involvement in the coup which removed Mosaddeq from his democratically elected post and the issues that surrounded that (esp. nationalization of the oil industry). That the row with Iran has considerable time-depth and pre-dates the Islamic revolution is a fact usually ignored.

  58. 58 Justin from Iowa
    January 29, 2009 at 18:40

    Agree completely with the fellow speaking, we shouldn’t be forcing democracy on anyone, especially when our own democracy/capitalism has been showing its corruption lately. Respect other countries and be a good role model, and help those who wish to follow our example.

  59. January 29, 2009 at 18:43

    Please ask the analyst from Iran what he thinks of the EU’s engagement in Iran. Has that helped democracy efforts?

  60. 60 Philippa
    January 29, 2009 at 18:46

    Of course Obama can heal the rift, and it is right that he should begin at once. Talking, discussing, dialogue is “Our Way of Life”. Remember?

    It would help if the Western media stopped putting on the air people who accuse Iran of pursuing an aggressive nuclear program. The UN and the US’ own intelligence services have found no evidence of this. So where is the proof?

  61. 61 Hassan
    January 29, 2009 at 18:49

    USA is not terorist!!!? attacking to Iraq because of having masss destructive bomb, then telling no any evidence for such bombs, making democracy worse than Saddam period, killing many Iraqi people, usinng atomic bomb in Hiroshima, …
    why you never say USA is terorist? How can you say Iran is terrorist and USA not?

  62. 62 Anoosh
    January 29, 2009 at 18:50

    As long as the tail wags the dog nothing would change … with people such as Clinton and Emanuel in the key positions of this administration, Israel would have too much control and clout on the whole process. It doesn’t matter what color, race, gender, planet the US president is from as long as the dominant policy of WH is blind obedience of zionists nothing would change. The era of independent thinking mavericks as presidends of USA is over … if that were the case Dr. Paul would have been elected as one! As far as direct talks, Obama should contact Iranian supreme leader directly. An elected president has no real power in Iran. Period!

  63. 63 Ahmed in San Francisco
    January 29, 2009 at 18:55

    The Bush Administration created a pre-emptive framework for unilateral action which has strengthened the aim of emerging regional powers to achieve nuclear weapon capability in order to gain some kind of protection, or at least direct negotiations – North Korea is a perfect example. All this talk of Iran being “hell bent on nuclear weapons” is absurd, they are simply reacting to the scenario that has played out over the past decade, Iraq did not have weapons and they were completely devastated, North Korea not so much. The real task for Obama is to dismantle Bush’s unilateral, pre-emptive, Axis of Evil rhetoric and framework and deal with real legitemate international security concerns on a consistent and thorough manner.

  64. 64 anthony
    January 29, 2009 at 18:56

    ask the people in the middle east if they want intervention from the west not the governments who proclaim authority

  65. 65 Philippa
    January 29, 2009 at 18:56

    I wish I could agree that the EU would be better at mediating the conflict in the Middle East than the US or the UK. Unfortunately, the EU’s disastrous response to the massacre in Gaza has, I fear, placed it somewhere far below the hopes that are now being invested in Obama.

  66. 66 Ibrahim, Baghdad
    January 29, 2009 at 19:12

    The West needs to accept other cultures as it is. People in the Middle East just need justice when the West deals with their issues and to be heard; these people would not accept the West to impose *their* “democracy” on them–what works in the West should not, in many cases, work in the East. Instead, by being a good model, the East might establish his own democracy and they would have no problem then (when they have the choice) to import what works for them from the West.

    It’s *accepting the other opinion” what the West’s democracy based on, is it not?

  67. 67 Basil Mangaroo
    January 29, 2009 at 19:24

    I think the issue must be addressed from a position that is fair to both sides. There are a lot of accusations thrown at Iran by almost every country that is friendly with the US, the extent of the truth I am not sure and that must be a cause of concern for Iran. There are other serious issues as well, for example, isn’t it fair to say that the support for Israel by the US is the equivalent of whatever group Iran is accused of supporting? On the issue of WMD, if not to use against other countries, what is the US planning to do with it’s own, surely not to make ice cream for children. And if the US and others can have WMD’s why can’t others have? I am sure that if both Iraq and Afghanistan had nuclear weapons, they would not have been invaded, the point is, it is strong deterrent from US attacks. I am sure there are other views, but please be fair and accept the reality, you can’t just tell someone that you are right and they are wrong.

  68. 68 Krupa
    January 29, 2009 at 20:04

    Krupa here from the World Have Your Say Team. Some of you have been getting in touch to ask why we didn’t have many Iranian voices on today’s show. Just in case you didn’t hear Chloe mention this on today’s show, we were having problems connecting to telephone lines in Iran. This is unfortunate as we would have loved to have heard from Iranians living in Iran.

  69. 69 Justin From Iowa
    January 30, 2009 at 06:12


    The biggest issue with nuclear weapons proliferation, is countries with poor overall security acquiring the ability to create nuclear weapons and material.

    Most people realize that the likelihood of Iran, or any other country, actually USING a nuke is very low. A government that used a nuke in today’s political climate would be committing political suicide, no matter how they might try to “justify” its use. This includes the US.

    But, terrorist organizations have no such inhibitions. The chance that a nuclear weapon falls into the hands of terrorist organizations is a huge worry for any country’s National Security. And in an atmosphere of distrust like that which exists in the middle east, this becomes a legitimate concern.

    People aren’t worries about Iran nuking another country, people are worried about Iran “losing” a nuke, and 6 months later a terrorist organization sets off the “lost” nuke in some american port and kills hundreds of thousands of people.

  70. 70 Joseph
    January 30, 2009 at 08:21

    Yes we can! and it can be done if obama decide to do it without pre-conditions…What the US president need to do is pick-up the phone and listen to the concerns of this islamic state. i think israel,india and pakistan’s neuclear programs that are suported by the US are also of great concern by the Iranians.
    Obama- YES YOU CAN DO IT.

  71. 71 hamed
    January 30, 2009 at 09:40

    As you know, Iran is not drived by its president, anybody who are. The most influential and final decision-maker in Iran is supreme leader, Ali khamenei. From his Ideological and religious believe that rooted to vigorous and though Islamic belief, they do not want to bring peace in middle east, because existence of peace in this region means that next regime must be changed is Islamic Republic of Iran. If Russia and Chinese dirty policy does not support even a second Tehran regime, this artificially regime collapsed immediately. USA with its new president does not envisage and ponder the non-trivial point, that is, Tehran does not want to bring peace in middle east and they continue to preserve their Idea to strengthen terroristic attack. They want at all even with considerable carrot that Obama offer.

  72. 72 Roberto
    January 30, 2009 at 10:15

    RE “” And if the US and others can have WMD’s why can’t others have? I am sure that if both Iraq and Afghanistan had nuclear weapons, they would not have been invaded, the point is, it is strong deterrent from US attacks. “”

    ————– A very poor understanding of world politics and WMDs.

    Having WMDs has not prevented India and Pakistan from direct military conflicts with each other. It didn’t protect the US from 9/11 and other assorted terrorist attacks and has done little to moot the unceasing attacks on Israel.

    Moreover, the lack of WMD never caused the US to invade Monaco, Peru, New Zealand, Nepal, Finland, and so on. Until the world populace politic can grow out of flimsy political platitudes, these conflicts will only grow with deadly results.

    Already the world has forgotten that Saddam did have WMDs which didn’t prevent the Persian Gulf War waged against him nor did the alleged threat of more WMD didn’t prevent his recent demise.

    Iran has a window of opportunity here to engage productively with the new US administration and it’s world neighbors. Will it, or will it continue to threaten to destroy Israel and develop WMDs which could lead to further destabilization of shaky regimes and borders?

  73. 73 Ibrahim in UK
    January 30, 2009 at 12:37

    I think Obama could be the person to start thawing the ties with Iran. If the Iranian people see that the US is serious about negotiating and treating Iran as a significant player in the Middle East, and not just another colonial subject like Iraq, then they will push for better relations with the US and even elect a more Western-leaning leader in the next elections.
    The steps are many. No one can start a conversation about the US and Iran without including the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran (Operation Ajax) and the subsequent Islamic revolution. In that action, the US declared it’s approach to Iran: We want to control you and your oil. This attitude must change.
    The issue of nuclear power. Is it a smokescreen or is it not? Who knows, but Iran needs to be treated with respect. Obama spoke of wanting to end the US relying on foreign countries for its energy needs. But with the same breath, the US is telling Iran to stop developing nuclear energy and instead rely on Western and Russian sources for their energy. Energy-independence for the US, but energy-dependence for Iran. That is not a plausible attitude.
    The issue of Iran’s interference in the Middle East (of which Iran is part of). It is hardly credible for the US to demand an end to Iranian interference while the US has been supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and is itself occupying Iraq, threatening Iran with war, and supporting and financing dictatorships in Egypt and Jordan etc. Iran should be included in any future Arab-Israeli peace talks
    Obama has an advantage in that he has the good will of the world with him. He comes with no political baggage and talks the right talk. If he can convert that good will into positive reconciliatory actions, even I will become optimistic for a solution to the Middle East problems.

  74. 74 shoaib
    January 30, 2009 at 13:42

    I do not think so even if Mr. Obama personally want to do that he can not go against big Jewish lobby .especially after Mr. Ahmadi Najads’ comments about Israel.
    To sort this out he first need to address Israel Palestine problem. And Iran’s nuclear ambitions which Iran does not want to let it go especially after situation next door (to kill a dictator you invade the country and kill six hundred thousand people) And Iran does not want to budge on its nuclear policy not to attack but acquire it for self defense.
    And USA will not accept nuclear Iran, so in foreseeable future no Peace in Middle East.
    And for Mr. Obama to re elect for next term in office he needs to show Jewish Lobby that they can bet on him.

  75. 75 David
    January 30, 2009 at 15:56

    I have watched and thought of what Obama is made of since the collage days. I am more convinced that he has the power in his brain to change the ship’s deirection before it sinks. Yes Obama can heal the rift left by the two bushes. However, it is a big job which only people with real brains can find a solution.

  76. 76 Sar Chasm
    January 30, 2009 at 16:40

    Should Obama heal the rift with Iran? Iran is a repressive dictatorship bent on destroying the “decadent” west. Are you blind?

  77. 77 Dicsin(Dickson)
    January 30, 2009 at 17:26

    Claiming that Obama can heal the rift with Iran may not be realistic because the bases on which the islamic ripublic of Iran is constructed will not be in our favour. But it’s obvious that Obama’s arrival in the white house has given to the world a new face. That means a real dialoc between Obama’s administration and Iran could be a reality. Let’s wait and see!

  78. 78 John LaGrua/New York
    January 30, 2009 at 20:21


  79. 79 Brian from California
    January 30, 2009 at 21:20

    To Iran’s supreme leader and most holy Ali Khamenei:
    Devout and VERY valid beliefs and concerns must modernize in order to remain relevant and functional in a global economy. This is the world in which your and my children have to survive and prosper.
    Respectfully, please understand without compromise, the West and the Iranian people will just wait you out. The solution will occur without you and consideration to your beliefs, unless all participate in modernity.

  80. 80 Brian from California
    January 30, 2009 at 21:24

    @Ibrahim-Iraq “colonial subject” are you kidding?!?! 1/2 trillion dollars for whom? If you pay me that kind of money I will gladly become a subject!

  81. 81 Brian from California
    January 30, 2009 at 21:29

    @hamad- You see Iran regime as a proxi for Russia and China! Is this true? Russia is tied to their primary customer the EU, I think. China is tied to their primary customer the US, I think. Perhaps you are right thought. If you have specific insight I would like to know.

  82. 82 viola
    January 30, 2009 at 22:21

    A rift with Iran? That implies that the two countries are buddies who are having a slight disagreement.

  83. 83 Gene
    January 31, 2009 at 03:17

    A lot of commenters on here seem to have the notion that it is the US’s responsibility to negotiate with Iran, and then and on;y then should Iran come to the table. This is absolutely ridiculous! Iran is run by a lunatic that oppresses his own people while being hell bent on creating a nuclear weapon. I say if anyone should be bending backwards for diplomacy it should be Iran and not the US. President Obama should never apologize to that nut.

  84. 84 Rob
    January 31, 2009 at 07:31

    As a diplomat in Europe I am invited to 30th anniversary of Iran’s revolution next week. What is it I am supposed to celebrate? Going from a bad western propped up government to an even worse extremist regime? What have been the gains and losses of the current regime….do a poll of Iranian youth and let us see if the revolution delivered the promise.. Hmmmmmm. Obama must engage Iran…but not become a stoog like Carter. I don’t think the closed fist of Reagen made anything better…though it didtrigger the release of US hostages. A balancing act with Iran is needed and no peace will exist in the middle east if they are not part of the solution. I feel bad that such a rich culture of wonderful people in Iran are held back by the aspirations of extremista to regain surpremacy in the region. Tit for tat between Persians and Arabs goes back centuries and they only agree on Israel. Like Obama, Iranian leaders need to turn a new page and finid a reasonable path keeping in mind the next generation who cannto afford to be held hostage any longer.

    GET OVER IT and MOVE ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  85. 85 Ali
    January 31, 2009 at 08:08

    Hello all
    I think Iran should not apologize because crimes which US has done to Iran is much more and there is not any balance between what Iran has done and what US. I think this new approach of Mr. Obama is great and appreciated. Some mistakes of living in Iran is done in the letter but the approach is good. I think Iranian people as their government are very peaceful and kind as they were during the history of about 3000 years (10 times more than the US). I hope these new approaches lead to a respect and peace for everyone in the middle-east and US.

  86. January 31, 2009 at 10:09

    The path of Ammerican friendship with Iran goes through India and not through Pakistan. It appears that Obama has realized the ground reality and accordingly we are noticing a U turn in Ammerican policy for this crucial region.

  87. January 31, 2009 at 13:57

    which country will be next after iran?its just a nil nil draw between iran and usa…like man city between al ahly.these two also need to be represented by one good lawyer at the same time.

    the last dad


  88. January 31, 2009 at 16:42

    Today Pakistan is in the clutches of world largest democracies ,it may be possible that the ridgid Iran can be tilleted easily after the Pakistan’s treatment.

  89. February 2, 2009 at 01:59

    The USA caused the current regime in Iran to come to power by killing off Mosadek. Iran should be thanking the USA.

  90. 90 John Ahern
    February 2, 2009 at 11:06

    It is not a rift that the U.S has with Iran but a generation old feud full of venemous hostility. It is a very unique relationship in international relations in that the animosity and demonisation applied by each country over such a long period of time is truly rare. There have been few feuds so strong and yet so full of misunderstanding as the one between Iran and the U.S.

    That said, Obama could very easily heal the rift [as it is put here] between them by continuing to reach out to Iran as he has started to do and re-assure the Islamic Republic that his intentions are really based on paving a new way forward as he put it.

    It would be helpful if the U.S. acknowledged the interference it contributed towards supporting the former unpopular led government and the significant role it played in Iraq’s invasion of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.

  91. 91 Alier in S.Sudan
    February 2, 2009 at 14:02

    Yes, Obama can play a roll and easily heal the rift, but I am not quit sure he will do it because the USA is gorvern by the congress in which the majorities are one to discide what he can do to the nations and the World in general.

    I would say that late the new administration deal with The Iran goverment to lay down their chemical weapons and understand the principle of Democratic polices rether than to make bomms idiologly of killing other inteam of USA. I thanks the previouse administration of G W Bus for freeing other of the world including my Country.

  92. 92 Halil
    February 3, 2009 at 07:51

    if he wants he can but he doesnt want to heal the rift with iran

  93. 93 Haris
    February 3, 2009 at 10:27

    Does anyone recall whether Iran was ever handed back all it’s money invested with Chase Bank “USA”, some $80 billion US dollars I believe it may have been. The hostage scenario was the direct outcome of the US government refusing to hand it back.

  94. 94 George Walters
    February 5, 2009 at 08:12

    I wonder why should we not ask the question the other way round? Onus on improving relationship should be on Iran and not on world’s freest country. Irani society is not a secular liberal democracy, threatens to destroy other countries, treats its minorities badly, treats women as second class citizens, and is economically impoverished despite having huge oil reserves. Why should Obama be put on defensive and not Iranians?


  95. February 5, 2009 at 14:10

    There is no need to be defensive.The on going change in U.S.A.s S. Asian policy will correct the past mistakes and pave the way to have cordial relation with all democratic countries in the region including Iran,Pakistan and Afganistan ,as there will be a drastic change in the political set up of these counteries.

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