To hear the rolling US corporate media refrain, US President Obama’s extraordinary NowRuz day message to Iran was dismissed, rejected, rebuffed, and trashed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in a speech delivered yesterday in Mashhad, Iran. See, for examples, the Fox, MSNBC, Washington Post, Voice of America, variations on the theme .
The Associated Press, the source for much of the negative reporting, even carried a commentary characterizing the rebuff as illustrating Iran’s “mindset.”
So say we all? Deja vu to 2003? Kool-aid anyone?
Not quite. At Reuters, a very different headline read: “Iran Sets Terms for US Ties,” and similarly, at the French News Agency (AFP): “Iran ready to change if US leads way.”
Ignored in most US media reports about Iran’s reactions was this rather positive comment from Iran’s foreign minister, as reported by the Iranian news agency:
Concerning US President Barack Obama’s message to Iranians on the occasion of Nowroz, Mottaki said,” We are glad that Nowroz has been a source for friendship and we are pleased that Nowroz message is a message for coexistence, peace and friendship for the whole world.”
In the extension here, see the full text of Khamenei’s remarks in English as pertain to ties to America. (Translation provided late today by BBC/OSC — the latter being the valuable US government “open source center” service.) Underlining highlights are my own.
For commentary, consider Farideh Farhi’s excellent analysis.
For my own part, Khamenei’s speech covers the standard list of Iran’s grievances with the US since the revolution, some old, some ongoing, like still frozen assets and the perceived US support of various “bandit” and “dise\integrating” forces around Iran’s periphery….
Amid Khamenei’s review of the sins of previous US Administrations, there’s even a reference to Regan era Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s infamous churlish quote about “the only Iranian moderate is a dead Iranian.” (Khamenei was President of Iran then.)
Khamenei also indulges in reminders that Americans might not want to hear, about why the US has been so hated in the world. (Khamenei anticipates that some would mis-translate or cherry-pick from his remarks. He must be quite aware of MEMRI, et. al.)
Iranian mistrust of the US is very high, and Khamenei accordingly wonders if the Obama “velvet glove” masks a hidden iron fist, a reference to the all-too-plausible suspicion that there are some in the Obama Administration (e.g., Dennis Ross) who have advocated talking to Iran, not because they believe talks will work, but because they “predict” they will fail (or must be made to fail). Once talks collapse, then the US would think it would have a stronger hand in getting world support, e.g., “international legitimacy,” for harsher measures — including military options.
Khamenei’s complaint boils down to America having a “lack of respect” for the Islamic Republic and he doubts how much Obama’s change rhetoric really… changes things.
Yet contrary to the most dour AP style reporting, Iran’s Leader has not shut the door on the Obama Administration: “We have no experience with the new American government and the new American president. We will observe them and we will judge.” And as Khamenei closes: “If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude.”
(Khamenei @ Imam Reza Mosque, Mashhad, 21 March 2009: ending section on America)
Regarding the foreign affairs of our country I would like to mentions one point and that is the issue between us and America. One of the main challenges for the Revolution, right from the beginning, has been the same issue. Right from the first day of the Revolution’s victory a phase was opened to the Iranian nation as a major test in relations and interactions with the government of the United States of America. This major and important test has continued for the past 30 years. The American government faced this Revolution with an angry and frowning face and opposing attitude from the beginning. Of course they had the right to be so considering their own calculations. Before the Revolution Iran was in the hands of America, it’s vital resources were in the hands of America, its political decision making centers were in the hands of America, appointing and deposing it’s vital centers were in the hands of America and it [Iran] was like a field for the Americans, the American militaries and others to graze. Well this was taken away from them. They could have expressed their opposition not in such an aggressive manner. But from the beginning of the Revolution, both their Republican presidents and the Democrats did not behave well towards the Islamic Republic. This is nothing hidden from anyone.
[People chanting death to America]
Pay attention, the first measure taken by the Americans was to provoke the scattered opposition groups of the Islamic Republic and supporting terrorist and disintegration measures in the country. They started this right from the beginning. In any parts of the country where there were grounds for disintegration measures, the Americans had a hand, their money and at times their agents were noticed. This cost our people a lot. Unfortunately it still continues. The bandits who are in the Iran-Pakistan border areas, we know that some of them-as we have their voices- are in touch with Americans.
They have wireless communications and take orders from them. Bandits, terrorists, murderers are in touch with American officers in a neighboring country. Unfortunately this is still going on. This was the beginning of what they started. Then it was the confiscation of properties and goods belonging to Iran. The former regime had given a large amount of money to the Americans to buy airplanes, helicopters and weapons from them. Some of them were prepared over there and when the Revolution took place they did not deliver them. They did not give back the money which amounted to millions of dollars. And the strange point is that they kept these goods in a store and they considered storage charges for it and claimed it from the Algeria Agreement. To take away some goods from a nation, confiscate them and do not deliver them and claim storage charges for it! This is a kind of behavior which was started since then and it still continues. Our possessions are still there. They belong to the Iranian nation. They are in America and also some European countries. We have referred to them over the past years and asked them to give us what belongs to us and have been paid for. They said that since they are under the license of the Americans, the Americans do not allow them to do so and they cannot give them to us and they are still there.
They showed Saddam [late Iraqi president] a green light. This was another measure by the American government to attack Iran. If Saddam did not have the green light from the Americans, he would have not attacked our borders. They imposed eight years of war on our country. About 300,000 of our young people, our people were martyred in this eight-year war. In these eight years [Iran-Iraq war], particularly in the last few years of it, the Americans were constantly supporting Saddam and helping him financially, with ammunitions, and political consultancy. They were providing him with satellite information. They had information facilities. They used to record the movements of our forces through satellite and they would transfer the same on the very same day to Saddam’s HQs to use it against our young people and forces.
They [Americans] closed their eyes on Saddam’s crimes. The Halabcheh incident southern Iranian town bordering Iraq] took place, hitting various towns of our country by missiles took place, they destroyed houses, in the frontlines they used chemical bombs, they still closed their eyes. They did not object at all. They helped Saddam. This was another one of the acts of this government over the years towards our country and our nation.
Then, please pay attention; there is a lot of time for chanting. Towards the end of the war an American officer hit our airplane on the Persian Gulf with a missile from a warship. Some 290, about 300 passengers were in this plane and they were all killed. And then instead of punishing that officer, the American president of that time awarded that officer and gave him a medal. Now our nation should forget these? Can it forget?
They have supported the criminal terrorists who have killed men, women, people, great scholars, even little kids in our country. They [Americans] let them [terrorists] to be active in their country. They have constantly had aggressive propaganda against our country. Constantly! In the past years the American presidents, particularly during the eight years time of the former president [referring to George Bush] whenever he said something against the Iranian nation, against our country, against our officials, against the Islamic Republic system, he said something absurd and nonsense. He disrespected the Iranian nation somehow. It has always been like this over the years. They have disturbed the security and peace in our region, the security in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have brought massive quantities of weapons to the regional countries to stand against the Islamic Republic, in fact for filling the pockets of the arm manufacturing factories.
They have unconditionally supported Israel, the cruel Zionist regime. You witnessed one example of its [Israel’s] cruelty in Gaza in the past two, three months. What a disaster they created. How many children they killed, how many men and women they killed. In 22 days they killed 5,000 people in Gaza by bombardments, missiles, direct shootings. In the meanwhile they supported it. The American government supported it until the very last moments. Whenever the Security Council wanted to issue a resolution against the Zionist regime, America stepped forward and defended [Israel] and did not let it happen. It [America] threatened our country on any occasions or without any occasions. It has constantly said that it will attack us. They said that they had a military plan ready on the desk, they’ll do this and they’ll do that. They have constantly talked against our country and threatened our nation. Of course these threats have not affected our nation but they have shown their enmity by doing so. They have insulted the Iranian nation, the Iranian government and the Iranian president over and over. Some years ago an American said that the Iranian nation has to be eradicated. In the past few years an American official said that a nice and moderate Iranian is the one who has been killed, who is dead. They have insulted this great and honourable nation, the nation whose only fault is to defend its identity and independence in such ways.
They have imposed sanctions on our country for 30 years. Of course these sanctions were in our benefit. With this regards we have to thank the Americans.
If they had not imposed sanctions on us, we would have not reached this level of science and progress. Sanctions have constantly made us to be aware, think about ourselves and innovate. But they did not mean to serve us like this. They wanted to be antagonist. This is how they have treated the Iranian nation for 30 years and now the new American government says that they would like to negotiate with Iran and let’s forget the past. They say that they have extended their arm towards Iran. What kind of a hand? If it is an iron hand covered with a velvet glove then it won’t make any good sense. They congratulate the Iranian nation on the occasion of the New Year [Iranian New Year started 20 March 2009] but in the same message they call the Iranian nation as supporters of terrorism, seeking nuclear weapons and accuse it of such things.
I would like to say that I do not know who makes decisions for America, the president, the congress, behind the scene elements? But I would like to say that we have logic. Since the beginning the Iranian nation has moved with logic. Regarding our vital issues we are not sentimental. We do not make decisions based on emotions. We make decisions through calculations. They say let’s negotiate, let’s start relations. They have the slogan of change. Where is the change? What has changed? Clarify this to us? What has changed? Has your enmity towards the Iranian nation changed? What signs are there to support this? Have you released the possessions of the Iranian nation? Have you removed the cruel sanctions? Have you stopped the insults, accusations and negative propaganda against this great nation and its officials? Have you stopped unconditional support for the Zionist regime? What has changed? They talk of change but there are no changes in action. We have not seen any changes. Even the literature has not changes. The new American president from the very moment that he was officially appointed as the president made a speech and insulted Iran and the Islamic government. Why? If you are telling the truth and there have been changes, where are these changes? Why nothing can be seen. I would like to say this to everyone. The American officials should also know that the Iranian nations cannot be made a fool of or made scared.
First of all [interrupted by people chanting]
Changes in words are not adequate; although we have not seen much of a change there either. Change has to be real. I would like to say this to the American officials that this change that you keep on talking about is a real necessity; you have no other choice, you have to change. If you do not change then divine traditions will change you, the world will change you. You have to change but this change should not be just in words. It should not be with unhealthy intentions. You may say that we want to change our policies but not the aims, we’ll change the tactics. This is not a change. This is deceit. There can be a true change which should be seen in action. I advise the American officials, whoever is the decision maker in America, whether the president, the congress or others that the condition the American government has had is not in the benefit of the American nation and the American government. Today, you are hated in the world. You should know this if you already don’t. Nations set fire on your flag. Muslim nations across the world chant death to America.
[People chanting death to America]
What is the reason behind this hatred? Have you ever studied this? Analyzed it? Have you learnt from it? The reason is that you treat the world like a tutor, you talk snobbishly, you want to impose your own will on the world, you interfere in the affairs of other countries, and you implement double-sided criteria. When a young Palestinian is forced to do some act of martyrdom because of the pressure he is under, you bombard him with a mass of propaganda and on the other hand you ignore the crimes of the Zionist regime while it created such a disaster in Gaza for 22 days. You call that young man a terrorist and you say that you are committed towards the security of such a terrorist regime. These are the reasons due to which they hate you around the world. This is an advice to you. For your own benefit, for your own good, for the future of your country, restrain from snobbish attitude, hegemony and the tutor kind of an attitude. Don’t interfere in the affairs of other nations. Be happy with your own rights. Don’t define benefits for yourself in various parts of the world. You will see that America will gradually lose that hated image in the world. These have made you hated. Listen to these words. This is my advice to the American officials, the president and others. Listen well to these words and have them translated for you. Of course don’t give it to the Zionists to translate for you. Consult healthy people and seek their opinions.
If the American government continues its same behavior, method, course, policies against us as the past 30 years, we are the same people, the same nation that we’ve been in the past 30 years.
Please pay attention. If you go on with the slogan of discussions and pressure, saying that you will negotiate with Iran and at the same time impose pressures, threats and adaptations, our nation will not like such words. We do not have any experience with the new American president and government. We’ll see and judge. You change and we will change as well. If you don’t change, our people have become more and more experienced, stronger and more patient in the past 30 years.