A friend who follows Iranian media closely for the U.S. government today sent this reality check about the cherry-picking in which many U.S. journalists engage to show that Iran is now receptive to a U.S. diplomatic outreach and that Iranian authorities approach Obama with open arms. I pass along with permission. He writes:
While the US election results and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory letter to President-elect Obama have sparked debate among Iranian officials and media about the prospects for improved relations with Washington, media connected to key power centers in Iran, including President Ahmadinejad, have harshly criticized Obama, calling him a “house slave” days before Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qa’ida’s second in command, used the same term.
- In an 11 November commentary, Borna News Agency, which is close to Ahmadinezhad, called Obama a “house slave,” adding that those who “trust such a politician lack maturity, if they are not committing treason” — a likely reference to Iranian moderates. A day earlier, in an interview with Borna, Ahmadinezhad’s press adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr characterized Ahmadinezhad’s letter to Obama as a “new political move” and advised Obama “not to make the mistake of not responding.”
- In an editorial entitled “A Dark Person Rises to Remove Darkness From America,” Sobh-e Sadegh, which is published by Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i’s representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), wrote that “Obama’s acceptance of unconditional negotiations with Iran” would signal a “new beginning” only if “coexistence with a nuclear Iran and acceptance of its regional role are part of the US negotiating position.” It added that the “appointment of the extremist Jew Rahm Emanuel as the [White House] chief of staff is not a good sign” (10 November).
- In an editorial entitled “The Great Satan Masked as Obama,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said that the “United States is the embodiment of Satan. Hence, in this circus, for anyone but the slaves of Satan to take charge of the government is impossible.” It added that Iranians “who are ecstatic about Obama are either ignorant or have a plot [against Iran]” (5 November).
Several hard-line Iranian media, including some close to Ahmadinejad, have said that his letter serves as a warning to the United States, while others have flatly condemned it.
- Raja News, which closely reflects the views of Ahmadinejad and his supporters, wrote on 10 November that the Iranian President’s letter “resembles the Prophet Muhammad’s letters to the 7th century leaders of the Byzantine, Persian, and Abyssinian empires.” Those letters warned leaders at that time to submit to Islam or suffer military attacks. In another commentary on 13 November, Raja News compared Ahmadinejad’s letter to one from Ayatollah Khomeyni to Mikhail Gorbachev, which it said set the stage for the “collapse” of the Soviet Union, suggesting that Ahmadinejad’s letter is the harbinger of the “collapse of the US.”
- Raja News also cited Esmail Kowsari, the vice chairman of the Majles National Security Committee, as saying that Ahmadinejad’s letter was written from an “offensive position” and warning that “if the elected president [Obama] does not listen to the letter’s advice, he and his country will suffer the same fate [as the Soviet Union].” He added, “this letter is a final warning” (10 November).
- In an editorial referring to Obama as a “black immigrant” and praising the “brave and intelligent Iranian nation” for confronting “Global Arrogance” and “criminal America,” the hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami On 9 November, the daily, which is often critical of Ahmadinejad, followed up with a vehement condemnation of his letter, calling it “costly to the Islamic Republic, which has been able to humiliate the US worldwide” and “not worthy of Islamic Republic officials.” It noted that if Ahmadinejad “intends to create an opening for US-Iran relations, the president cannot venture into such an arena as only the Supreme Leader has the power to do so,” adding that “for now, it is clear that he does not intend to do so.” wrote that the “powers-that-be” have “already trained Obama to function within a predetermined framework” (6 November).
It would be good to hear Trita Parsi and his National Iranian American Council, the Islamic Republic’s de facto lobby in Washington, speak out against such racism in official pronouncements. Alas, it seems we will be waiting a long time.