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Iran: Change in Substance Faces Tough Challenges

Published on: April 4th 2009 12:19:02
President Obama’s videotaped message to the Iranian people and, most importantly, the clerical leadership on the occasion of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, is the latest in a series of gestures that aim to soften or even reverse the policies of the Bush Administration. While this address introduces the critical element of public diplomacy by an American President directly engaging Iran, there are some who maintain that from an Iranian perspective, the American gesture is still perceived as dictating the rules of the game rather than engaging in a genuine dialogue. While some interpret Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini’s dismissal of the message as a setback others within the Administration remain undaunted in their desire to try to improve relations Washington believes it will take a few weeks for an agreed line to emerge from Tehran’s complex power structure. Insiders view this latest engagement as representing an important change in substance. Push back from Congress and rising security concerns in Tel Aviv continue to work to shape the perimeters of US Iranian policy. The upcoming meeting on Afghanistan to which Iranian counterparts have been invited could be the next important step in this endeavor. As a senior State Department official told us: “We are not yet ready to take no for an answer.”

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