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01 April 2009

Obama's Faustian Bargain

by Mark Silverberg

In January, President Obama addressed the Iranian mullahs in terms suggesting a possible reconciliation between the two countries if the Iranians could “unclench their fist.” The speech was met with chants of “Death to America” and derision by the Iranian mullahs who demanded an apology for decades of past injustices alleged committed by the US against the Iranian people, and ridiculed Obama's slogan of "change" as a retreat forced upon America by Iran's Islamic revolution. Later, Obama released a video offering Iran congratulations on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. This initiative was also received coldly in Tehran.

For Obama, both cases form part of his strategy to change the tone of all aspects of U.S. foreign policy in the hope that our enemies will become more accommodating. But for the Iranians, this diplomatic initiative is viewed both as "insufficient strategic reward" and as a sign of weakness indicative of America’s declining global power and influence. As Barry Rubin of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel wrote recently: “In the Middle East, it is not so useful to think yourself popular and show yourself to be friendly. You have to inspire fear in your enemies and confidence in your friends. And if you don't inspire fear in your enemies - if you're too nice to them - then you will indeed foment fear among your friends.”

That is because the culture of the modern Arab/Persian world has not descended from the Reformation, the Enlightenment, John Locke, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, but from radical jihadi Salafists like Ibn Tamiya in the 15th century and Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (Wahhabism) in the 18th century whose descendants now seek to restore their ancient Caliphate and return the world to the Dark Ages.

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