Iran and Obama’s Middle East Speech

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Behzad Khoshandam
PhD Student in International Relations

President Obama’s speech on the United States’ new policy in the Middle East on Thursday, May 19, 2011, has been among his most important strategic positions on the situation in the Middle East following his presidential campaign in 2008 and his Al-Azhar address in 2009.

The main highlights of his speech included the United States’ reaction to democratization in the Middle East and North Africa, the war on terror, reasons behind revolutions and uprisings in the Arab world and the Middle East peace process.

Iran was also another highlight of his remarks as he dedicated three paragraphs of his speech to Iran. He used the word “Iran” six times and “Tehran” four times throughout his address. It was clear that the United States attaches special importance to what is going on in Iran and to its important strategic position in regional and international developments.

First, it should be noted that the image of Iran as presented in this speech has not been constructive and conforming to Obama’s early positions on Iran. Secondly, there has been no solid evidence to prove Iran’s relationship to what is going on in Syria, as Obama has alleged. Thirdly, Obama’s emphasis on human rights violations in Iran compared to other Middle Eastern countries that are currently undergoing fundamental changes in their social and political structures is at odds with the realities on the grounds.

Meanwhile, Iran’s regional and international approaches and interactions or Iran, as a country in the focus of the United States’ Middle East strategy, can both facilitate, and limit enforcement of the US strategy in the Middle East.

There are, therefore, two important points about Iran’s role in facilitation or limitation of the US strategy, which include the process of democratization in the Middle East and the Arab – Israeli peace.

From the viewpoint of the United States, especially Obama, Iran’s approach to supporting freedom seeking uprising in Bahrain, which is based on Tehran’s interests, values and strategic approaches, is a clear instance of opposing viewpoints of Iran and the United States in relation to the Arab Spring and political developments in the Middle East and North Africa.

To enforce its new strategy, the United States needs to manage the aforesaid developments in line with its own interests and values. On the opposite, Iran supports freedom seeking movements on the basis of its own resistance-based views as a new emerging trend which will counteract the west-Israel alliance.

If the two players managed to fond common grounds in their different approaches in relation to regional alliances and developments, enforcement of Obama’s new strategy in the Middle East will be facilitated; otherwise, that strategy will be faced with serious challenges.

The next issue is about the Middle East peace process. Washington believes that the current situation of relations between Israel and Arabs is “unstable” and needs a two-state formula. In Iran’s opinion, however, the current situation between Israel and Palestinians is fake, unfair, unjust, and based on imperialistic strategy followed by the United States and other big powers.

Therefore, there are many grounds to block enforcement of the US strategy one of whose main hallmarks is the peace between Arabs and Israel besides Washington’s relations with Tehran. It should be noted that the issue of Palestine has been a major cause of difference and strategic conflicts between these two players in the past 30 years. This is why Iran has described Obama’s approach to the issue of Palestine as being marked with contradictions and desperation.

In view of all realities, orientations, political groupings, and existing realities in the Middle East and North Africa and given the current trend of freedom movements, Iran is playing an increasingly effective role in the enforcement of Obama’s new regional strategy.

History will prove beyond any doubt that Iran’s role and importance to the United States new regional strategy is now higher than it has been over the past 60 years. The new configuration of political developments in the Middle East and North Africa will be influenced by Iran’s actions and viewpoints. Therefore, the United States and Obama Administration will have no practical choice, but to pay due respect to Iran’s strategic approaches and views in order to pave the way for the implementation of their own regional strategy and diplomatic initiatives.