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The Significance of Ahmadinejad's Letter to Obama - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Tehran didn’t take a moment to comprehend the new train of thought in Washington, as its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rushed to congratulate U.S. President-elect Obama on his election victory, calling on him to change U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. Here we see Tehran reached out to America, while still accusing its enemies of being agents of America.

Even Hamas’s Khalid Mishal, who on numerous occasions in the past blasted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his close relationship with Washington, was quick to convey his feelings of goodwill towards America in an interview with ‘Sky News’, where he expressed his readiness for dialogue with the Obama administration.

Such an act was expected from Iran, especially since it ordered its allies, including Khalid Mishal, to keep a low-profile in order to guarantee a Democratic victory in the US elections. The important thing regarding Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory letter to Obama is for Arab leaders and intellectuals to see how they were deceived into believing in the necessity of not accusing Iran of wanting to get closer to Washington, bearing in mind that closeness with America is something most want to avoid in order not to provoke Iran.

And yet here is Iran, courting Washington! There is no harm in this politically, since politics is about self-interest; however there is a problem when interests are forsaken in order to widen Iranian ambitions.

Iran has moved closer to America without paying lip service to its regional allies, or those it has deceived on the Arab streets, or those used by it as a bargaining chip with Washington. How, based on his track record could Ahmadinejad say that his country is ready to help America in Afghanistan, and with Hamas and Hezbollah, and Syria?

And so the most important lesson to learn from Ahmadinejad’s letter to Obama is that the Arab world must act according to its own interests, and not Iranian extortion.

An aid of an Arab official called me recently to complain about a news item in our newspaper, he told me that the party he represents ‘inform you of his greetings and mild disappointment …for how could you publish a news item that says the Lebanese government is an ally of Western governments, and that the opposition and the Iranians are using this to discredit the government’.

I asked him; are you requesting that we say that a legitimate government of a UN-member country does not enjoy good relations with the international community? Should Arab governments only ally themselves with extremist groups just to gain support and popularity?’

This is how the Iranian and Syrian media discredit legitimate Arab governments, but the question here is where is this same media now regarding Ahmadinejad’s letter to Obama, and Syria’s activities with Israel and Hamas’s truce with Tel Aviv?

Moreover, there is a lesson to be learned and absorbed in Obama’s response to Ahmadinejad’s letter, especially when he said that currently in America there is only one President, and that is George W. Bush. This is a message that Iran and our entire region must understand.

Washington isn’t Lebanon for Tehran to address it in the same manner it does Nabih Berri, or Hassan Nasrallah asking them to ignore their nation’s Prime Minister or President, or favor Khalid Mishal over Mahmoud Abbas, or attempt to block the efforts of Saudi Arabia and other GCC member states at the behest of other Gulf States.

It’s not wrong for Iran to seek normalized relations with America, but not by blackmailing us and demanding we surrender our own interests in favor of Tehran’s. This is the message, and we must learn it, particularly those among us who were deceived, voluntarily or otherwise.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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