Iran Not Likely To Meet Obama Halfway

The Iranian leadership has finally given its first signal in response to President Obama's talk of engagement with Iran. It's anything but an olive branch. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave a speech Wednesday in which he enumerated his country's long list of grievances against the U.S.

The list includes events that occurred more than 50 years ago, beginning with the CIA-backed coup in 1953 that put the Shah of Iran on the throne and kept him in power for 25 years. Ahmadinejad also complained that the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in the brutal Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and recalled an incident from 1988 in which a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf shot down a civilian airliner, killing nearly 300 people.

In essence, Ahmadinejad was demanding that the United States apologize for these events if it expects to see improvements in its relations with Iran, correspondent Mike Shuster tells Renee Montagne.

But the United States already has apologized for some of these incidents. In a 2000 speech, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, apologized for the CIA coup and also said that it was regrettable that the U.S. had backed Saddam Hussein. As well, the U.S. has paid compensation to those who lost relatives in the 1988 plane downing.

It's unclear whether Ahmadinejad was aware of the previous apologies, or whether he just wanted to publicly air these issues, which, in his opinion, still stand as obstacles to improved U.S.-Iran relations, Shuster says.

Conservative Iranians hold views similar to those of the Iranian president. However, reformers who backed the previous Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, tell Shuster that if there were a different president in Iran, there might be a better response to the current overtures from the White House, and that there might be actual progress between bilateral ties.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.