April 14, 2009


A Thawing with the U.S.?: The tone of the Obama Administration's approach improves the chances for a better relationship between the two countries (Stanley Reed, 4/14/09, BusinessWeek)

Just about everyone I have talked to so far in Iran—with the exception of an immigration officer at the airport who fingerprinted me, as has been unpleasantly required for some years now—is optimistic about the chances for better relations with the U.S. and in favor of such a change. [...]

[A]bove all, people are tired of the situation, which has damaged both countries, but especially Iran, over the past three decades. Iranian businesses think they could be a much bigger factor in the world economy if there were no stigma attached to doing business with them, and if they had access to better technology and, above all, management skills. It's almost a cliché to say that Iran with its big, youthful population of 74 million and fairly serious industrial base could be a huge opportunity for American companies—and, indeed, many others.

None of this, of course, means that a thaw will happen soon. While the Obama Administration and some in the Iranian leadership see the benefits of change, hostility between the two nations is ingrained in the internal politics of both. Iran, in particular, is deeply suspicious of the U.S. Iranians recite a long list of grievances dating back to the CIA-aided coup of 1953 that ousted Iran's elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and led to the restoration of the Shah. More recently, the Iranian leadership believes that it has received the back of America's hand after being helpful to the U.S. in the invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan earlier in this decade.

Warming relations with the U.S. might be disorienting for some Iranian politicians, and the topic could become a big issue in what could be a highly charged June presidential vote, when Ahmadinejad will be challenged by one or more candidates from the so-called reform camp. As one businessman remarked to me with some exaggeration, roughly 60% of the content of political speeches in Iran is criticism of the U.S., so with normal relations, that 60% would need to be replaced with something else.

...that even this administration would be deft enough to make it clear that Ahmedinejad is a stumbling block to the thaw and that he must be replaced--either by Khameini directly or by the voters--but they've been so inept so far you can easily see them accidentally rewarding him via such improvements.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2009 6:20 AM
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