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News | Did Obama Threaten Khamenei?

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

02 Nov 2011 08:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

ObamaSLBig.jpg8 a.m., 11 Aban/November 2 Reports indicate that two weeks ago U.S. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of plotting the assassination of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington and other terrorist attacks. Iran's hardline mass media have reported on the letter and the response that Iran has supposedly sent to the White House.

Fars, the news agency that is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, confirmed that letters have been exchanged between the Islamic Republic and the United States. It quoted Mehmanparast as saying, "It is better for the Americans if, instead of pursuing such scenarios and the wrong foreign policy, they correct what they are doing."

Raja News, the hardline website published by former Ahmadinejad supporter Fatemeh Rajabi, reported that in his letter, Obama demanded that if Iran's leadership had no role in the plot, then it should hand over the accused, Ali Gholam Shakuri and Abdul Reza Shahlai, to the United States for prosecution. Raja News said that Iran has sent a "firm response" to Obama, demanding that the United States "apologize to Iran and its citizens who have been accused of taking part in the plot," and that "it compensate the citizens for the moral and monetary damages that they have suffered" as a result of the accusations.

The website claimed that the Iranian response to Obama declared, "Inventing scenarios based on false information and taking action in violation of international laws -- for which the innocent people of various countries, including the people of the United States, pay a heavy price -- have become a routine methods for U.S. officials, an example of which is the invasion of Iraq based on false information. The result of such a scenario is that, after the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi people and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, the United States has been forced to withdraw from Iraq."

Raja News also claimed that Obama suggested negotiations between the two countries, but in its response --which it indicated was delivered to the United States this past Friday -- Iran was silent about the proposal. A similar report was posted by Mashregh News, the hardline website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Hardline newspaper Kayhan's lead headline on Tuesday read "Iran's Formal Response to the White House: The U.S. Must Officially Apologize." In an editorial, Hesameddin Boroumand wrote,

After the United States, during George W. Bush's two terms, began signing the song of war on terror and used that as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, it was Obama's turn who -- to mend the image of Washington, whose mask had been removed -- choose the slogans of "change" and "smart power." [...] It is natural that Obama and the Democrats choose change with the strategy of smart power -- a combination of soft and hard power -- in order to soften the idea of hard power and the warmongering face of the Bush era. But the current situation and position of the United States indicate that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats and not only is Obama as far from political wisdom as Bush was, but that the strategy of smart power yielded results for the U.S. opposite of what was intended, in particular in its confrontation with Islamic Iran, and that the strategy can be defined as one of provocation and stupidity, including the recent accusations [of a plot to] assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington. [...] But [Washington] did not stop there. The United States filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council [on October 14]. [...] This is while the Americans are both the plaintiff and the judge. [...] And in his first court appearance, the accused [Mansour Arbansiar] rejected all accusations and pleaded innocent. These facts indicate why the U.S. does not file a complaint with the International Criminal Court or International Court of Justice, because it does not have evidence that it can submit to such courts.

Kayhan also mocked the suggestion of retired General Jack Keane who, in testimony to a special joint subcommittee session of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said, "We have got to put our hands around their [Iranian leaders'] throats now. Why don't we kill them? We kill other people who kill others." Kayhan asked, "How come the baseless accusation against an alcoholic Iranian who is a citizen of the United States can be sent to the United Nations, but what the U.S. officials say about assassinating Iranian officials cannot be pursued internationally?"

At the same time, Aftab News, a website close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, put a positive spin on Obama's letter by quoting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to the effect that it conveyed American interest in negotiating with Iran. "On the one hand, the letter brings up baseless issues [presumably the alleged plot], and on the other hand it expresses the U.S. desire to talk to Iran," Salehi said. Aftab News also confirmed the statements attributed to Mehmanparast by the Fars News Agency.

Interestingly, Iran's reformist and pro-Green Movement media outlets have been completely silent about President Obama's letter and the Islamic Republic's response to it.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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