By Larry Derfner, Mideast Watch
The Obama administration's expressed intention to try direct diplomacy with Iran has been rebuffed, at least publicly, by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who demanded an American "apology" for past injustices against his nation. Now, in another statement unlikely to win friends in Washington (not to mention Jerusalem), Ahmadinejad has again cast his lot with Holocaust deniers, sending a message of encouragement to a Tehran conference titled "Holocaust? A Sacred Lie by the West." The official Iran News Daily reports:
"Zionists are plundering nations' resources and their wealth by making use of politicians and political parties as well as dominating most of the world's power, wealth and media sources," said the president in a message sent to a conference on Holocaust held in the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran . . .
President Ahmadinejad added that the Zionist regime is the "illegitimate child" of the Holocaust phenomenon.
Doubts raised about U.S.-Iranian diplomacy
While Washington is given high marks for good intentions, doubts are being expressed about the chances that American diplomats can persuade Iran's leadership to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Commentator Randa Takieddine writes in the London-based Al Hayat newspaper:
It is true that there is a reformist current that wants dialogue with Washington, and another, hard-line group, which rejects this. However, all of the factions in the Islamic Republic insist on obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran looks at Pakistan, a Sunni country that has nuclear weapons, and is thus determined to not abandon enrichment, whatever it obtains from the new U.S. administration.
Obama goes back into Arab world's good books
Obama's election was greeted with elation in the Arab world, but that enthusiasm cooled as he kept mum during the Israeli war in Gaza while waiting out President George W. Bush's term. However, Obama's Muslim-friendly interview with the Dubai-based satellite TV station Al Arabiya, combined with his prompt dispatch of Lebanese-American diplomat George Mitchell to the Middle East, has raised his stock back up in the Arab world. Commentator Abdullah Iskandar writes in the Beirut-based Al Hayat newspaper:
The new American president did not hurl direct criticism at the current situation of the Arabs and Muslims; neither did he specify what is required from them, since he wanted his message—with the arrival of his envoy to the region—to be smooth and non-sensitive. However, he did not miss to say—in an implicit and diplomatic manner—that people "regardless of their faiths" must "share the same dreams and aspirations" and the ability to achieve them, thus making a clear distinction between terrorism and the point of view defending the national and humanitarian interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
- Read more of Larry Derfner's Mideast Watch.