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For Iran, WikiLeaks cables validate its skepticism of Obama's sincerity

Iranians and analysts alike say the leaked diplomatic cables show a half-hearted attempt at engagement, undermined by an assumption that engaging Iran was pointless.

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“These [US overture] statements may seem soft, but in reality there is a cast iron fist underneath a velvet glove,” Khamenei said earlier this month, referring back to the symbolism of his earlier comments and showing that, from Iran's perspective, the US hadn't changed its approach.

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Before the US successfully orchestrated a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in June, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: “The US government and its allies are mistaken if they think they can brandish a stick of [a] resolution and then sit down to talk with us – such a thing will not happen.”

Ahmadinejad decries WikiLeaks trove as 'propaganda game'

Still, a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers are slated to resume next week after a 14-month hiatus. Mr. Ahmadinejad, ironically for a conservative, has in recent years taken several steps to improve US-Iran ties, including writing letters to former President George W. Bush and Obama, and to the American people.

At a Tehran press conference Monday, Ahmadinejad appeared to be not fully briefed on the contents of the WikiLeaks documents, nor the fact that Washington has decried their release. He called them “psychological warfare” and a “propaganda game” aimed at Iran.

“These documents are prepared and released by the US government systematically and in pursuance of an aim,” said the Iranian president. Such “mischievous acts” were “worthless” and would “not have their desired political impact.”

Far more unsettling for Iranian officials have been the candid assessments about Shiite Muslim Iran by its Sunni Arab neighbors, whose leaders and top officials are often quoted in the secret US cables – despite long-standing diplomatic efforts by Tehran to win their favor – as detesting and fearing the Iranian regime.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, for example, is stated in one cable as repeatedly calling on the US to take military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, to “cut off the head of the snake.”

For Iranian hard-liners, the presidency of George W. Bush – who famously declared Iran part of an Axis of Evil with Iraq and North Korea in January 2002 – was easier to vilify. So for those who have made “death to America” a mantra since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Obama presented far more of a challenge by openly suggesting a willingness to talk.

“It’s like there’s been no change, it’s a continuation of Bush,” says the Tehran observer about current US policy. “There is more and more investment in animosity, and very little for allowing the option of something else appearing, like a reconciliation.... Where is the impact of Obama, who raised so much hope among Iranians, among Americans? [That is the most] disappointing aspect of the whole story.”

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