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Iran offers rare praise for 'the Great Satan' (+video)

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directed rare praise at the United States, welcoming a speech by President Obama that aimed to cool war rhetoric surrounding Iran's nuclear program.

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Initial American gestures in the first months of the Obama administration were cautiously noted by Khamenei, who did not rule out moving toward some kind of détente but couched his response in suspicion that the outstretched American hand was a clenched fist wrapped in velvet.

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Not a day has gone by since 1979, Khamenei has often declared, when the US has not sought to undermine the Islamic regime. Chants of “Death to America” still ring out at Friday prayers across the country, and American and Israeli flags are burned and trampled upon during key revolution anniversary dates.

International talks coming

Khamenei’s words today come as both the Iranians and P5+1 group – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany – have signaled that they will resume nuclear talks in coming weeks for the first time in a year.

The board of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna today declared that those talks needed to be “serious” and yield “concrete results,” after two IAEA expert visits to Iran last month failed to make progress on outstanding questions about possible nuclear weapons-related work by Iran.

But the most critical recent event inside Iran was the parliamentary elections. Despite boycotts of the vote, the banning of one-third of potential candidates, and the continued house arrest of opposition leaders, the Islamic regime claimed a renewed legitimacy after the star-crossed 2009 presidential election, streets protests, and violent crackdown.

Farideh Farhi, an Iran specialist at the University of Hawaii, suggested to the Monitor this week that the regime may try to translate claims of an “epic” election victory against “enemies” into an easing of Iran’s “paranoia” in dealing with what it calls the opposition “sedition” at home, and in nuclear moves with the West.

“Let us hope they will be happy,” Ms. Farhi told the Monitor. “It will have benefits for everybody if the paranoia goes away, and they feel successful.”

Tweets from the ayatollah

Khamenei himself made that direct connection, between the election results and his words for Obama, in his comments broadcast on state-run TV.

They were highlighted on his official Twitter account, with comments on Obama intermingled with those about the election results.

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