Iran's Ahmadinejad to Obama: Say 'sorry'

The Iranian president told Obama to show us change we can believe in.

"Sure, I'll 'unclench my fist', but first you must kiss my ring."

That's essentially the message Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sending to President Obama in what the BBC is calling "one of Mr. Ahmadinejad's strongest tirades against the US."

"Those who speak of change must apologize to the Iranian people and try to repair their past crimes," Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in an address in the western region of Khermenshah.

The comments are in response to Mr. Obama's offer to extend a hand if Iran "unclenched its fist," which he made during an interview broadcast Monday on a Saudi-owned TV station.

Yankee, go home!
With respect to US troop deployments abroad, Ahmadinejad also said he expected "deep and fundamental change," reports Agence France-Presse.

"Meet people, talk to them with respect, and put an end to the expansionist policies," said Ahmadinejad. "If you talk about change it must put an end to the US military presence in the world, withdraw your troops and take them back inside your borders. ... If someone wants to talk with us in the language that [President] Bush used... even if he uses new words, our response will be the same that we gave to Bush during the past years."

Window of opportunity?
These comments come the day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Iran had a “clear opportunity” to engage with the international community, but they may not be exactly what she had in mind.

Well, no one said it would be easy.

In a recent opinion piece, former longtime Monitor correspondent and editor John Hughes wrote: "We should not get too starry-eyed about [Obama's 'new approach']."

President-elect Obama will not soon sip tea in Tehran with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and come away with his pledges to stop aiding terrorists, abandon its nuclear weapons program, and recognize Israel.

If the political stars align, what we might see is the beginning of considerably lower-level diplomatic engagement, perhaps the establishment of a US diplomatic post in Tehran, and some people-to-people, cultural, and sporting exchanges.

Not that Obama's in any real rush to talk with Iran.

The Monitor's US foreign policy correspondent, Howard LaFranchi, wrote that "neither close Obama advisers nor Iran experts are expecting a rush to dialogue with Tehran ... for a number of tactical and event-driven reasons:

•The economic crisis will consume much of the new president's attention and is likely to put off major diplomatic initiatives.
•The sinking price of oil is seen as having clipped Iran's wings, raised domestic woes for Tehran, and made negotiations somewhat less urgent.
•And, most important, Iran holds presidential elections in June, leaving the United States wary of doing anything beforehand that might be used by Iran's extremist and anti-Western forces – in particular President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – to electoral advantage."

It could be that his new message is targeted much more for a domestic audience ahead of the vote in June.

Tough talk is often political gold dust.

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