Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iranian Leaders Debate Obama's Policy Freedom

By Gareth Porter

"TEHRAN - Iranian national security officials and political leaders have been carrying out an internal debate over how much freedom President-elect Barack Obama will have to change US policy toward Iran, and those who have argued that he will not be able to do so have gained the upper hand since Obama's announcement of his national security team, interviews with Iranian officials and their advisers reveal.

The outcome of that debate, which is very sensitive to signals from Obama and his national security team, could be a key factor in how far Iran goes in indicating its own willingness to make concessions to Washington next year.

Two different views of Obama and his administration's likely policy toward Iran emerged within the regime in the first weeks after his election, according to the officials interviewed in Tehran. One interpretation was that Obama's election is the result of a fundamental shift in US politics and offers an opportunity for Iran to find a way out of its decades-long conflict with the United States.

The other view sees Obama as subject to the control of powerful forces – especially the pro-Israel lobby – that are inherently hostile to Iran. That interpretation implies that Iran should make no conciliatory move toward the Obama administration......

However, Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state has strengthened the conviction of pessimists and has raised doubts among those holding a more optimistic view, according to officials familiar with the debate......."

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