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Obama on Iran

All the buzz in the media is about the stimulus package, but after President Obama’s speech last night, the second question from the White House press corps was actually on Iran.

The question about Iran, from Karen Boeing of Reuters, took me by surprise: Everyone has been focusing very much on domestic policy for the last week, and the only news out of Iran has been the announcement that former president Mohammed Khatami would challenge his flamboyant successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Anyway, here’s Boeing’s question:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to shift gears to foreign policy. What is your strategy for engaging Iran? And when will you start to implement it? Will your timetable be affected at all by the Iranian elections? And are you getting any indications that Iran is interested in a dialogue with the United States?

Obama didn’t say much that he hasn’t said before. He did close with this statement, though:

Now it’s time for Iran to send some signals that it wants to act differently, as well, and recognize that, even as it has some rights as a member of the international community, with those rights come responsibilities.

And lo and behold, Ahmadinejad said today that he would like to open dialogue with the United States, with the rather vague rider that they be “based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”

Here’s the top of the story from the New York Times’ Nazila Fathi in Tehran:

After the icy mutual hostility of the Bush era, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran on Tuesday made a conditional offer of dialogue to the Obama administration, saying Tehran was ready for “talks based on mutual respect and in a fair atmosphere.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke at a rally on Tuesday in Tehran marking the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979.

But he coupled the offer with an attack on former President Bush, calling for him to be “tried and punished” for his policies and actions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.

Obama press conference transcript (CNN)

–David Graham, Trinity ’09 and editor

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