One of President Obama's signature boasts was that his election would, to use his term, "reboot" America's image in the world. Addressing thousands of Germans last summer, Obama said, "In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world rather than a force to help make it right has become all too common." His election, he promised, would transform America's global image.
How's that project going? On the occasion of the Persian New Year, President Obama delivered a video message to the Iranian people and government, advisedly using the term "the Islamic Republic of Iran." The U.S., declared the president, desired a "new beginning" in relations with Iran, and would no longer engage in "threats" but seeks engagement that is "honest" and based upon "mutual respect." While cautioning that Iran could not assume its "rightful place in the community of nations" through "terror or arms," the president's message was otherwise strewn with rose petals.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's response was, well, a little less than enthusiastic. While the crowd chanted "Death to America," Khamenei demanded: "Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support of the Zionist regime?" Besides, the SL continued, "we don't know who is making decisions in America -- is it the president, the Congress, or some unknown people who pull the strings?" Khamenei further suggested that some American leaders have "demanded that our great and honorable nation be wiped out." President Obama might want to begin this "honest" dialogue by pointing out that it was Khamenei who spoke to a crowd chanting "Death to America." We don't do that sort of thing. In fact, they chant "Death to America" when their national soccer team scores a goal or when they've particularly enjoyed a concert. Their kids learn it in school -- rather as ours learn the Pledge of Allegiance. No American leader has ever called for Iran to be wiped out. But Iran's president has a little list of nations he threatens with genocide on a regular basis. The list consists of Israel, with the U.S. getting honorable mention from time to time.
President Obama wasn't fazed by Khamenei's response. At his news conference on March 24, he cited the Iranian reaction as a reason to be "persistent."