Why Washington is wrong to discredit Iran’s new president

Trita Parsi writes: America finds itself exactly where Iran was four years ago. Back then, America had just elected a new, articulate president who offered hope and promised a new approach to the world and Iran. His election was a direct rejection of the foreign policy of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, whose favorite tools of statecraft appeared to be military force and confrontational rhetoric.

The question Iran grappled with in 2009 was whether this new president — Barack Obama — really represented change or if it was merely an act of electoral deception.

Today, the roles are reversed. Iranians have elected a new, articulate president who is promising both the Iranian people and the world community hope and a new approach. His election is seen as a direct rejection of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s confrontational policies and rhetoric. Iranians wanted hope and change and they went to the ballot boxes to obtain it.

But four years ago, the Iranian leadership couldn’t bring themselves to believe that the new U.S. president could be a sign of change. Was Obama really intent on shifting Washington’s Iran policy or was it all just talk? Even if his intentions were good, did he have the power to change long-standing policies?

Archconservatives expressed disbelief that Obama could even win. In their cynical view of the U.S. political system, perhaps reflective of their own political conduct, they never thought that Obama could get elected — in spite of his strong popular support. Rather, he won because “those behind the scenes who make presidents and make policies — the puppeteers — decided, and only changed their puppet.”

Similarly today, conventional wisdom in Washington first dismissed as fantasy the idea that Hassan Rohani could win the Iranian presidential elections and later wondered why Iran’s supreme leader had “permitted” this impossible outcome. [Continue reading…]

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