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  • Obama Tries It Both Ways On Iran

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    President Obama expressed hopes that Iran would become a “very successful regional power,” and that the U.S. would reopen its embassy in Tehran, in an interview that NPR published on Monday.

    Obama acknowledged that Iran sponsors terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, that the country has attempted to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that the country’s rhetoric toward the United States and Israel is often “incendiary.” But he insisted repeatedly that a peaceful nuclear deal was in the best interest of both Iran and the United States. (RELATED: Iran’s Supreme Leader Tweets Attacks On US, Israel)

    He also claimed credit for an aggressive Iran policy — “a classic example of American leadership” — that strengthened sanctions on the country, isolating it and forcing it to the negotiating table.

    The president’s remarks on Iran seemed to aim for a foreign audience rather than an American one. When asked whether he had “sufficient empathy for the Iranians, meaning do you feel you understand what it is they need to get a deal,” Obama said that he understood Iran’s “legitimate needs and concerns” for self-defense, but that he also had deep concerns about terrorism and human rights.

    Audiences in the Middle East often scrutinize every word of American presidents’ statements on regional policy, fearing evidence of the United States’ intention to repress and exploit local powers. Recent history has shown that a stray sign of imperial overreach, even a concocted one, is enough to set back years’ worth of careful diplomacy and bridge-building.

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