Obama Keeps Quiet about Future US Policy towards Iran

A0539321.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Democrat Senator Barack Obama has preferred to keep quiet as to what kind of policy towards Iran he might pursue in the capacity of the next president of the United States.

The question about Iran was put to him during the first news conference following Obama’s presidential election victory, which was held in Chicago, Illinois.

Obama promised, though, that in any case he would not respond to Iran in a “knee-jerk fashion.”

“I am not the president and I won’t be until January 20,” he declared.

Yet, Obama said on Friday that he would “respond appropriately” to a congratulatory letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Democratic president-elect confirmed that he had been sent a letter from Ahmadinejad following his historic victory over Republican John McCain.

“I am aware that the letter was sent,” Obama said in response to the only question of the press conference about foreign policy. “I will be reviewing the letter from President Ahmadinejad and we will respond appropriately.”

“It has only been three days since the election,” he added. “Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion.

“I think we’ve got to think it through.”

Asked whether he would send low-level envoys to US Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba to see if presidential-level talks could be “productive,” Obama said, “Let me repeat and state what I stated during the course of the campaign.”

“Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. We have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening,” he said.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.

The president-elect stressed during the 20-minute press conference that he has not yet taken office.

“I have to reiterate once again, we only have one president at a time,” he said. “I want to be very careful that we are sending the right signals to the world as a whole that I am not the president and I won’t be until January 20.”

Obama and McCain clashed repeatedly during the election campaign over the approach to take towards Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

Obama said he would explore the possibility of direct talks with the US foes, a stand condemned by McCain.

Ahmadinejad on Thursday congratulated Obama on his election.

“I congratulate you on being able to attract the majority of votes of the participants of the election,” Ahmadinejad said in his message.

“I hope you make the most of the chance of service and leave a good name by preferring people’s real interests and justice to the insatiable demands of a selfish and indecent minority,” he said.

“You are generally expected to make a fast and clear response to the demands for basic… change in US domestic and foreign policy, which all people in the world and Americans want on top of your agenda,” he told Obama.

Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 1979 Iranian revolution, which toppled the ruthless US-backed dictator, the shah.

Relations between the two arch foes specially deteriorated after Tehran’s progress in the field of civilian nuclear technology. Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran mainly over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

The UN nuclear watchdog has so far carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.

Also in his latest report to the 35-nation Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed “the non-diversion” of nuclear material in Iran and added that the agency had found no “components of a nuclear weapon” or “related nuclear physics studies” in the country.

The IAEA report confirmed that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level “less than 5 percent”. Such a rate is consistent with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production, meanwhile, requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently said that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons as it is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.

“They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so,” said the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the latest round of Iran-West talks happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Also in an apparent reference to Washington’s Middle East policy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Isolating Iran and Syria is a misguided strategy.

“Dialogue between countries in the region is better than pressure from outside,” he said Thursday, delivering an opening speech at the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia.

Nations in the region could likely find solutions to Middle East conflict and tensions in Iraq by working together and without external pressure, Erdogan said.

In August, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that Ankara would not be influenced by others in its relations with neighbors. Gul described the expansion of regional ties as natural, saying that “for Turkey what other countries think is of no importance.”

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