In both speeches, Obama has accused the Islamic Republic of “brutality” against its own people and “hypocrisy” for publicly saying it backs protests in the Arab world while brutally repressing protests at home.
In the past, Obama has often criticized Iran but he has routinely held out the hand of friendship and sometimes almost begged Iran to come to the negotiating table. He didn’t do that in either speech this past week.
Last Thursday, in a speech at the State Department billed as a major policy address on the Middle East, Obama devoted one harsh paragraph to Iran—and that was just tucked onto the bottom of his section on Syria. Obama said:
“So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stands for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants [of Allahu Akbar] echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young women [Neda Agha-Soltan] dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.”
That was all there was. Obama made no reference to any readiness for diplomatic talks.
On Sunday, Obama appeared before the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an appearance where presidents routinely serve up raw meat to the American Jewish community. Here he again spoke of “brutality” and “hypocrisy” by the Islamic Republic. And again he said not a word about desiring talks with Iran. Obama said:
“You see our commitments to our [American and Israeli] shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure.
“So, let me absolutely clear: We remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So, we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.”
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast condemned Obama’s speech Tuesday, saying, “Barack Obama’s remarks about our peaceful nuclear activities aim to serve the premeditated propaganda launched by the US-Zionist front to spread Islamophobia in our region.… They have once again portrayed our fully peaceful activities as military activities.”