Obama Engagement Policy Makes Trouble for Iranian Hardliners

It seems like commonsense to me to observe that right-wing nationalists in different countries have a symbiotic relationship with one another, but few of our right-wing nationalists here in the United States seem to agree with me. Maybe they’ll take a key advisor to Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s word for it instead. Roger Cohen reports:

One of the first people I saw in Iran was Saeed Leylaz, an economist close to Moussavi. (Like many of Iran’s reformist intellectuals, Leylaz is now in jail.) He told me Obama’s outreach — his recognition of the Islamic Republic and pledge of “mutual respect” — had affected the campaign, unsettling hard-liners. “Radicalism creates radicalism,” Leylaz said. He was referring to the way President Bush’s talk of Iran as evil opened the way for Ahmadinejad to build a global brand of sorts through lambasting U.S. arrogance.

By contrast, a black American president of partly Muslim descent reaching out to the Islamic world — and demonstrating, by his very election, the possibility of change — had placed the Iranian regime on the defensive. One conservative Iranian official put it this way to Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “If Iran can’t make nice with a U.S. president named Barack Hussein Obama who’s preaching mutual respect and sending us greetings, it’s pretty clear the problem lies in Tehran, not Washington.”

Radicalism creates radicalism is a good way of putting the point. And it’s a fairly general point. Bush’s approach was a boon to Iranian hardliners, and to organizations like Hamas. Hamas and Hezbollah deserve a ton of the credit for brining Bibi Netanyahu to power. Nationalists and militarists from different countries tend not to get along very well (the main exception being that Anglophone rightwingers from different countries like each other) but they’re still each other’s best friends.