Obama Administration's Relationship With the Politically Changing Iran

Ask an average Santa Monica College student about the financial crisis in the United States today and they might have a few things to talk about, but ask about the foreign policy crisis Obama faces with Iran and they probably won't know much.

The truth of the matter is that although mass-media has used many outlets in an attempt to inform the general population, if the problems being expressed aren't occurring in such a way that it immediately affects the said population then chances are these people will find it easier to ignore the problem than try to understand it.

Almost 30 years ago, diplomats of the American Embassy in Iran were taken hostage by a group of students for 444 days beginning in November of 1979. The entire world illustrated post-revolution Iran as a country of religious fundamentalists. The United States' relations with Iran from that moment were void.

Since then, relations have softened and many are in high hopes of the Obama administration beginning talks with Iran, but don't expect that anytime soon. During his most recent press conference, President Obama on Iran said "My expectation is in the coming months we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table, face to face, diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in a new direction."

What President Obama omitted from his entire briefing on Iran-U.S. relations is the fact that there is a presidential election in June 2009 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces some serious heat from voters. His choice to appease the lower class with social programs such as his $1.3 billion "Love Fund" to subsidize marriage for the poor has diminished the middle class' purchasing power and left many chafed with the administration.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani was quoted by a group of listening reporters in Tehran as saying, "The United States needs to play on a chess set [with Iran] instead of playing in a boxing ring." The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, announced this week that Iran now has amassed enough enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb if they choose to.

Indeed, Ahmadinejad's direct threats to Israel are unacceptable and if they were to attack, U.S. involvement would be completely necessary. His threats have remained just that, threats, but Iran's recent need for 66,000 centrifuges (used to enrich uranium for atomic bomb) are quite questionable.

The Bush administration wasn't so spectacular at this game of chess with Iran, but if Iran continues to defy the IAEA, President Obama and the rest of the world for that matter will be forced to play along with Iran, which is what Ahmadinejad wants and what many fear. If open talks existed between Iran and the U.S. then such fears could be eliminated because Iran has as much right to nuclear energy as any other nation, but they should communicate openly to establish themselves in the global nuclear club.

As mentioned above, Obama said that he was looking for an opening to begin talks and it is evident he has already found such a time. Obama's advisers are strategically waiting and hoping that Ahmadinejad will lose this upcoming election.

But if this is so, then who will replace him? Professor Maria Montero of SMC, an expert in Iranian policy, answered my question. "Presidential elections are coming on June 12th, and it appears as if former president Khatami will run again," said Montero. "He is widely considered a reformist and a pragmatic leader. Most experts agree that it would be in U.S. interest if he were to return to power. He has an intelligent and above all congenial disposition and he is well received in the West."

With 60 percent of Iran's population of 70 million people being under the age of 30, most remain untouched and unmoved by a revolution they never experienced or the rule of the Shah. Not to mention, most never participated in the drawn-out war with Iraq, but have only seen Iran's unique blend of theocracy and democracy.

Most of Iran's population is very well educated and they are no dummy to the unemployment rates and heavy restrictions imposed upon them by the current regime. Many are rebelling in baby steps by flirting openly in the streets and many girls are now wearing nail polish. Perhaps such voice of rebellion will be heard in the 2009 election.

Professor Montero also mentioned that "It should be understood that the real balance of power under the current constitution in Iran lies with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni. Thus, it would be most effective if the U.S. were to conduct relations directly with him."

This is what the Obama administration should be doing after the people of Iran speak to Khameni through their voice of choice for president in June. Once this occurs, the chess games may begin.