Having sent the Iranian people a video greeting on their New Year, President Obama is now inviting them to help celebrate a quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July.
Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that “they may invite representatives from the government of Iran” to their Independence Day celebrations — annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers.
Administration officials characterized the move as another in a series of American overtures to Iran. The United States has not had relations with Iran since the American Embassy in Tehran was seized by protesters in 1979; the country’s diplomats have not been formally invited to American events since then.
“It is another way of saying we are not putting barriers in the way of communicating,” said one administration official. “It is another way of signaling that there is an opportunity that should not be wasted.”
Hmm… how did that New Year message go down with the Ayatollahs?
Speaking a day after Mr Obama broadcast a message inviting the Iranian people to a “new beginning”, the country’s supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dismissed it as a “slogan”.
Dressed in black turban and dark robes, the 69-year-old cleric delivered his response during a speech in the north-eastern city of Masshad, as tens of thousands of his hardline followers chanted their familiar refrain of “death to America”.
I’m sure a Nathan’s weenie wagon will appease that crowd, sure.
Or maybe Hebrew National?
While we’re chewing on that weenie, let’s reminisce on Iran’s subversive role in Latin America, and especially how Iran and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium. And how Iran and Venezuela swore to bring down the dollar a couple of years ago.
But back to the NYT article,
“The specter of Iran raises red flags in a way that China doesn’t, because China tends to respect the American sphere of influence,” said Julia E. Sweig, a Latin American expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Iran’s motives are murkier, according to administration officials. It has cultivated wide-ranging economic ties with Venezuela and, to a lesser extent, Nicaragua. But it has also been linked to the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people.
Iran is not known to have a big presence in El Salvador, officials said, and it was not represented at Mr. Funes’s inauguration. But the change in power after 17 years of a pro-American right-wing government could offer an opening.
Mr. Funes’s victory continues the ascension of the political left across Latin America; some analysts worry he will adopt the anti-American rhetoric of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. His party, the F.M.L.N., has its roots in guerrillas who fought El Salvador’s American-backed army in the 1980s and 1990s. But Mr. Funes is viewed as more centrist than his party.
Let’s hope Chavez runs out of money before his plans in Latin America come to fruition. Do keep in mind that the Ayatollahs are not going broke any time soon, though.