The US should apologise for “crimes” it has committed against Iran if it wants a better relationship with Tehran, the Iranian president said today, after recent overtures to the Muslim world from the new administration in Washington.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising tone followed a conciliatory message from Barack Obama, the US president, earlier this week when he told the Islamic world: “We are not your enemies.” In his inauguration last week, Obama offered to extend a hand of peace if Iran “unclenched its fist”.
At a rally in western Iran today, broadcast live on national television, Ahmadinejad said Iran would welcome a change in US policy provided it involved a withdrawal of American troops from abroad and an apology to Iran.
“Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologise to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said.
The Iranian leader listed a range of “crimes”, such as trying to block what Tehran says is a peaceful nuclear power programme, hindering Iran’s development since the 1979 revolution and other actions by US administrations dating back more than 60 years.
It seems to me there’s more than one way to think about this. How do nations interact on the basic of mutual respect? Is it by apologizing for past injuries or by recognizing that nations don’t apologize to each other? Is a call for conciliation itself a way to smooth the waters or like throwing chum into the water, to be interpeted as weakness and the time to exact concessions or humiliate the party offering conciliation?
It may be a way to separate those in the Islamic world who are open to a relationship of mutual respect from those who aren’t. Or it may be a teachable moment for the Obama Administration.