Iranians see little chance of détente with US

A landmark letter from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to United States President George Bush carries with it little hope of an end to decades of animosity, many ordinary Iranians commented on Tuesday.

Several people believed the content of the message—an 18-page diatribe against American foreign policy—may only make matters worse. Others said they believed Washington was not interested in any dialogue.

“This letter is in line with the president’s policies, which so far haven’t helped to calm down the situation,” said Reza Bagheri, a sceptical 32-year-old shopkeeper in Tehran’s downtown bazaar.

“It will probably only push us even more towards isolation,” he added, sticking with the widely held view that Ahmadinejad and Bush are fundamentally incompatible.

Hardware seller Abbas Karimpour (42) was also disappointed that the letter appeared to be more lecture than diplomatic outreach aimed at ending 26 years of severed ties.

“After such a long time, and with so many complicated problems, why would our president preach instead of giving practical solutions,” Karimpour complained. “There won’t be any breakthrough in Iran-US relations.” Former reformist president Mohammad Khatami made more progress, he argued.
In contrast, Ahmadinejad, who took office last June, had “wasted them all”.

“We need to suggest concrete and practical solutions for the nuclear issue,” added, Ali, a 27-year-old arts student.

While Ahmadinejad’s letter touched on the crisis, he gave no sign that Iran would adhere to United Nations demands to freeze uranium-enrichment work. That is at the centre of fears the regime is using an atomic energy drive as a mask for weapons development.

“I wish Ahmadinejad had given positive and tangible solutions for the nuclear issue,” said a 24-year-old medical student, who preferred not to give his name. “We should avoid monologues like this.”

Even as many newspapers seized on the symbolism of the message, other Tehranis argued that the Americans were simply unwilling to deal with a clerical regime which ousted the US-backed shah in 1979.

“We welcome any moves toward rebuilding relations with America, but they should stop their exploitative attitude,” said a 44-year-old tailor, who also preferred not to give his name.

In hard-line circles, the US remains the “Great Satan” and weekly prayers still feature the chanting of “Death to America”.

Mohammad Alavi, a bearded young theology student, even regretted that Ahmadinejad had “gone against his speeches about American bullying”.

“I don’t think the letter will change anything. The US government may react, but it won’t take any steps,” he said.—AFP

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