When sorry’s not enough for Iran

When sorry’s not enough for Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demand today for a U.S. apology for " past crimes" against Iran reminded me of this bit from Geneive Abdo’s recent FP piece on "Why Not to Engage Iran (Yet)" in which she remembers the last time the U.S. came close to apologizing to the Islamic Republic:

Each time an end to Iran’s estrangement with the United States appears to be in sight, various competing political factions try to ensure that it happens on their watch. Back in March 2000, when Mohammad Khatami was president, then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came close to apologizing to Iran for the United States’ involvement in Iran’s 1953 CIA-backed coup. “[I]t is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs,” Albright said.

Instead of celebrating the historic gesture, Khatami’s rivals condemned the United States for not going far enough in extending a direct apology. I was living in Iran at that time and was able to witness up close the great fear among conservatives that Khatami and his reform movement would gain all the praise and harvest all the political capital for an improvement in relations with the United States. Thanks to these conservatives and the United States’ second thoughts, this never happened and Iranians’ hopes were dashed once again.

Incidentally, Abdo has written a brand new piece for FP on why it will take more than just pledges and interviews from Barack Obama to actually make diplomatic progress in the Middle East. Check it out.