Iran cautiously welcomes President Obama

The results of last night’s U.S. election swept the world over and over in waves of unbridled enthusiasm. It’s as if the next American president doesn’t just belong to Americans — the global community feels that it, too, has a stake in Obama’s success.  But what about the Middle East, where the United States is ...

591692_081105_iran2.jpg
591692_081105_iran2.jpg

The results of last night's U.S. election swept the world over and over in waves of unbridled enthusiasm. It's as if the next American president doesn't just belong to Americans -- the global community feels that it, too, has a stake in Obama's success. 

But what about the Middle East, where the United States is famously unpopular? So far, No. 44 has been greeted with rhetorical flowers and sweets. Today's messages to the president-elect -- from Israeli leaders, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Iraqi ministers, and even Iranian lawmakers -- were largely congratulatory.

The U.S. election received notably unremarkable attention from the Iranian media, but the buzz on Tehran's streets is positive if not a touch pragmatic and Iran's "intelligentsia" are cautiously optimistic about Bush's successor. As MP Hamid Reza Haji Babai put it today, "Obama has promised change and this is both an opportunity and test for the United States. We are waiting for that change."

The results of last night’s U.S. election swept the world over and over in waves of unbridled enthusiasm. It’s as if the next American president doesn’t just belong to Americans — the global community feels that it, too, has a stake in Obama’s success. 

But what about the Middle East, where the United States is famously unpopular? So far, No. 44 has been greeted with rhetorical flowers and sweets. Today’s messages to the president-elect — from Israeli leaders, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Iraqi ministers, and even Iranian lawmakers — were largely congratulatory.

The U.S. election received notably unremarkable attention from the Iranian media, but the buzz on Tehran’s streets is positive if not a touch pragmatic and Iran’s “intelligentsia” are cautiously optimistic about Bush’s successor. As MP Hamid Reza Haji Babai put it today, “Obama has promised change and this is both an opportunity and test for the United States. We are waiting for that change.”

Iran, as I mentioned yesterday, is holding its own presidential election next June. With Obama — an African-American bearing the middle name Hussein who has spoken openly of his intention to negotiate — in the White House, it will be far more difficult for extremists to demonize the United States, at least at first. This puts incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, already losing his grip on the Iranian parliament, at a clear disadvantage and may “breathe life into Iran’s opposition reform camp,” as former Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi hopes.

Iran is just one among many countries where a fresh start for the United States might do some good. As Andrew Sullivan so presciently deemed Obama back in Dec. 2007, he is a man “who is a bridge between” worlds. From today’s vantage point, at least, the possibilities seem endless.

Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

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