Iranian press closely associated with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) mocked President Barack Obama for his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Kayhan, Ayatollah Khamenei’s unofficial mouthpiece, commented that the American president would not seek regime change in Iran: “America can’t even counter a resistance group in Lebanon, let alone attempting regime change in Syria or doing anything serious against Iran.”
In the same vein, Major General Qassem Suleimani, Quds Force commander in charge of the IRGC’s extraterritorial operations, noted in Fars News: “This statement of yours is not a sign of your beneficence but an admission of impotence. You could and cannot change this republic!”
On the mainstream Iranian Labor News Agency website, Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Naqdi, Basij chief, interpreted the speech as “America begging for negotiations with Iran.”
Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, former IRGC commander in chief and current military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, concluded in Iranian news website: “The Americans have palpably chosen flexibility and retreat…”
In Mehr News, a semi-official news outlet, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, triumphantly called President Obama’s speech as a sign of “withdrawal of the Westerners.”
The reformist media closely aligned with Iranian President Rouhani abstained from commenting on the US president’s address.
An editorial in Jomhouri-ye Eslami, an outlet closely affiliated with former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, had a single sentence calling President Obama’s reassurance against regime change “the peak” of the US president’s address. Leading reformist newspapers Sharq, Aftab-e Yazd, Etemad and Arman, along with the centrist Abrar, completely ignored President Obama’s speech.
All of this underscores the worldview of the ruling elite of the Islamic Republic. While gentleness, eloquence and nuance are virtues in interpersonal relations, they can be interpreted as weakness. This is important to note as Washington begins to assess the opportunity for normalization with Iran.
Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.