Foreign Policy Blogs

Iranians Weigh In at Home and Abroad

This blog previously discussed Iranian President Ahmedinejad's preferred US Presidential candidate.

Now, while presidential elections are underway in Iran and in the US (albeit with an election day much further down the road), and while these countries’ governments clash on the international political stage, who do the Iranian public want to see in the Oval office come January?

A Financial Times correspondent based in Tehran investigates:

“Iran arguably has the most to gain from a Democratic victory: the Bush administration has targeted Tehran's authorities, instigating a financial crackdown aimed at shutting them out of the international banking system, and the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is also considered an Iran hawk.

“The Democrats are much better than the Republicans , they have a softer policy towards Iran and they are more rational,” says Reza, a middle-aged man selling leather belts in the bazaar who like most Iranians did not want to give his full name because of sensitivities about political debate. “But the Republicans are all liars. They said they were bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq, but all they brought was death.”

I am sure Senator McCain's adaptation of the Beach Boys hit “Barbara Ann” to jokingly sing “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Iran” at a fundraiser last year didn't woo Iranians into his camp.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-born fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, suggests that Iranian support for a Democratic candidate is indicative of a wider change in Iranian views of the US.

“Many Iranians have long admired the US for its culture, wealth and freedom. Even as recently as 2003, there was a great deal of romanticism about the US. But the last four years of carnage and chaos in Iraq, and the whole US vision for the Middle East, seems to have changed that. There is now a great deal of skepticism about the US,” he says.

Since the Iranian revolution in 1979 the allure of American society (as well as an escape from war with Iraq), has drawn Iranians to American shores. The 2000 census estimates the number of Iranians in the United States at 330,000, more than half of them living in California. Which candidate do these Iranian-Americans support?

Omid Memarian, peace fellow at the University of California, Berkeley offers this analysis for IPS, titled “Iranian-Americans Seek Least-Hawkish Candidate.”

He explains “Jaded toward their government back home and cynical of the current U.S. administration and the Republicans they historically supported, a new generation of Iranian-Americans appears to be looking to Barack Obama to bring about change, especially with regards to U.S. foreign policy toward Iran.”

Trita Parsi, director of National Iranian American Council, a national institute based in Washington, told Memarian: “We are witnessing a rather stark shift in the Iranian-American community. The Republican Party has lost much support in the community, and it doesn't help that McCain is the likely Republican candidate, mindful of his singing about bombing Iran. This breaks a pattern in which the community has tended to support the Republican Party for fiscal reasons.”

Now Parsi is giving his followers a reason not to vote for another Presidential contender, Hillary Clinton. The group issued this press release today, targeting the Senator for her remarks on Good Morning America today stating that the United States could “totally obliterate” Iran if it used nuclear weapons against Israel.

Looks like US-Iranian relations will be one to watch in the coming years. Just like Iranians are paying attention to our Presidential race, we can keep an eye out for the results of Iran's parliamentary elections coming up this Friday.



Melinda Brouwer

Melinda Brower holds a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a graduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Chile during her tenure as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. She has worked on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, for Foreign Policy magazine and the American Academy of Diplomacy. She presently works for an internationally focused non-profit research organization in Washington, DC.