News / Middle East

Concern Grows Among Iranians After US Debate Remarks

President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
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President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
Iran was mentioned nearly 50 times during this week’s U.S. presidential debate, more than Afghanistan, Iraq and even China. The fact wasn’t lost on Iranians, many of whom watched the debate with interest and concern about the strained relations between the two countries.

Ali, an Iranian political activist, said he doesn’t feel good about what has been going on in the U.S. presidential season.

“I feel like [Iran] has replaced al-Qaeda in U.S. election campaigns,” said Ali, whose last name is withheld for safety reasons because of possible repercussions for speaking to the Voice of America. He said he thought the Iranian people have become the victims in the election.

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate vying for the White House, called Iran “the greatest national security threat” facing the United States during Monday night’s debate in Florida. But he said “military action is the last resort,” only to be considered if “all of the other avenues ... had been tried to their full extent.”

Incumbent Barack Obama underscored his administration’s goals, saying “as long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” He added that his administration has built strong international coalitions to stymie Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

International sanctions

“We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles,” Obama said.

This statement bothered Ali.

“The fact that [U.S. President Barack] Obama happily talks about the effect of sanctions on the value of Iranian rial, is not good. Basically, they don’t care what happens to the Iranian people,” the activist said.

Romney said he’d “toughen” sanctions by forbidding ships with Iranian oil from coming to U.S. ports. He also said he’d take steps to further isolate the regime by indicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention because, Romney said, his “words amount to genocide incitation.” The former Massachusetts state governor said he’d make sure Iranian diplomats were “ treated like the pariah they are around the world.”

Hesam, a young Tehrani said that he thought “sanctions seem to be the only thing that have affected the regime a little bit.” But, he added, the measures have had a bad effect on people.

“Life has become much harder and people are generally unhappy,” he wrote on Facebook. “I think we are paying for our own and our government’s mistakes.”

Jalil, a journalist in Iran, said  he sees little strategic difference between Obama and Romney’s positions toward Iran.

“Obama’s policies have been effective; the proof is Iran’s current economic conditions and the international coalition that Obama has created for sanctions against Iran,” he said. “But Romney doesn’t seem to have a coherent policy to confront Iran. Actually, he approved of Obama’s policies in this last debate.”

Green Movement

The U.S. presidential candidates also discussed Iran’s internal politics and the so-called Green Movement of 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest their own presidential election results. A deadly crackdown by Iranian forces cleared the streets.

Romney accused Obama of staying “silent” during the protests,  which he said was “an enormous mistake.” Obama said he had been “very clear about the murderous activities” being “contrary to international law and everything that civilized people stand for.”

Mohsen, a PhD student in politics, said he thought Romney “tried to take advantage of the Green Movement” and added that there was never a request from inside Iran for the U.S. to take action.

“Nobody expected Obama to intervene,” he said on Facebook, adding Iranians just “wanted Obama to clarify his position on the opposition and the government. And that was exactly what Obama did.”

Omid Safi, an Iranian professor in the U.S., wrote on Facebook: "Had the U.S. been more vocal in favor of the Green Movement, it would have delegitimized the movement by being seen as U.S.-sponsored."

Some Iranians think differently. Kamiar is one of them. He told VOA Iranian activists did not expect a U.S. intervention, but they wanted Obama to “be with them so they could celebrate the Iranian spring together.”

“Obama defended the Arab Spring, but he considered the Iranian Spring an internal issue,” Kamiar said.

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by: Mohammad from: Iran
October 25, 2012 4:31 PM
I never understood why we support the enemies of Israel..?? why??? Israel is not our "natural" enemy... our natural inclination is to protect the chosen people from slaughter by Arabs...why we give support to the Arabs, the enemies of humanity??? Azam Shah is absolutely correct. Arabs hate no one more than they hate us... the seed of corruption and iniquity is in our "leadership" we must rise up and take back our destiny - WE have to do it...!!! WE have to brave the torture and the humiliation our "leaders" have imposed on us... WE have to stand up and confront this despicable coagulation of filth and inhumanity...!!! Azam Shah - I am with you all the way


by: freedom fighter from: somewhere
October 25, 2012 1:52 PM
me being a soldier who has been deployed for quite some time knows the struggles of the middle east and keeps up to date on the happenings of the world, but, even though i hope to one day see these people free and thriving, cant we just stay in our own country, cant we see a time of peace and no war? i mean ill go if told to but i would like to see my family for more than a few months and have to leave again. our country has its own problems how about we look at ourselves and take care of us before we go and free others!

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
October 26, 2012 6:19 AM
Freedom Fighter (somewhere), tell Iran to stop its nuclear threat and stop sponsoring terrorism all over the world and there will be peace so that you go home and sleep. But if truly you are a soldier as you claim here, then understand the implication of the profession you choose for yourself. Americans, especially mothers of soldiers, tend to cry foul when some soldier gets killed or injured in battle.

A soldier goes to battle front, he either kills or gets killed. Although America's prosecution of wars seems to make wars look like drama theater, but that has not changed war from being war, because if you do not kill the enemy, the enemy will kill you. And please tell your mothers in America before you join the army so that they do not continue to think that soldiering is civil service white collar job so that they carry placards to protest when a soldier gets killed or injured in war.


by: SAS from: Atlanta
October 25, 2012 9:48 AM
Mitt Romney calls for the prosecution of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad for ``incitement to genocide''. Is there any evidence such a charge even exists under international law ? If so, then it is equally possible to see how Hillary Clinton could be prosecuted for threatening Iran with ``obliteration''. Or Madeline Albright for justifying the deaths of half a million Iraqi children in the came of containing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Equally striking is the spectacle of Obama boasting about Iran's economy being in ``shambles'' - this coming from a president who claimed he would repair America's relationship with the outside world.

So much for change we can believe in.


by: Rev. Anthony Blair from: UK
October 24, 2012 6:54 PM
God and His beloved Israel... "and those whom God has joined... let no man set asunder..." Amen!!! Mark 10;9

let it be a warning to Iran...


by: mkb from: ponderay, id
October 24, 2012 5:24 PM
I don't believe the people of America blame the Iranian people, but do hold the current government accountable for words and deeds. That is a factor that applies to many countries, including our own.


by: Azam Shah from: Iran
October 24, 2012 5:10 PM
we, Iranians, need to reclaim Iran back from the corrupt slime of the Mullahs and Ayatollahs... Iran today, and we all know it, is the cancer in the Middle East... our corruption and inhumanity supersede that of Al Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian Jihad, Al Aqsa Brigades, Fattah, Hamas, Hizbullah... all the slime organizations our corrupt "leadership" support

The world knows now more than ever that everything Israel said is true... who among us trust the Iranian media?? no one!! yet, look, Israel alone fights the enemies of all Humanity - alone...!! it is time for Iran to take back its destiny, oust the corrupt Mullahs, allay itself with Israel and the US and defeat the degenerate Arabs, before the Arabs turn on us... and we all know how much they hate us... don't we???

Lastly, we all believe in God... and we all know that Israel is God's beloved... how dare we go against the will of God... no good could come from going against His will... we all know it (we don't admit it... but we all know it...) and those who lead us against Israel reject God and are the infidels among us... we know who they are by their corruption... don't we?


In Response

by: G-1 from: Iran
October 25, 2012 3:20 PM
Dear Azam Shah, you have a powerful voice in Iran. I know many people who read what you write. and I agree with you, we used to be the light of enlightenment and culture, tolerance and civilized behavior... our name was synonymous with luxury elegance and wisdom... and look at us today... I cry.
you are right when you say - we all believe in God...!!! so true. and yes, we do know who are His beloved... and I begin to believe that the real infidels among us are the lecherous corrupt "leadership"
Azam Shah, Iran needs to hear your voice... !!

In Response

by: Real Talk from: India
October 25, 2012 11:01 AM
So why do you cover your face and talk assuming people are stupid, confront your real name and intension.
You don’t have courage do you?


by: Carole Douaire from: Ontario Canada
October 24, 2012 4:25 PM
I don't believe that anyone in North America wants Iranians to suffer. The people who hold Iranians captive are uncivilized and need to be put out of business. They are strong dictators and I would not enjoy being a civilian in Iran at this time becasue it would probably cost me my life. The people who run your government are lunitics and think they have the right to make the Iranian population live under thier laws and rules. I am sure that Ala / God wanted mankind to have a mind of their own and to use it. It is very dangerous for the people of Iran to protest but the people in your government have to go!!


by: Jerry from: Victoria, BC, Canada.
October 24, 2012 4:11 PM
The Western world views Iran as a culured and relatively well-educated country.
Unfortunately for the Iranian people not associated with the political or clerical "elite", the world also views Iran as controlled and manipulated by a bunch of hate-filled lunatics, who will sacrifice the welfare of it's own people, to develope a nuclear weapon, er, sorry, it's being developed for producing electricity.
And why would the rest of the world really care about the Iranian :man in the street". Regretfully, the general population support such pleasant, well-meaning instruments of civilized behaviour such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
I'm surprised the West doesn't emphasize to the Iranian people that their Government , and their gov't alone, that is to blame for their misfortune in being an international pariah. What a waste of an ancient culture with so much to offer...

In Response

by: Tom Baxter from: Tallahassee Fl
October 25, 2012 3:29 AM
The West has always support peoples struggle for peace, freedom and democracy against the evils of terrorism in Iran. Just as it supported overthrow of murderous dictatorships in Iraq and Libya, and helped Afghanistan and Egypt towards freedom. All of which will soon join Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as stalwart, stable, freedom loving Western allies.


by: Gianni from: Palo Alto, CA
October 24, 2012 3:44 PM
The Debates are directed toward US voters, of course, and the Voters have been bombarded by rhetoric over Iran's nuclear capabilities and the safety of Israel. In order to secure Voters' allegiance, both candidates have to express concern about Iran's nuclear capabilities and how to prevent nuclear threats from Iran as well as further instability in the Middle East. Israeli PM Netanyahu appears regularly before cameras in the US to make certain this remains an issue for US Voters!


by: David M. Higgins
October 24, 2012 3:33 PM
America is a Friend of the Iranian People. Our aspirational hopes and desires are almost identical. America Does have Enemies however. Some of the worst are in America on Wall Street and Survivalist Compounds and SOME are in Qom and Tehran. The ones who oppress and repress the human potential of the Iranian People. They are the Enemies of All Humanity.

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