He Gave Him an Inch . . .

In President Obama’s outstretched hand schtick on Iran, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spotted a tiny crack and decided to kick the door open.

“Change means that they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation,” he said in the speech broadcast live on Iranian television.

From outstretched hands to dirty hands.

Tehran is not interested in anything resembling the West’s idea of diplomacy.  Nor are Iranian leaders (despite Ahmadinejad’s litany) terribly concerned with this or that American transgression – it’s the very idea of America that makes the U.S. “the Great Satan” in Khomeinist terms. However, Tehran is adept at using the twin Western fetishes of “engagement” and self-flagellation as a means of both reframing the diplomatic dynamic and buying time for weapons production.

In addressing the mullahs as traditional state actors (who can occasionally be “unhelpful”), Barack Obama’s concessionary speech helped shift the benchmark for “reasonable” toward Iran in the public’s mindset. Ahmadinejad, now elevated to the level of respectable statesman, is toying with the American president in public – while centrifuges spin.