Passport

Friendly advice from the Islamic Army in Iraq

In the post-election lull, every pundit from the left and right will offer President-elect Obama advice about how to run his administration. Oh, and the emir of the Islamic Army in Iraq, an insurgent faction, also wants to throw in his two cents.

The emir's dispatch, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group in Maryland, summarizes the election quickly: "This day... a mad elephant fights an ambitious black donkey to reach the destination of America's decision." It goes on to attack George W. Bush and his supporters as "war criminals" and "Darwinists," both charges which Bush would probably deny.

But if one can get beyond the ridiculous imagery, the letter offers is a fairly standard, nationalist case against the occupation of Iraq. "America should know that a people never lost a struggle for freedom," it warns. America should depend "on dialogue and cooperation with others in order to achieve goals."

Odds are, Obama won't be listening to the advice of the Islamic Army in Iraq, but his most trusted advisors will soon be telling him some of the very same things.

Passport

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 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