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First two Obama choices may interest Islamic Rep.

President-elect Barack Obama Saturday named Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett as an assistant to the president, but many in Tehran seemed more concerned that Obama has made a Zionist his chief of staff.

Jarrett was the second appointment made by Obama to his incoming administration. She will be a senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison. The title is most likely not significant. During the campaign, Obama used Jarrett as a sounding board on many topics, relying on her general judgment rather than any particular body of expertise. Many expect her to function in that role in the White House as well.

Jarrett is a major figure in the Chicago African-American community and was closely linked to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley before hooking up with Obama.

Jarrett, who turned 52 last Friday, was born in Shiraz and lived there until the age of 5. She remembers the city endearingly and retains a love for Persian cuisine.

Her parents met in Shiraz where they had both gone separately to work at the hospital set up there with American help in the 1950s.

In Iran, the media has largely ignored Jarrett and her links to Iran and Obama. More attention has been given to Rahm Emanuel, currently a congressman from Chicago, who was Obama's first post-election appointment and will be the White House chief of staff.

Some of the conservative press has taken to describing Emanuel as an "Israeli" who fought in the Jewish state's army.

Emanuel is a strong Zionist, but does not hold Israeli citizenship. During the first Perlamisian Gulf War in 1991, Emanuel traveled to Israel and supported the Israeli military as a civilian mechanic working on vehicle maintenance.


Emanuel's father was Israeli and Emanuel speaks Hebrew. His father was also a member of the Irgun, the ultra-rightwing underground group formed before independence that has been condemned by many Israelis as a terrorist organization.

All of this gives many in Iran pause. Emanuel will not be overseeing Middle East policies. But he will be in a position where he can put in his two cents' worth when such policies are being framed--as probably will Jarrett.


Jarrett and Emanuel along with David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist during the campaign, are the three co-chairs of the Obama transition effort.

Obama has yet to name any cabinet members. But it has been announced that he has talked to Sen. Hillary Clinton about the possibility of being secretary of state.

Clinton took a very tough line on Iran during the campaign and tried to paint Obama as weak and naive and ill-suited to face down the nasty Islamic Republic. She caused a stir when she gave an especially belligerent response when asked what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know," she said, "that if I'm the president [and Iran strikes Israel with nuclear weapons], we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." The use of the word "obliterate" raised many eyebrows.

Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University in California, told The New York Times, "I don't think Hillary Clinton could do this [secretary of state]. When she thought she had no serious opponent in Obama, she was a much more reasonable person on Iran. But the minute she got into the game of trying to embarrass Obama, she began saying things. And the words you say during a campaign do have meaning."

But a Washington politician said that only applies to a winning candidate. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, for example, said many critical things about Obama policies when he was a presidential candidate a year ago, but now those Obama policies are his policies.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Nov 21, 2008
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