'US shouldn't change Mideast policy'

US public diplomacy chief: We need to follow what is in our national interest, despite world opinion.

US soldiers iraq 224.88 (photo credit: AP )
US soldiers iraq 224.88
(photo credit: AP )
The United States shouldn't change its Middle East policies even though they hurt the country's image in the region, American's new public diplomacy chief said Tuesday. James Glassman, a former journalist and media publisher who was giving his first public address since becoming the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, acknowledged that opposition to America's foreign policy was one of the main reasons for the decline in America's image internationally. He also cited the government's failure to adequately explain those policies and the perception that the US doesn't listen to other nations' perspectives as driving the deterioration. "People don't like our policies even if they know what they are," he told a packed room at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "But I don't think there's much we can do about policies. I think we need to follow what we believe is our national interest and not take a vote of the world's publics." He agreed with the perception that America "wasn't giving them a fair hearing" and said the United States needed to do more to listen and show interest in other perspectives, even if its policies stayed the same. These challenges and others, Glassman said, meant his department had its work cut out for it. "There is no one involved in the war of ideas who thinks the war is close to being done," he told the audience, who welcomed his frank assessment of the challenge America faces. He clarified that the war of ideas had often been misunderstood. "The aim of the war of ideas is not to persuade foreign populations to adopt more favorable views of the United States and its policies," he stressed. "Instead, the war of ideas tries to ensure that negative sentiments and day-to-day grievances toward the United States and its allies do not manifest themselves in the form of violent extremism." At the same time, he said that having a favorable view of the US abroad was clearly preferable to the alternative. "People do say, 'What do we care whether people like us or not?' And the answer to that is: It's just much harder to achieve your foreign policy goals, your national interest goals, if people don't like you... if they don't trust you." In other State Department activity Tuesday, the department, acting with the US Treasury, designated additional Iranian officials and companies accused of helping the Middle Eastern country develop nuclear weapons. The move marks the latest effort to tighten the financial noose on Iran. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, a senior scientist at Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, was among those targeted Tuesday. "Iran's nuclear and missile firms hide behind an array of agents that transact business on their behalf," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. Others targeted were: Yahya Rahim Safavi, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; Dawood Agha-Jani, who is involved in Iran's nuclear program; Mohsen Hojati, involved in the country's ballistic missile program; Mehrdada Akhlaghi Ketabachi, the head of the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group; and Naser Maleki, head of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group and an official in the Iranian Defense Ministry. The action means that any bank accounts or financial assets found in the United States that belong to these people are frozen, and Americans are prohibited from doing business with them. AP contributed to this report.