'Ahmadinejad's speech also ought to make us reflect on how poorly secularized Westerners encounter men of faith, especially those who believe profoundly in a "clash of civilizations" (as Khamenei and Ahmadinejad do). President Barack Obama came into office believing that the principal problem between the United States and Iran was George W. Bush. This view was shared by a wide swath of the foreign policy establishment. Senior officials in the Bush State Department who thought that Khamenei really, truly wanted better relations with the United States differ little from the Obama crowd, who hoped that their boss would have a magic touch with the supreme leader, who responded to Obama's early felicitous outreach by referring to America as "Satan Incarnate."
Even among Iran devotees, who follow the country in its native language, there was an astonishing naivete or, to put it another, politer way, a determined hopefulness about where U.S.-Iranian relations could go. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, who briefly served in the Obama administration, deserves praise for announcing clearly what few among the more liberal Iran cognoscenti have been willing to do: the debate is over. Iran under KhameneI remains a highly ideological state. Engagement as envisioned by Obama and so many others was an (appealing) illusion.'