A new hit song in Iran probably won't find its way onto John Kerry's iPod.
"Hotel Coburg" and the accompanying video savages President Obama and the U.S., calling Americans "wolves" and warning Iranians to be skeptical of the ongoing talks between Tehran and six world powers over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. As Secretary of State, Kerry has represented the U.S. at the talks, which have dragged on since late 2013, blowing past several deadlines as Iran balks at proposed conditions for eliminating economic sanctions against the hardline regime. The song takes its name from the Vienna venue where talks are ongoing.
“I am skeptical of the wolf’s smile,” goes the chorus backed by a warbling synthesizer, as the video shows a montage of Kerry, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I am skeptical of big lies. As the talks warm up, their siege on us tightens.”
"We are being pressured under insurmountable threats.”
The song was produced by the hardline paramilitary group Basij, through its "Basij House of Music." But airplay on the regime-backed FARS news service is a sure sign it has the blessing of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. If it represents the Iranian government's true negotiating posture, it explains why striking a deal has been so elusive.
“What kind of games are they playing? Is this chess?" goes another portion of the song, as the video shows footage of leaders around the negotiating table and then cuts to IAEA inspectors. "We are being pressured under insurmountable threats.”
In November, 2013, the P5+1, comprised of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the rotating nation, began negotiating with Iran to gain assurances the regime won't pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for dropping of international sanctions. They started with a basic agreement, but the effort to hammer out details has been frustrating as Iran has refused to allow international inspectors to verify its future compliance and has demanded that all sanctions be immediately dropped when the deal is signed. The deadline was extended Nov. 24, 2014, then again on April 2 and more recently on June 30.
Critics in the U.S., including Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have questioned why the Obama administration has pressed on with the talks, given Tehran's past refusal to comply with international agreements and statements from Khamenei indicating the regime has no intention of allowing inspections or dropping its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The song highlights some of the historical grievances Iran’s government has against the U.S., calling these “scars that have remained,” including a 1953 CIA-backed coup, the mistaken downing by the U.S. military of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 and the assassination of four nuclear scientists, whose killers are unknown.
“What can I do when I cannot seem to forget,” the singer wails, calling the U.S. “cowards who kill the innocent,” as a dead child is shown in the video.
The Basij is a notoriously brutal paramilitary volunteer militia that was formed in 1979 when the Shah was toppled by the Revolution that brought the Islamic Republic’s leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to power.
Near the end, a montage of pictures appear of Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush, Netanyahu, former Israeli President Shimon Peres and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The last refrain repeats, “In the end, it’s all up to God,” and in a soft whisper the singer ends the song with, “We are under their threats."