President Obama speaks in videtaped message to Iran, 20 Mar 2009
By Paula Wolfson Washington20 March 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama is offering Iran's leaders the promise of a new beginning in relations. But Mr. Obama says they must now choose between threats and engagement.
President Obama says relations between Iran and the United States have grown increasingly strained over the last three decades. He says it is time to begin anew. "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community," the President said. But he says the effort cannot be one sided, stressing Iran's leaders have a choice. "This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect," he said. He spoke in a videotaped message marking Nowruz - the Persian New Year. He said with the new year comes the promise of a new day. "…The promise of opportunity for our children; security for our families; progress for our communities; and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes. Those are common dreams," he said. His comments were most striking, perhaps, for their tone. Unlike his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who refused to deal with Iran's leaders and once referred to Iran as part of an axis of evil, Mr. Obama focused on the future. "I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It is a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It is a future where the old divisions are overcome - where you, and all your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace," he said. President Obama has raised the prospect in the past of possible diplomatic engagement with Iran. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently had harsh words for Tehran, saying it is encouraging divisions in the Arab world, promoting terrorism, and seeking to intimidate others. She later said the Obama administration wants to engage in talks with Iran, but only if it is sure the discussions will be productive.
Text of President Obama's Message to Iran
20 March 2009
Remarks of President Barack ObamaCelebration of NowruzWashington, DC
Today, I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world. This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.
In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries, your art, music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. Here in the United States, our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian-Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.
For nearly three decades, relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday, we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays – by gathering with family and friends, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.
Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day – the promise of opportunity for our children; security for our families; progress for our communities; and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes. Those are common dreams.
So in this season of new beginnings, I would like to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders.
We have serious differences that have grown over time. My Administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran, and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek, instead, engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.
You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right – but it comes with real responsibilities. And that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization – and the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.
So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It is a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It is a future where the old divisions are overcome – where you, and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater peace and security.
I know that this won’t be reached easily. There are those who will insist that we be defined by our differences. But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi so many years ago: “The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence.”
With the coming of a new season, we are reminded of this precious humanity that we all share. And we can once again call upon this spirit as we seek the promise of a new beginning.
And Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak
Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
Dear Mr. President,
Nowruz greetings to you, your family and fellow Americans. Nowruz literally means a New Day. In the time for nature to renew, we accept the hand you’ve extended for a "new approach". My name is Sohrab Nabavi, an Iranian currently residing in the U.S. The first time I greeted a U.S President was in December of 1959, welcoming Eisenhower’s visit to my homeland. Today, I invite you, President Obama, to join us in the traditional celebration of Spring’s arrival. We hope that you meet with the Iranian community in diaspora in this unique occasion and join the people who seek Human Rights, Democracy and a secular government. As I’m writing you this letter, we’ve received reports that hundreds of our youth were arrested by the regime which has issued a ban on our 3,000 year old heritage of pre-Nowruz festivities. Approximately 700 arrests in Tehran and up to 250 in Mashhad. On this cultural occasion, at 10am on Friday, the Human Rights activists will gather by Evin prison in Tehran. Your supportive words can bring them hope. You can be like another great democratic president who announced "Ich bin ein Berliner" and brought hope to the Germans during the Cold War. To get entangled in endless negotiation with the Khamanei’s cronies is a mistake. You are elected by popular and majority vote. They are not. They never represented Iranian values and interests. They are admonished by most of the Islamic world. If the name "Hussein" would have carried any weight among the regime, wouldn’t they have made peace with Sadam "Hussein" ? Your past religion will not open new doors because they don’t subscribe to the western interpretation of a peaceful Islam. Fanatics are in fact forbidden from entering any agreement with you specifically because according to Khomeini’s Towzih-al Masaa’el #2447, you are a "mortad" (convert out of Islam). Also they are committed to destroy Israel as instructed in the same source (#2826 and #2834). A final alternative for the free world’s economic competition vs. Russia over Iran is to ramp-up for M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction). Another Cold War, arms race and installing more costly missiles. The peaceful solution is to stand behind 70,000,000 Iranians and not lend diplomatic legitimacy to the 100 fanatics and well known members of international terrorism. May Nowruz bring courage to the struggle for liberty and restoration of dignity.
International Communication Director Co-Founder of "Peyrovaan"
What Obama's message to Iran means
By Paul Reynolds World affairs correspondent BBC New website
Behind Obama's rhetoric are specific demands on specific issues - President Barack Obama's video message to Iran offering a "new beginning" is an imaginative start to his attempt to improve relations - but huge obstacles remain. In diplomacy such efforts at overcoming major differences sometimes end simply in defining those differences more sharply. These issues were not directly mentioned by Mr Obama but this is what he is referring to:
• Iran to give up uranium enrichment and accept international offers to provide fuel for nuclear power
Iran to stop arming Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza
Iran to help in achieving peace in Afghanistan and Iraq
Iran to stop threatening Israel.
Iran will want the following:
Acceptance of its right to enrich uranium
An end to UN sanctions
An end to US sanctions
An end to America's "colonialist attitudes", including its support for Zionism.
What Obama really means
It is worth deconstructing the president's speech to try to read between the lines. Flattery is often a good way to start - he talks about the "great" Iranian civilisation and conjures up warm images with references to common family feelings on public holidays. All this, on the Iranian spring holiday of Nowruz, is an effort to overcome Iranian suspicions that it is held in low esteem by the US. Perhaps the diplomatically key phrase is this: "My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us." There is a very ambitious agenda here. The process suggests direct talks if that is what Iran wants - He adds: "This process will not be advanced by threats." This means an end, for the moment at least, to the implied threats of military action. The president is offering a period of calm in which to allow this diplomacy time to work. He does not however say how long this period will last. But note how carefully the phrase about threats was written. It does not in fact rule out threats in the future. The absence of threats applies only to the process of diplomacy. If diplomacy fails, threats might return. Mr Obama also means that stopping threats also applies to Iranian threats, especially against Israel. Incidentally, the US position now diverges quite strongly from the Israeli. The Israelis have recently been making increasingly worried statements about Iran's potential nuclear weapons capacity, suggesting that while diplomacy might come first, military action might come second. Update: Israeli President Shimon Peres has also broadcast to Iran, on the Farsi service of Israel radio. His tone was much sharper, appealing to the Iranian people but dismissing the leadership as "religious fanatics." He commented: "You can't feed your children enriched uranium." His statement was in effect an appeal for the current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be voted out in the June election. The US president also offers carrots, among them "constructive ties between the United States, Iran and the international community" in an "engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect". The ties refer to the potential for diplomatic relations to be restored between the US and Iran, but he does not commit himself openly to that outcome at this stage. "Honest" engagement means that there will be tough talking. "Mutual respect" means that the US will listen.
Close to the bone
Another key phrase: "You, too, have a choice." - This is not a threat but it is a warning. Mr Obama gets close to the bone. Iran, he says, must recognise that rights come with "responsibilities". This means that Iran might have the right to enrich uranium but should not do so because it is creating concerns about its ambitions. Nor should it stir up trouble in the region, is another subliminal message. Mr Obama offers another carrot. He accepts that Iran should take its "rightful place in the community of nations", but adds significantly: "That place cannot be reached through terror or arms." The measure of Iran's greatness is not "the capacity to destroy". "Terror or arms" means Hezbollah and Hamas and maybe its own military build-up. The "capacity to destroy" is a reference to nuclear weapons, even though Iran says that it will not build them, and to Iranian missile development. Importantly, the president implicitly offers an end to sanctions by saying that he wants a future with "greater opportunities for partnership and commerce". At this stage he is offering only "greater" opportunities, not the full opening, but the deal is in prospect. He also looks to a future "where you and all your neighbours and the wider world can live in greater security...". "All" the neighbours include Israel, of course. There is a very ambitious agenda here. The process suggests direct talks if that is what Iran wants. Update: The response from Iran has been hostile so far. Its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said that President Obama's "unconditional commitment to defend Israel's security" meant that he was following "the same wrong path as the Bush administration." And President Ahmadinejad said: "Change means giving up your satanic, coercive and aggressive ways."
Obama’s “Reset” Video for Iran
Posted By Claudia Rosett On March 20, 2009 71 Comments
Scarcely did we have time to absorb the full import of Barack Obama becoming — in the portentous phrase that has been all over the news — “the first sitting president to appear on the Jay Leno show.” And now here he is in a  White House video wishing happy new year to “the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Maybe President Obama should have put the two together, and wished Iran happy new year, or Nowruz, from the set of the Jay Leno show instead of the White House. At least that might have left the mullahs wondering if this was just some oddball American attempt at humor. As it is, Obama has just presented himself as the personification of Hillary’s toy “Reset” button,  given to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this month. That has almost certainly provided the Russians with a few chuckles — and not just because of the mistranslation that went with it.
Seriously, as foreign policy, Obama’s latest is not only nuts, but dangerous. Obama speaks as if he were campaigning in Peoria. The cadences are those of the Hope-and-Change stump: “The promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations…shared hopes… common dreams.”
Had Obama limited his salutation to the people of Iran, fair enough. But he blew right past them when he also addressed “the leaders” — who are apparently to be included in the new Iranian happy land he envisions. How does that compute? The folks ruling Iran are not exactly leaders. They are messianic and ruthless rulers. They are subscribers to a totalitarian system that leads the world in juvenile executions. They train and support terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which teach children to aspire to the “opportunity” to become suicide bombers. Their idea of peace and community progress does not extend to a world in which anyone disagrees with their edicts. The leaders of Iran punish dissent among their people with methods heavy on imprisonment, torture and death. On Wednesday, a day before Obama launched his Nowruz video, a 29-year-old Iranian blogger reportedly died in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. His name was Omid Mirsayafi, and the  BBC reports that he was jailed for the act of “insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other clerics.” Just last week, reports emerged of the cargo impounded in Cyprus from a ship originating in Iran and bound for Syria, carrying (this is just the partial list produced by the Cypriot government and reported by the Wall Street Journal): 1,980 wooden cases of powder for 130 mm guns and 1,320 cases of powder and powder pellets for 125 mm guns, 60 barrels of 39 mm shells, 810 cases of propellant for 125 mm guns and eight cases of 120 mm mortar components … plus three containers too heavy to move, which had not yet been searched. As Obama should know, since his own ambassador pointed it out to the UN Security Council last week, that’s a slice of what’s going on in the real world.As for Iran’s nuclear program — Iran’s regime is currently in breach of a stack of UN resolutions calling for Tehran to desist, and has spent years pursuing the wherewithal for nuclear weapon, despite U.S. sanctions, and more recently, U.N. sanctions. A report has now surfaced in Germany  claiming that an Iranian defector, who in 2007 tipped off the West about Syria’s secret nuclear reactor, asserted that Iran was financing the project. If true, that is huge news — would Obama care to tell us more? Obama in his message to the mullahs, mentions, delicately, that “For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained.” … Well, yes. Years of Iranian-backed terrorist guns and bombs killing Americans and our allies have put a strain on the relationship. Will Iran’s top tyrant Ali Khameini and his crew call off their secret police, international terrorist operations, missile projects, nuclear program, thug-state alliances and messianic Islamist campaign because Khamenei tunes in to Twitter and discovers that Obama has just wished him a happy new year? - More likely they will conclude that Obama’s “Reset” is working neatly in their favor, and they may with greater impunity proceed on their course of “Death to Israel! Death to America!” - Obama in his video had a lot to say about our “common humanity,” and — as if he were addressing, say, the government of Finland – dismissed “those who insist we be defined by our differences.” There were echoes there of another statesman’s remarks: “We are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace… “ That statesman, of course, was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, upon his return from Munich in 1938 — and it can be found in the same statement in which Chamberlain promised “ peace for our time.”