Barack Obama sent Iran’s leaders and people a video on the occasion of the Iranian New Year, Nowruz. The transcript of the video is here. This is the video itself; it also comes with Farsi subtitles:
As in his notorious Al Arabiya interview, Obama sought to distance himself from past American policies. This time, however, he was more measured, and, unlike that interview, not overtly critical of preceding administrations. (Here, of course, he was scripted.)
Iran responded quickly and in terms almost identical to its leaders’ reaction to the Al Arabiya interview:
In an unusually swift reaction to Mr Obama’s overture, Aliakbar Javanfekr, an aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Iran welcomed “the interest of the American government to settle differences”. But he said that the US government “should realise its previous mistakes and make an effort to amend them”.
In an almost simultaneous announcement, from Iran’s energy minister, Parviz Fattah, said that the country would “finish and operate” its controversial Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant by the end of the year. …
He added that while Mr Obama’s message to his country on the occasion of the Iranian New Year was “positive”, it had to be followed by “positive action”.
“Absolutely this message is positive … although it might also have negative points in itself as well,” he said.
“The Iranian leaders will precisely assess this message. We believe that we need that in addition to messages we need positive action from Mr Obama as well as from his government. So in addition to talk, we need actions.”
Symbolic submission, in other words, is not enough.
What is most notable about the video is that, while it addresses both Iran’s leaders and its people, it draws no distinction between the two. Many have argued that the U.S. should support and encourage the Iranian people’s dissatisfaction with the mullahs’ harsh and incompetent rule. If Obama had used viral video to speak directly to Iranians and encourage their desire for freedom, the video might really have had impact. Of course, doing that would have annoyed the mullahs, something Obama evidently wants to avoid at all costs.
UPDATE: This is how Mahmod Ahmadinejad rang in the new year in a televised address earlier today. Obama’s friendly overtures don’t seem to have had much impact so far:
“(During the last year) inefficiency of the global power structure has been disclosed. The world powers have come to a dead-end, a dead-end in ideology, management and administration,” Ahmadinejad said after felicitating the Iranian nation on the advent of the New Year.
“They (the global powers) failed in their cultural invasion and humiliation of the world nations,” the Iranian president reiterated.
Referring to the current global economic crisis, Ahmadinejad noted, “The huge political and security crises have become deeper and deeper. Today, the pervasive and huge economic crisis indicates the failure of the materialistic powers in their thoughts, policies and expansionist goals.”
“These mean that the Western Liberalism and materialistic school of thought have come to the end of the road while facing a dead-end,” the Iranian president added.
ONE MORE: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei also gave a televised New Year’s address. Here’s what he had to say about Iran’s relations with the West:
“The world has been convinced that it is not possible to block the Iranian nation’s nuclear progress,” Ayatollah Khamenei noted, reminding [sic] pre-commissioning of Iran’s first nuclear plant in Bushehr as among joyful developments in the last year. …
Stressing the uselessness and futility of the current sanctions on Iran, the Leader added, “Iran’s progresses in different scientific and non-scientific fields indicate ineffectiveness of the sanctions…”
In contrast with Obama’s puppy-dog approach, Iran’s leaders are pursuing their goals with firmness, consistency and confidence.