President Obama sends videotaped message for the Persian New Year, Nowruz, to Iranians. The message included a subtitled Farsi translation.
"I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," the president says in the video.
Even in this, there is significance, says Trita Parsi at the National Iranian American Council.
"By using the term "Islamic Republic," Obama is also signaling America’s acceptance of Iran’s revolution," Parsi says. "This does not mean that America will not welcome democratization in Iran, but it does signal that the policy of regime change has been cast aside."
Nowruz celebrates the arrival of Spring and the beginning of a new year, beginning with the vernal equinox. An Obama administration source says that while traditionally, the President and Secretary of State have have released paper statements for Nowruz, President Obama wanted to address the Iranian people and government more directly.
"In this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders," the president says. "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."
The United States, the president asserts, "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."
Parsi says that "Obama is focusing on behavioral change, not regime change," which "is a significant break with the Bush Administration policies."
Through this speech, President Obama expresses "tremendous respect and recognition of the Iranian nation and civilization," Parsi says. "He shows an important understanding of the uniqueness of the Iranian civilization, a point that likely won’t be lost on the Iranians."
Mr. Obama even invokes the poet Saadi, saying, "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."
UPDATE: Speaking with Reuters, Aliakbar Javanfekr, an aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Iranian government "welcome(s) the interest of the American government to settle differences. The American government should realize its previous mistakes and make an effort to amend them in order to put aside differences. The Obama administration so far has just talked. By words and talking the … problems between Iran and America can not be solved."
Ingraining the message of Nowruz in his politics as well, Javanfekr said the holiday "is a sign of fundamental development in nature and Obama should learn from this to make fundamental changes in his policy towards Iran. Supporting Israel is not a friendly gesture and the new year is an opportunity for the United States to change this policy."
"By fundamentally changing its behaviour America can offer us a friendly hand," Javanfekr said. "So far what we have received have been unfriendly fists. Unlimited sanctions which still continue and have been renewed by the United States are wrong and need to be reviewed."
In addition, Iran’s energy minister, Parviz Fattah, was quoted in the London Telegraph saying that Iran said that the country would "finish and operate the Bushehr nuclear plant by the end of this year. … Exactly 20 days from now we will have another celebration for celebrating the achievements we have gained for peaceful nuclear energy. You will hear about the news."
Fattah called President Obama’s message "positive … although it might also have negative points in itself as well. 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."