Some Thoughts on President Obama’s Iranian Outreach

Mar 20, 2009 11:03am

From Dubai, ABC News’ Lara Setrakian reports on the Nowruz comments President Obama made today to Iranians, and the reaction from Iranian presidential aide Aliakbar Javanfekr (click here for more background).

"It’s significant that it’s Javanfekr making these statements — it’s very important for Ahmedinejad to look like he is out front on this, publicly encouraging diplomacy even while his camp has been the spoiler on so many issues between Iran and the U.S. Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes that Obama’s message puts hardliners like Javanfekr and his boss in an awkward position: They don’t want a better relationship with the U.S. but also don’t want to be seen as the aggressors.

"I spoke to Sadjadpour here in Dubai, where the significant Iranian population has been loudly cheering Obama’s message. Across the water, every ordinary Iranian I have spoken to has expressed warm excitement for Obama’s message. Karim and other Iranian analysts stress the important of the following significant points in Obama’s message:

" * Obama was smart to put it his message on the web, circumventing the potential censorship of a purely televised address. Iranians are heavy internet users and will have access to the message in full. 

" * Past presidents have issued Nowruz messages, but only aimed at the Iranian people. Obama’s message addressed the people and the government, without drawing an antagonistic difference between the two.   

" * Quoting the poet Saadi at the end of the address is hugely significant — invoking the wisdom Persian poetry is a powerful cultural symbol in Iran and an integral part of serious political dialogue. He quoted a poem that many Iranian children learn in school, one that deeply resonates.

" * As mentioned in Trita Parsi’s analysis, use of the term ‘Islamic Republic’ is a concrete sign that the U.S. is changing its approach to Iran. That is not necessarily supporting or legitimizing the regime, but he’s recognizing it and acknowledging it’s the regime he has to deal with."

What do you think?

– jpt

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