On March 18, President Obama said there could be a “new relationship” with Iran if it meets international obligations on its controversial nuclear program. But he noted that “overcoming decades of mistrust” would be difficult in a videotaped statement for Nowruz. The Persian New Year marks the beginning of spring and begins on March 20.
Obama reiterated the U.S. preference to solve the nuclear issue peacefully and diplomatically. He warned that Iran’s isolation is not good for its people or the world. “Every day that you are cut off from us is a day we’re not working together, building together, innovating together—and building a future of peace and prosperity that is at the heart of this holiday,” he said. The following is the taped statement, including a full transcript.
As I have every year as President, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran. Since taking office, I have offered the Iranian government an opportunity—if it meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries, and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations.
I have had no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust. It will take a serious and sustained effort to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States. This includes the world’s serious and growing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, which threatens peace and security in the region and beyond.
Iran’s leaders say that their nuclear program is for medical research and electricity. To date, however, they have been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes. That’s why the world is united in its resolve to address this issue and why Iran is now so isolated. The people of Iran have paid a high and unnecessary price because of your leaders’ unwillingness to address this issue.
The United States, alongside the rest of the international community, is ready to reach such a solution. Now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue.
Iran’s isolation isn’t good for the world either. Just as your forbearers enriched the arts and sciences throughout history, all nations would benefit from the talents and creativity of the Iranian people, especially your young people. Every day that you are cut off from us is a day we’re not working together, building together, innovating together—and building a future of peace and prosperity that is at the heart of this holiday.
As you gather with family and friends this Nowruz, many of you will turn to the poet Hafez who wrote: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.”
As a new spring begins, I remain hopeful that our two countries can move beyond tension. And I will continue to work toward a new day between our nations that bears the fruit of friendship and peace.
Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak.
The following infographic by the University of Pennsylvania’s Iran Media Program maps the diverse bodies involved in censoring the Internet. About 20 to 30 percent of Iranian users rely on illegal tools to bypass the national filter, according to government estimates. Click here to read about Iran's recent move to block virtual private networks, used by millions to access banned websites such as Facebook.
Click here for a pdf version.
On March 13, President Obama said “it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon,” in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 television. “But obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.” Obama noted that the United States “obviously has significant capabilities,” while emphasizing his preference for a diplomatic solution. Obama said Iran now recognizes the “severe cost” to continue on its current path. But it has yet to make “a fundamental decision to get right with the international community.” The following is a video of the interview broadcast on March 14, with excerpts below. The interview will start shortly after the commercial.
On March 12, Iran’s Human Rights Council Secretary Mohammad Javad Larijani said that there is no need to produce enriched uranium if the West sells it to Iran. Larijani, a key advisor to the supreme leader, suggested that Iran “think about new models” for approaching the United States. “Hostility” between the two countries needs management, he told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
“For the Iranian side, my recommendation to the diplomatic machinery is that -- I mean, the -- also we should think about new models approach, even if United States considered an active hostile state, hostility needs also management.”
“Yes, there is competition; as you mentioned, we are a famous family in Iran and you can -- you can have similar to this kind of phenomenon in the United States and France and other places. I do not stipulate and do not accept this way of conduct anywhere with any adversary. But I think this is not alarming…”
On March 14, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned a Greek businessman and 14 companies for helping Iran evade international oil sanctions. Dr. Dimitris Cambis used front companies and Iranian funds to purchase oil tankers and disguise the Iranian origin of crude oil. The vessels involved were capable of transporting about $200 million worth of oil per shipment. “Today we are lifting the veil on an intricate Iranian scheme that was designed to evade international oil sanctions,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
Click here for the full text.
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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