On March 20-21, Iran’s senior leaders marked Nowruz, the Persian New Year and the first day of spring, with optimistic messages about the economy. President Hassan Rouhani declared that three years of “cruel and ruthless imposed economic war,” a reference to U.S. sanctions, against Iran would soon end. “This year's Nowruz breeze promises the beginning of a season of prosperity, victory and progress for the Iranian nation,” he said on March 20.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he hoped to see a “surge” in domestic production and economic growth in the year 1400, which he dubbed the year of “Production: Support and Removing Barriers.” He said that Iran should become more self-reliant to neutralize the impact of U.S. sanctions. Khamenei also advised the current and next presidential administrations to plan as if U.S. sanctions will remain in place indefinitely. Officials “should not leave the country’s economy in limbo while awaiting decisions to be made by others,” he said.
Khamenei was mistrustful of Biden officials, many of whom previously served under President Barack Obama and helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear deal. Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump, withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 and imposed crippling financial sanctions on Iran. “We trusted the Americans during the Obama administration and we honored our commitments in the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], but they did not honor their commitments,” he said on March 21. “They only said on paper that the sanctions had been lifted.”
Khamenei pushed back on the Biden administration’s demands for an updated agreement that would curtail Iran’s ballistic missile program. “I too accept that today’s situation is different from what it was in the years  and . But it has changed to our advantage, not to the advantage of the Americans,” he said. “If the JCPOA is to change, it should change to the advantage of Iran, not them.”
Rouhani struck a more conciliatory tone but suggested that Iran would use international pressure to force the lifting of U.S. sanctions. “We have accumulated valuable political capital in the field of international politics, which has resulted in successive victories at the United Nations, the Security Council and the Hague,” he said. “Today, we have a broad, deep, strategic relationship with the world, and our enemies are isolated and powerless in their positions against us.” The following are statements by Iranian officials on Nowruz.
Khamenei on Nowruz
Speech on March 21: “That previous fool had devised the maximum pressure policy in order to put Iran in a position of weakness. They wished to ultimately force Iran to sit at the negotiating table and to give in to their demands. Well, he [Trump] was kicked out and he left with such disgrace. Even his departure was not done in a good way. It was a disgrace for himself and his country.”
“Their maximum pressure policy has failed up until now, and it will continue to fail after this too. These new politicians will be kicked out too and be gone, but Islamic Iran will remain with increasing power and dignity.”
“The country’s policy in dealing with the other parties in the JCPOA and the JCPOA itself has already been clearly announced. This policy should not be violated in any way. It is a policy that has already been announced and which has been adopted with everyone’s agreement. This policy is that the Americans should lift all sanctions. Then, we will verify that they have been lifted. If the sanctions have truly been lifted, we will return to our JCPOA commitments. This is our definite policy.”
“Some Americans even object to the current JCOPA. I have heard some Americans say the situation has changed since the JCPOA was signed in 1394 and 1395 AH. Therefore, the JCPOA should change as well. I too accept that today’s situation is different from what it was in the years 1394 and 1395. But it has changed to our advantage, not to the advantage of the Americans.”
“Iran has become much stronger now in comparison with the year 1394. It has been able to stand on its own feet and find confidence in itself. However, you have become increasingly disreputable since the year 1394. During this period of time, the administration that was in power disgraced your country with its statements, actions and behavior and finally with its departure. Economic problems have engulfed all parts of your country. Yes, things have changed, but to your disadvantage. So if the JCPOA is to change, it should change to the advantage of Iran, not them.”
“When we say that it is they who should lift the sanctions first, I have heard some politicians in the world respond, ‘What difference does it make? You say the US should act first, and the US says that you should take action first.’ The issue is not who should act first. The issue is that we trusted the Americans during the Obama administration and we honored our commitments in the JCPOA, but they did not honor their commitments. They only said on paper that the sanctions had been lifted.”
Speech on March 20: “The year 1399 ended with various incidents, some of which were unprecedented. One of those incidents, which was really unprecedented and unfamiliar to our nation, was the phenomenon of the Coronavirus which affected the lives of all people. It had an impact on different businesses, the educational environment and religious gatherings as well as on trips, sports events and various other matters in the country. It delivered a hard blow to employment in our country.
“Of course, the most bitter event was the demise of tens of thousands of our dear people and this means that tens of thousands of families had to mourn the loss of their dear ones. I wish to benefit from this opportunity to express my condolences and my sympathy to all those dear families. I hope that God will give them patience and bestow His mercy and forgiveness on the deceased.
“In one sense, the year 1399 was the year in which the Iranian nation demonstrated its capabilities including in confronting the big test – that is to say, the coronavirus. To be fair, our dear people – ranging from the medical personnel of the country, researchers and scientists to the masses of the people and jihadi groups, displayed great capabilities in handling that bitter incident despite the enemy’s “maximum pressures”. Despite the enemy’s sanctions and although the path of foreign resources was blocked, our nation, our scientists, our physicians, our nurses, our medics, our laboratory experts and our radiologists – the people in charge of the people’s health – really managed to engender a great experience and to display a great feat.
“The Iranian nation also displayed its capability in confronting the enemy’s maximum pressures. Our enemies, headed by the US, were after bringing the Iranian nation to its knees with their maximum pressures. Today, they and their European associates explicitly say that the maximum pressure policy failed. We knew that it would fail and were therefore determined to defeat the enemy in that area. We knew that the Iranian nation would stand firm. Today, they are acknowledging that their maximum pressure policy has failed...”
“We started this revolutionary movement in the year 1399. The Iranian nation has welcomed the surge in production to a certain extent. This should continue. The year 1400, which is beginning now, is in fact the entrance into a new century. A new century is actually beginning. Therefore, we should adopt a long-term outlook towards the issues of the country. We should evaluate them with a long-term approach.
“The year 1400 is an important and sensitive year because of the elections that will be held in the beginning of the year. In the month of Khordad, we have important elections which can exert an important influence in the conditions, affairs and future of the country because there will be new managers who most probably will be energetic and who will have strong motivation. They will undertake the executive management of the country. Therefore, the upcoming elections will make this year very important and sensitive. In my New Year speech, I will raise more points about the elections. Today, this much is enough...”
“I have chosen this slogan for this year: ‘Production: Support and Removing Barriers.’ This is the slogan: ‘Production: Support and Removing Barriers.’ We should give a pivotal role to production, offer the necessary support and eliminate the obstacles. I hope that by Allah’s favor, this slogan will be realized. In my New Year speech, I will raise more points about this issue as well as about the elections.”
Rouhani on Nowruz
Message to heads of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Iraq on March 21: "Like a brilliant painter, spring breathes the spirit of life and freshness into the heart and soul of the earth and spreads a role of freshness and prosperity across the globe by painting on the canvas of nature. It inspires hope, joy and relief from sorrow, it is an excuse to become new, to look new and to live again.”
"I hope that we humans, like nature, can create a new spring in our hearts and souls with the new season, and by removing the dust of lethargy and laziness, provide vitality of life, thoughts and health of the body.”
Speech on March 20: "In the year 1399, coronavirus doubled the difficulty of sanctions and economic war for Iranians. Iranian nation entered the battle against coronavirus, not only deprived of the usual global aid to combat this pandemic, but also not even having access to its wealth in foreign banks.
“But on the other hand, this difficult and cold season, and this great plague, and the simultaneous struggle on several different fronts became a brilliant and proud chapter in the history of Iran due to the epic of patience and perseverance of the Iranian nation...”
“In the field of health, the great family of healthcare workers created points in history and sacrifices. In the production of medical equipment, medicine and vaccines, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and knowledge-based companies flourished and became the pride of the Iranian nation.
“We thank God that this year's Nowruz breeze promises the beginning of a season of prosperity, victory and progress for the Iranian nation.
“Today, the ill-wishers of this nation, on the other side of the world, have fallen from the seat of power with disgrace and notoriety, while the Iranian nation, is tall, proud and lively, and has welcomed the spring of nature and the spring of life.
“Today, the enemies of the nation have admitted that the language of force, threats and sanctions cannot be spoken to the great nation of Iran. Therefore, after three years of defeat, they are forced to return to the path of constructive interaction with the Iranian nation.
“Today, the Iranian nation has welcomed the spring of nature and the spring of life, and has accumulated the valuable investments in these eight years.
“During these eight years, we have accumulated valuable political capital in the field of international politics, which has resulted in successive victories at the United Nations, the Security Council, and the Hague. Today, we have a broad, deep, strategic relationship with the world, and our enemies are isolated and powerless in their positions against us.
“In these eight years, despite the fact that we have always been short of financial resources, we have taken great and historic steps in developing the infrastructure needed for the development of the country. In gas and gas supply, in oil and petrochemical refining, in electricity and water industry, communications and internet and health.
“In these eight years, agriculture and industry, and our service sector have evolved and matured and are ready to compete in global markets with greater strength and power in the new era.
“In these eight years, Iran has shifted from the need to import petrol and diesel to the position of exporter...”
“Democracy is a national asset, and we must safeguard it away from despair and fear, and put aside our frustrations and disagreements, with a strategic view of the future.
“Passionate elections with maximum participation will be a definite precondition for the realization of the aspirations of the Iranian people in the first decade of the fifteenth century.
“Next year will be the year of widespread access to vaccines and control of COVID, and the year of taking advantage of 3 years of resistance and the end of sanctions. We defeated the sanctions once and we will surely defeat the sanctions together again.
“At the beginning of 1400, I am more hopeful than eight years ago. Because eight years ago, we did not have this glorious experience of 4 years of economic prosperity and global interaction, nor of 3 years of resistance to economic warfare. I very much hope that with the conscious and free presence of the people, in determining their destiny, the year 1400, which is the end of the fourteenth century, will be the end of hardships and the beginning of prosperity, and will open the way for the new century, which is the century of renewing the Iranian nation's dignity.”