Barack Obama sent a video message to the “people and the leaders of Iran,” a holiday greeting for Nowruz, their New Year celebration. For the most part, it’s a benign, generic message of friendship, although Obama does gently tell Tehran that threats and terrorism will keep them from their “rightful place” in the community of nations:
Stephen Hayes provides a transcript for the more meaningful parts:
So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders. 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.You, too, have a choice. The United States 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. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.
“Demonstrated ability to build and create”? Other than the nuclear weapons it’s building, what exactly does that mean? Iran has to import most of its manufactured goods. It has to import gasoline, despite being an oil-rich nation, because it can’t refine its own crude output. The Russians are building their nuclear plants.
Hayes warns that forgetting Iran’s ties to terrorists and their efforts to kill Americans in Iran is dangerous business. He’s right, but I don’t see this video as evidence (yet) of that kind of amnesia. It’s a fairly generic example of diplomacy through direct communication, not all that much different than what we used to do with Voice of America. Obama offers a friendship message and speaks of the carrots in an outreach without publicly mentioning the sticks. That makes sense in a friendship message; we want to build affection for America, especially with younger Iranians, and insulting their leadership and issuing threats in a Nowruz message would hardly help.
If we’re dropping the sticks altogether, that’s definitely a problem.