Obama appeals directly to Iranian people in holiday message


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama in his message for the Persian New Year appealed directly to the Iranian people’s aspirations for freedom.

"I want the Iranian people to know that America seeks a dialogue to hear your views and understand your aspirations," Obama said in his message for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which was marked Tuesday. 

It was a departure from a message in 2009 that reached out to the Iranian leadership.

In this year’s message, Obama described an "electronic curtain" imposed by the Iranian regime on its people. "That’s why we set up a Virtual Embassy, so you can see for yourselves what the United States is saying and doing. We’re using Farsi on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus," Obama said.

"And even as we’ve imposed sanctions on the Iranian government, today my administration is issuing new guidelines to make it easier for American businesses to provide software and services into Iran that will make it easier for the Iranian people to use the Internet."

Conservatives had slammed Obama’s 2009 Nowruz message, issued soon after he assumed the presidency, as naive in reaching out to Iran’s leaders to negotiate nuclear transparency, although he was already making it clear at the time that he was ready to impose tough sanctions and other measures to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In that message, Obama spoke to "you, the people and leaders of Iran" and said he wanted "the Islamic Republic of Iran" to assume its rightful place among nations.

In Tuesday’s message, he did not address the Iranian government directly, and there was no mention of its preferred nomenclature, "the Islamic Republic."

Israeli President Shimon Peres, in his own Nowruz message, called on Iranians to remove the regime.

"I call on the Iranian people," he said. "It is still not too late to change the corrupt regime and return to your glorious Persian heritage."

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