In a major turning point in the United State's approach to Iran, President Barack Obama released a taped message to the Iranian people late Thursday evening, urging a "new beginning" in diplomatic relations and stressing respect and political engagement.
The address, which was released on WhiteHouse.gov, reflects a continued effort by the Obama administration to move away from the confrontation and brinksmanship that marked U.S.-Iranian relations during the Bush years. It also places the ball firmly in the Iranian leadership's court, offering the Islamic Republic "a choice": become a part of the "community of nations" or remain on the outside looking in.
"I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek," Obama concludes. "It is a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It is a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you, and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater peace and security."
Underscoring just how geometrically different and open his approach to Iran will be, Obama ended the address with a Farsi saying, Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak -- which translates to 'have a celebratory new year' -- and included Persian captions in the video.
Full text of the speech:
Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world.
This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.
In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place.
Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.
For nearly three decades, relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday, we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays, by gathering with family and friends, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.
Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children; security for our families; progress for our communities; and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes. Those are common dreams.
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.
So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It is a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It is a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you, and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater peace and security.
I know that this won't be reached easily. There are those who will insist that we be defined by our differences. But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi so many years ago: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."
The taped message comes on Nowruz, a secular holiday that marks the beginning of the Iranian year.