Iran Media Skeptical About Obama’s Nowruz Message

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In a video to the Iranian people and leaders on Monday, President Barrack Obama released his fifth Nowruz message. The Nowruz New Year holiday is one of the most important and oldest holidays in Iran and is celebrated in many other countries in the Middle East and the Caucuses as well.

In the nearly four-minute speech, President Obama addressed the “decades of mistrust” between Iran and the US and reiterated his preference to resolve questions about Iran’s nuclear program “peacefully and diplomatically.” He reminded the Iranian leaders that “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.” He added that if a solution is reached, “the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States.”

Hardline website Raja News wrote that “Obama showed with this message that he has tried to attract the confidence of the people of Iran with words and show.” The article added that “even though in the beginning of his message he focused on the need to solve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program through negotiations, at the end of his message he contradicted himself by speaking with a threatening tone about the continuation of pressure on the people!”

The Raja article asked that since “the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency has not shown that Iran has deviated into a nuclear-weapons program, so for what reason is America worried, and why are the Iranian people witnessing this pressure and sanctions from the European Union and the West?”

The articled embedded a video of Obama’s message but oddly omitted his greeting. Perhaps because Obama used the Persianized “doroud” rather than the Arabized “salaam” for his greeting. Although both can be used, “salaam” is most commonly used in Iran, while “dorood” has become somewhat more pervasive in the Iranian Diaspora in recent years.

Toward the end of his speech, President Obama quoted a verse from a poem by Hafez: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.” The 14th Century poet Hafez was born in Shiraz, Iran and his tomb in Shiraz is a popular site for tourists.

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Conservative website Enthekhab surmised that the president “apparently used his Shirazi advisor, Valerie Jarrett, while acknowledging the Iranian nation’s long history and civilization, made a reference to a poem by the famous Iranian poet Hafez.” Jarrett was born in Shiraz to American parents and is currently a senior adviser to the president.

Entekhab said that “analysts” believe that “this message is like the previous [Nowruz] messages and only with a change of expressions and the use of Iranian advisers […] sought to take advantage of the nation’s feelings with references to the national and Islamic identity of Iranians.” The president did not make a reference to Islam in his speech.

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Hardline website Mashreg wrote that the president’s message was “more than an address to the Iranian people; it was a negative answer to the Zionist regime’s demands that Washington intensify their hostilities against Tehran.” The article also found it noteworthy that the president used the word “Spring” and “Nowruz” in the same way that “some [Ahmadinejad] did domestically.” President Ahmadinejad has been using traditional Iranian festivals as a sort of a campaign rally to promote his ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashei as a possible candidate in the next presidential elections.

Mashreg suggested that “one should wait and see what Obama and his administration do this upcoming year, and do they act as Hafez recommends and uproot from its roots the sapling of enmities against the Iranian people, which has turned into a tree, or does he apply more pressure.”

Iran to Sue Filmmakers of Argo

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Iran has enlisted the help of French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre to sue the filmmakers of the award-winning film “Argo.”

At a meeting yesterday in Tehran with Seyyed Akbar Massoudpour, vice president for Parliament Legal Affairs and Provincial Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, Coutant-Peyre said that “for me, Iran is a symbol and model of resistance against the West and I am happy to stand next to Iran in this direction, and to play a part in this great world movement.”

Massoudpour thanked Coutant-Peyre and said that “I am glad that in France there are still open-minded people such as yourself.”

When asked by a reporter how much the case would cost, Coutant-Peyre said that “as a lawyer I cannot say, but less than the production of a film.” She also said that she couldn’t say for certain her chances of success but that “the movement that Iran had started and the complaint against Hollywood is very valuable and can attract public opinion and create discussions. Also, it will stimulate curiosity that will result in people thinking about the reality and lies.”

In regards to the case Coutant-Peyre said that “we are not going to go after damages, but we want to challenge [the filmmakers] and encourage them to apologize.” She also said that they plan to target “the producers or distributors” of the film and that they cannot “target the entire Hollywood system.”

Coutant-Peyre is mostly widely known for her relationship and defense of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, who is serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French agents.

Various Iranian political figures have called the Ben Afleck and George Clooney-produced “Argo” an “anti-Iranian” film and have suggested that its production and subsequent awards were politically motivated.

On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria March 2, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazei called the film “technically weak” and said that it had “many mistakes.” Jam News cut a short clip of the interview in which Khazaei invited the filmmakers of “Argo” to travel to Iran so that the day following their visit “they will apologize to the big nation of Iran for producing such a weak film.”

In Other News

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi answered questions today before reporters about his statements last week that received considerable coverage. At a joint press conference on Sunday Salehi said that he was hopeful that “sanctions will be gradually removed.”

Salehi said that “if you read the newspapers from before, you will also see positive news, and the European Union also said that there needs to be a reassessment of the sanctions.” Salehi stressed that “in the world of politics, you have to move in grey areas so that you give yourself the possibility of stepping back. If you burn all the bridges you’ve passed you cannot go back. Statements at press conferences should not be judged to this extent.” The foreign minister then compared the work of a diplomat to that of the security services in that “all of his work must not be out in the open.”

Salehi did stress again that he was “hopeful about the following year.” He said that “the people should be certain that God willing, next year Iran will enter a new phase; meaning that 34 years we’ve worked to enter this phase.” The next calendar year in Iran starts March 20.