Khamenei Predicts ‘Epic’ Year Ahead

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, addressed the Iranian people yesterday with his Nowruz message. He began his speech by addressing “Iranians all across the world […] especially the dear ones who have sacrificed themselves, the families of martyrs, the veterans and their families.”

Khamenei likened the previous calendar year to life in general, in that it “had its sweet moments and bitter moments, its victories and defeats,” but he emphasized that “what is important is to get out of the valleys and take ourselves to the peaks.”

Ayatollah Khamenei reminded Iranians that “the enemies have targeted different fields, primarily in the political and economic arenas.”

He said that in the field of economics, the enemy “said that through sanctions they want to cripple the Iranian nation.” Although Khamenei said that there was “various growth” in the field of economics, ultimately “there was pressure put on the people,” which with their own “shortcomings and oversights, helped the enemy’s plans.”

In the field of politics, Khamenei said “that their plan was from one direction to isolate Iran and the other direction to create uncertainty and doubt, but the exact opposite happened.” Khamenei pointed to the fact that the 16th Summit of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was hosted in Tehran August 2012 as an indication that Iran has indeed not been isolated.

Khamenei said that “of what we are looking ahead to in the following year, the fields of economics and politics are of primary importance.” Khamenei reiterated the need to focus on “domestic production” and hoped that for the presidential elections, “the people, with their presence, will strive for a good future for the country and themselves.”

Ayatollah Khamenei concluded that “with this view, the next year will be named ‘The Year of Epic Politics and Epic Economics.’”

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also addressed the political and economic situation in his Nowruz speech. In regards to economics, the president said “those who want ill for Iran, in an open cooperation between those inside and outside” the country, have put Iran “under unparalleled economic and psychological pressure to distort the historical successes and achievements” of his presidency.

Amadinejad spent a considerable part of his speech on the upcoming presidential elections. He predicted the elections would be “vibrant and have a near-100% participation rate,” and with a “decisive vote” elect a president that will address “domestic, regional and international” issues in the interests of Iran.  He continued that these elections “for the people and political leaders are a determinant and historical responsibility.”

The president said that Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leaders of the Islamic Republic’s history, have both previously said that even they “only have one vote, and the right of vote belongs to the nation.” While some found this comment to be a direct attack on Khamenei, others found it ironic given that many believe Ahmadinejad’s 2009 victory was achieved primarily through vote rigging that was inspired by Khamenei’s endorsement.

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.”