President Obama and Rep. Honda wish Iranians a Happy Nowruz

 In Iran

In a series of unprecedented moves, President Obama and Rep. Michael Honda used the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, to reach out to the people of Iran and convey that the US is interested in a new, peaceful relationship.

After years of Bush’s saber-rattling and hostility, this message from Obama to the people of Iran was incredibly refreshing and set a completely different tone for US-Iran relations:

Our friends at the National Iranian American Council praised President Obama’s message:

“This is a historic message. It will be the topic of conversation at every Norooz celebration in Iran and in America,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization. “He is doing something crucial: He is sending a signal of strategic intent that America’s objective is to find constructive relations between the US and Iran, i.e. ending the destructive enmity that has existed for three decades.”

Signaling this strategic intent is imperative since tactical collaboration with Iran in Afghanistan will be unlikely to achieve unless America assures Tehran that the broader long-term objective is to find a positive relationship between the two countries.

The message exhibited the President’s deep understanding and respect for the Iranian nation and civilization. Citing one of Iran’s most revered poets, Saadi, showed his understanding of what is important to and valued by Iranians.

Obama’s message was focused on behavioral change, not regime change. Recognizing that Iran has a rightful place among nations clarifies that America recognizes that a country and civilization of Iran’s size cannot be isolated and contained inevitably.

“By pointing out that this role comes with responsibilities, he signals Iran that its rightful role is within reach if its policies change,” Parsi continued.  “This is a significant break with the Bush Administration policies.”

In the House of Representatives, Mike Honda (D-CA-15) introduced legislation to honor Nowruz:

The resolution recognizes the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz, expresses appreciation to Iranian Americans for their contributions to society and wishes Iranian Americans and the people of Iran a prosperous new year.

 “The Iranian-American community in my 15th district of California,” noted Rep. Honda, “and throughout the US, continues to enrich the diverse tapestry of this great nation. I’m proud to represent a civically engaged Iranian American community, which is actively invested in bettering California’s 15th district.  I’m thankful for the contributions Iranian Americans make in all sectors of American public life, including as government, military and law enforcement officials, working to uphold the constitution of the United States and protect all Americans.”

This is a far cry from much of the harsh legislation that has been offered in Congress, meant to show how our representatives can be “tough on Iran.” The change in tone and rhetoric is very important in laying the groundwork for positive engagement with Iran and demonstrating that we are ready to treat Iran and its leaders with respect.

It’s important that we show our support for President Obama’s plans to engage Iran diplomatically and push back against those who will try to undermine this positive progress.  Click here to become a Citizen Diplomat and pledge to take action to support diplomacy with Iran.

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