Obama’s new message to Iran

The President records a video message that is a marked departure, both in tone and content, from the last 30 years.

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

Obama's new message to Iran

(updated below - Update II – Update III)

There will be no shortage of people attacking this as a Chamberlain-like capitulation to the Evil Persian Hitlers, and there will be an equally vocal group mocking it as an empty gesture from America’s bloodthirsty and war-craving emperor.  It’s true that, ultimately, this will only be meaningful if followed up by action, but this video — sent by Obama to Iran, and to Iranians, for Nowruz, a major national holiday, and released this morning — is, after 30 years of nothing but threats and hateful rhetoric exchanged between the two countries, a palpably different message not only in tone but also in content. 

It explicitly repudiates threats and is also deeply respectful not only of the people of Iran but also of its government.  After observing that “for nearly three decades, the relations between our nations have been strained,” Obama repeatedly emphasizes “a promise of a new day”; never once mentions Iran’s nuclear program; and vows:  “my administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and pursuing constructive ties between the U.S., 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.”

It’s easy to dismiss and mock if that’s what one really wants to do.  And the caveats and causes for skepticism are obvious (it’s just a video; there was nothing done about the war in Gaza; he just signed this last week, etc. etc.).  But it’s inconceivable that anything like this video would have been possible at any point during the last eight years or even the couple of decades prior to that.  The protests that the video will inevitably provoke by itself demonstrates that it is a political risk.  Genuine expressions of respect, symbolic though they might be, can transform relations between previously hostile people and countries.  Politically-motivated demonization (of the U.S. by Iranian hard-liners and of Iran by American and Israeli hard-liners) becomes more difficult when this is the tone that prevails and this is the face that is shown.  And rapprochement, if it’s to happen, can only begin with steps like this.  

It may be that the Obama administration wants a diplomatic solution with Iran out of necessity and it may be that this is just a fig leaf designed to placate various factions.  Only time — and subsequent actions — will tell.  But whatever else is true, it is a weak, decaying and insecure nation that beats its chest and relies on ugly threats to establish its “toughness” and “credibility” with the world, while the mark of a strong and confident nation is the willingness to take a first step like this one towards its adversaries:



UPDATE:  As Laura Rozen reports, at least some long-time critics of U.S. hostility towards Iran perceive Obama’s message as quite significant:

“This is huge,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that supports U.S. engagement with Tehran. “First of all, he is addressing the people and the government, which has not been done before. At one point he talks about the Islamic Republic. He’s signaling he’s not looking for regime change; he’s recognizing Iran’s system. . . .

Parsi also found remarkable Obama’s comments that he recognized Iran has a “rightful role among nations.” . . . “He is making it clear is that where he wants to end up through diplomacy which he supports is a constructive, positive relationship with Iran, to put aside our enmity. That is huge.”

The BBC describes it as “an unprecedented direct video message to the Iranian people,” though I think the more notable part is how it refers to and addresses Iranian government leaders.

On a related note, The Washington Post today — in an article headlined: “Israeli Coalition Appears Fated to Clash With U.S.” — predicts increasing tension between the U.S. and Israeli Governments over a variety of issues, particularly West Bank settlements and the peace process, in light of the new right-wing coalition emerging in Israel.  A couple of weeks ago, I noted some subtle, promising shifts in U.S. tone and even actions towards Israel.  Again, how genuine it all is remains to be seen, but subtle and preliminary steps like these are prerequisites to more positive developments in our Middle East policy.


UPDATE II:  Congratulations to Robert Spencer of “Jihad Watch” for being first out of the cliché gate:

Obama’s message to Iran, delivered on the occasion of Persian New Year, looks like more appeasement. His fellow appeasers (Solana) are enthusiastic about it, and the objects of the appeasement (the mullahs) are reacting with a predictable uptick of aggression and bellicosity. . . . Appeasement breeds aggressiveness.  

Who will be the first to scream about 1938, Czechoslovakia and Obama’s umbrella?  There are so many options, but only the foolish among us would bet against the award going to someone from Commentary, The Weekly Standard, or one of the AEI ”scholars,” though Marty Peretz is always a nice dark horse in these Nazi-platitude contests. 


UPDATE III:  That didn’t take long.  We now have a winner in the 1938/Czechoslovakia contest, and it’s a good one (it’s “Pajamas Media,” so it barely counts, but the winning Nazi-invoker is also with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute, so, using a permissive standard, this should probably be deemed eligible). 

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>