President Obama’s 2013 “Statement on Nowruz” (with links to video and full texts in English, Persian and Arabic)

See also the following related articles:

The Trenchant Observer, “eide shoma mobarak”—President Obama sends 2012 Nowruz greetings to Persians, denounces “electronic curtain” in Iran,” March 20, 2012

President Barack Obama, “President Obama’s Nowruz Message,” The White House, (with links to video and written text in Persian), March 20, 2011

The Trenchant Observer, “Obama: ‘eide shoma mobarak’ — The President’s Nowruz (New Year’s) Greeting to Persians Throughout the World,” March 24, 2010

President Barack Obama has issued this year’s statement on Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Last year it was a greeting. This year it is a “Statement”, issued while the president was on his way to Israel. In Israel he stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu as the latter made a coded threat to militarily attack Iran.

Instead of being a genuine cultural greeting and expression of good will for the New Year (“Eid e Shoma Mobarak”) the “Statement” was no more than a political statement on what Iran must do to solve the nuclear issue with the United States and the Security Council. The flavor is revealed by the following excerpt:

As I have every year as President, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran.  Since taking office, I have offered the Iranian government an opportunity—if it meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries, and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations.

It was kind of like receiving a Christmas card from someone who is threatening you with a gun, closing with a “Merry Christmas”. It goes to show, more than anything else, how wet behind the ears, lacking in true international experience, and ultimately incompetent Obama’s White House writers and foreign policy staff really are.

There is no internal evidence in the document that suggests Obama either drafted the statement himself or was meaningfully involved in its review, aside from the self-referential use of the first person singular pronoun and the fact that he did deliver the statement.

The full text of the statement follows:

The White House Ofice of the Press Secretary March 18, 2013 Statement by President Obama on Nowruz.

Dorood.  As you and your families come together to celebrate Nowruz, I want to extend my best wishes on this new spring and new year.  Around the world, and here in the United States, you are gathering at the Nowruz table—to give thanks for loved ones, reflect on your blessings and welcome all the possibilities of a new season. As I have every year as President, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran.  Since taking office, I have offered the Iranian government an opportunity—if it meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries, and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations. I have had no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust.  It will take a serious and sustained effort to resolve the many differences between Iran and the United States.   This includes the world’s serious and growing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, which threatens peace and security in the region and beyond. Iran’s leaders say that their nuclear program is for medical research and electricity.  To date, however, they have been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes.  That’s why the world is united in its resolve to address this issue and why Iran is now so isolated.  The people of Iran have paid a high and unnecessary price because of your leaders’ unwillingness to address this issue. As I’ve said all along, the United States prefers to resolve this matter peacefully, diplomatically.  Indeed, if—as Iran’s leaders say—their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, then there is a basis for a practical solution.  It’s a solution that would give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy while resolving once and for all the serious questions that the world has about the true nature of the Iranian nuclear program. The United States, alongside the rest of the international community, is ready to reach such a solution.  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. Finding a solution will be no easy task.  But if we can, the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States.  Whereas if the Iranian government continues down its current path, it will only further isolate Iran.  This is the choice now before Iran’s leaders. I hope they choose a better path—for the sake of the Iranian people and for the sake of the world.  Because there’s no good reason for Iranians to be denied the opportunities enjoyed by people in other countries, just as Iranians deserve the same freedoms and rights as people everywhere. Iran’s isolation isn’t good for the world either.  Just as your forbearers enriched the arts and sciences throughout history, all nations would benefit from the talents and creativity of the Iranian people, especially your young people.  Every day that you are cut off from us is a day we’re not working together, building together, innovating together—and building a future of peace and prosperity that is at the heart of this holiday. As you gather with family and friends this Nowruz, many of you will turn to the poet Hafez who wrote: “Plant the tree of friendship that bears the fruit of fulfillment; uproot the sapling of enmity that bears endless suffering.” As a new spring begins, I remain hopeful that our two countries can move beyond tension.  And I will continue to work toward a new day between our nations that bears the fruit of friendship and peace. Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma  Mobarak.

More than anything else, the Statement shows that “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight” is still running the White House on foreign policy matters. It sounds like a simple press statement issued at the White House Press Secretary’s daily briefing, not a direct message to the Iranian people from the President.

This year’s “Statement on Nowruz” represents one more lost opportunity to communicate something meaningful and of substance to the people and government of Iran. You don’t express good will by veiled threats of potential military attack, and telling the other party what they must do to regain their good standing with you, and with the world.

There is no warmth in Obama’s heart expressed in this Statement. It compares unfavorably with the three previous Nowruz greetings issued by the President. The tone of what is essentially a political policy statement does not even reflect recent advances in the five-plus-one talks (the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) with Iran.

One final point is significant. The statement begins with “dorood”, an antiquated greeting which has Islamic overtones.

Durood or Darood Shareef (from Persian: درود‎ dorood) or AS-Salatu alan-nabi (from Arabic: الصلاة على النبي‎) is an invocation which Muslims make by saying specific phrases to compliment the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The Islamic view is to say durood whenever a Muslim reads, speaks or hears the name of Muhammad. Durood, which is a kind of prayer and is mentioned in hadith as well as in Qur’an, are also recited in the form of Wazifa.

It is extraordinarily inappropriate for Obama to begin his Nowruz statement to Iranians with an Islamic greeting. Not everyone in Iran is a traditional Muslim. There are Bahai, Zoroastrians, Sufi, Christians, and people of other beliefs, who are often oppressed.

“Dorood” is not the word normally used by Iranians to greet each other. “Salam” (Peace), or “Salam aleikum”(Peace be with you) are used instead. There is something very strange about “Dorood”, which Obama’s writers either pulled from a dictionary or are using with some kind of a religious slant. It adds to the whole statement being way off the mark as a goodwill message.

Onama’s statement is not a genuine greeting or expression of goodwill. Consider the combined effect of his use of a weird religious salutation: “Dorood”; the timing of his travel to Israel where he stood by at a joint press conference while Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened military action against Iran; and his own repeating (in Israel) of his mantra, “All options are on the table,” which in code amounts to a threat to use military force against Iran in violation of Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter.

It is a bit like poking your fingers in someone’s eyes, on the one day in the year when he or she and his or her family and relatives from around the world are paying close attention to what you have to say.

Sadly, Obama’s 2013 “Statement on Nowruz” represents yet another episode of incompetence in foreign policy from “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”, the Obamians.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.