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Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 01:49 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 22 Aug 2017 | 01:49 | SYDNEY

Iran: Obama's new years greeting

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23 March 2009 13:15

President Obama's Persian New Year's message (see below) continued a tradition begun in 1992, but its method of delivery, a sub-titled video posted on the internet, reflected the current Administration's comfort with technology and a desire to send a more conciliatory message than that of the previous administration.

The Iranian leadership's response, delivered by the Supreme Leader in the shrine city of Mashad was predictably direct, calling the message a 'slogan' and lambasting US policies towards Iran. It is likely that no one in the Obama Administration expected anything less. But the US message is only one small step in a broader policy of reducing the previous reliance on 'megaphone diplomacy'.

This conciliatory and widely delivered message is designed to signal a change in approach from the previous administration, in line with Obama's campaign promise. It also strengthens the Iranian moderates' hand in the run-up to the June Presidential elections by limiting Ahmedenijad's ability to use the US as a lightning rod to externalise threats. And it puts the focus more on economic issues, where conservatives are vulnerable to popular dissatisfaction.

A third aim of the message was to placate European allies, who had been concerned that the Bush Administration's hard-line approach had left them with no room to convince their own constituents (or other countries) that all options had been tried in dealing with the Iranians.  

Obama's message should be seen as the early days of a US public diplomacy campaign in the run-up to Iran's presidential elections. If moderates do well, the US will sense that there is utility in continuing its conciliatory tone, but if conservatives dominate then it is likely the Obama Administration's 'hand of friendship' will be withdrawn to a degree. 

As an aside, for those who saw the obligatory 'Death to America' chants from the large crowd gathered at mashad for Ayatollah Khameini's speech, it was hard not to notice the age of those chanting (largely middle-aged) and the relatively passionless recitation of the chant. It's a further reminder that the Iranian revolution that swept the clerics into power turned 30 this year.

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