President Obama records video message for Iranians to commemorate Nowruz
On the start of the Iranian New Year, the President offered ‘a new beginning’ to the people of Iran after reiterating the tension between the two nations over Iran's nuclear program and online censorship. It is unknown if the video — which is live on the White House’s site and was sent to TV stations abroad — will be seen in the heavily censored nation.
By James Warren / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
President Obama sent his best wishes to the people of Iran as they celebrate Nowruz in a new video.
WASHINGTON — President Obama offered the people of Iran a potential "a new beginning" Thursday, "including a better relationship with the United States and the American people, rooted in mutual interest and mutual respect."
Obama used the occasion of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, to send a short video via Internet and international broadcasters to a country that, a top aide pointedly noted, routinely censors Internet content.
Obama mixed the conciliatory with a full admission of tensions that remain, especially when it comes to Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions meted out as a result.
"Under the initial agreement we reached in November, the Iranian government has agreed to limit key parts of its nuclear program," he said.
"Along with our international partners, the United States is giving Iran some relief from sanctions. Now we're engaged in intensive negotiations in the hopes of finding a comprehensive solution that resolves the world's concerns with the Iranian nuclear program."
He then made clear, "As I've said before, I'm under no illusions. This will be difficult. But I'm committed to diplomacy because I believe there is the basis for a practical solution."
"Iran's highest officials, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, have said that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. So there is a chance to reach an agreement if Iran takes meaningful and verifiable steps to assure the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only."
"Iran would have access to peaceful nuclear energy," Obama said. "And we will have addressed — peacefully, with diplomacy — one of the greatest challenges to international peace and security."
It was unclear how many Iranians would have access to the video or whether state television would air it. By early Thursday, it had not.
Notably, the video was posted on the White House website along with a pointed blog essay on the comprehensive nature of Iranian censorship by Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy advisor.
"For far too long, the Iranian regime has tried to control the flow of information and ideas to and from the Iranian people and the outside world," he writes.
"As people everywhere are making their voices heard through new technologies and social media, the people of Iran often find their voices stifled and their ability to connect denied. Like the Iron Curtain of the 20th century, an Electronic Curtain is descending as the Iranian regime attempts to control what its citizens see and hear. "
"The Iranian people have a universal right to access information, and to freely assemble online. Yet the Iranian regime increasingly denies these rights, and uses technology to suppress its people."
Rhodes cited how several journalism groups have derided Iranian censorship and gave examples of why.
For example, the government "routinely blocks access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites, blog platforms, photo or video-exchange websites, and other sites related to politics and human rights."
Recent reports, Rhodes writes, "indicate that Iran has blocked over 5 million websites, to include frequently accessed sites such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Skype, stifling the ability for millions to interact with those inside and outside of Iran."
He noted, too, how few Iranian have access to broadband Internet and has created a "culture of fear" when it comes to using the Internet.
He said that the government has created "a so-called 'Cyber Army' of up to 15,000 internet 'enforcers.'"
Thursday, March 20, 2014, 10:10 AM