Obama Calls for Understanding Between Iranians, Americans

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2012 — As Iran and oth­er nations cel­e­brate Nowruz — the Per­sian New Year — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma called for under­stand­ing between Amer­i­cans and Ira­ni­ans.

The pres­i­dent not­ed the ten­sions between the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment and the rest of the world over the government’s nuclear pro­gram.

“To the peo­ple of Iran, this hol­i­day comes at a time of con­tin­ued ten­sion between our two coun­tries,” the pres­i­dent said in a video mes­sage on the hol­i­day. “But as peo­ple gath­er with their fam­i­lies, do good deeds, and wel­come a new sea­son, we are also remind­ed of the com­mon human­i­ty that we share.”

The pres­i­dent main­tained no rea­sons exist for the Unit­ed States and Iran to be divid­ed. “Here in the Unit­ed States, Iran­ian-Amer­i­cans pros­per and con­tribute great­ly to our cul­ture,” he said. He not­ed that the Iran­ian film “A Sep­a­ra­tion” won this year’s Acad­e­my Award for best for­eign lan­guage film.

The U.S. and Iran­ian navies have tak­en on the dan­ger of pira­cy togeth­er, and U.S. sailors have res­cued Iran­ian cit­i­zens who had been tak­en hostage, Oba­ma said. “And from Face­book to Twit­ter — from cell phones to the Inter­net — our peo­ple use the same tools to talk to one anoth­er, and to enrich our lives,” he added.

But the Iran­ian peo­ple are denied the basic free­dom to access the infor­ma­tion that they want, Oba­ma said. “Instead, the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment jams satel­lite sig­nals to shut down tele­vi­sion and radio broad­casts,” he said. “It cen­sors the Inter­net to con­trol what the Iran­ian peo­ple can see and say. The regime mon­i­tors com­put­ers and cell phones for the sole pur­pose of pro­tect­ing its own pow­er.”

The Iran­ian gov­ern­ment has increased con­trols to the extent that its cit­i­zens can­not com­mu­ni­cate freely with their loved ones with­in Iran, or beyond its bor­ders. “Tech­nolo­gies that should empow­er cit­i­zens are being used to repress them,” the pres­i­dent said.

This “elec­tron­ic cur­tain” has stopped the free flow of ideas both ways, Oba­ma not­ed. “I want the Iran­ian peo­ple to know that Amer­i­ca seeks a dia­logue to hear your views and under­stand your aspi­ra­tions,” he added.

The pres­i­dent announced the cre­ation of a “vir­tu­al embassy” for the Iran­ian peo­ple. “Even as we’ve imposed sanc­tions on the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment, today my admin­is­tra­tion is issu­ing new guide­lines to make it eas­i­er for Amer­i­can busi­ness­es to pro­vide soft­ware and ser­vices into Iran that will make it eas­i­er for the Iran­ian peo­ple to use the Inter­net,” he said.

Sup­press­ing ideas nev­er suc­ceeds in mak­ing them go away, the pres­i­dent said.

“The Iran­ian peo­ple are the heirs to a great and ancient civ­i­liza­tion,” he said. “Like peo­ple every­where, they have the uni­ver­sal right to think and speak for them­selves. The Iran­ian gov­ern­ment has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to respect these rights, just as it has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to meet its oblig­a­tions with regard to its nuclear pro­gram.”

The pres­i­dent reit­er­at­ed that if the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment pur­sues a respon­si­ble path, it will be wel­comed once more among the com­mu­ni­ty of nations, and the Iran­ian peo­ple will have greater oppor­tu­ni­ties to pros­per.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)