Iran (and other countries) this week celebrated the festival of Nowruz, which marks the start of the Persian new year. The occasion warranted speeches from Iran’s leaders, as well as the annual greeting from US President Barack Obama.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was one of those addressing citizens Friday. As noted by The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, Khamenei urged Iranians to become stronger and more self-reliant in the face of Western sanctions. Unlike last year, however, no mention was made in the speech of the ongoing negotiations with the West.
Last year, Khamenei had said that while he wasn’t optimistic about talks with the US, he wasn’t “opposed to them, either.”
Rezaian suggested that far from being a sign of the leader’s disapproval, this year’s silence on the talks might actually indicate that he approves of the way Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has handled the talks.
Rezaian did not mention, however, that the crowd listening to Khamenei at the holy Shi’ite city of Mashad was chanting “Death to America,” nor that Khamenei also used his address to blast Obama’s festive greeting.
Obama had dedicated his annual Nowruz message to Iranians last week, offering hope for a new start in US-Iranian relations governed by “mutual interest and mutual respect.” CS Monitor’s Scott Peterson noted that Obama even used Iran’s full title, “The Islamic Republic of Iran,” implicitly recognizing the 1979 Islamic revolution.
But it wasn’t enough to appease Khamenei: Calling the US a “dictatorial and arrogant power,” he said Obama’s language was “aggressive” and “insulting to the people.”
Another round in the ongoing relations between Washington and Tehran, marked by American quest for conciliation and Iran’s traditional response. Does the decades-old chant of “Death to America” really represent the cities, streets and mosques of Iran or the government? Does Iran have the ability to beat its old habits and bring some reformation? Perhaps the year 1393 holds an answer.