Iranian New Year’s holiday presents dilemma for Obama

As the Obama administration’s engagement strategy with Iran hits a brick wall, the White House faces a ticklish decision: whether U.S. President Barack Obama should send greetings to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 21.

Last year, Obama used the holiday — a celebration of the vernal equinox that Iranians have observed since ancient times — to seek “the promise of a new beginning” with a country that has bedeviled U.S. policymakers for three decades. He reached out to the Iranian people and, in a departure from Bush-era nomenclature, to the leaders of the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” thus implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of the Iranian government and suggesting that the United States was not pursuing a policy of regime change.

Obama used last year’s message, which was filmed and broadcast with Farsi subtitles, to lay out his vision for the future of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. “It’s a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce,” he said. “It’s a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.”

A year later, U.S. officials are disappointed and frustrated by the lack of progress, particularly over I… >>>

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