Obama Urges ‘New Beginning’ With Iran

Video Message Offers Reconciliation, Few Details

by Jason Ditz, March 20, 2009

In a video distributed across the Middle East, President Barack Obama spoke of his commitment to a “new beginning” in US-Iran relations, and said his administration was committed to “pursuing constructive ties.” Though the video is seen by many as enormously symbolic, it contained few concrete details of how the administration intends to proceed toward that end.

Since the election Obama has alternated between vague conciliatory tones and Bush-style condemnations with respect to Iran, and the Iranian government appears quite skeptical of the latest overture. An official response has yet to be made, but government spokesman Ali-Akbar Javanfekr told Iranian state media that they would respond favorably if Obama “takes concrete action and makes fundamental changes in US foreign policy.”

Iranian officials have previously expressed openness at reconciliation with the US, but have been waiting for some sort of “concrete offer” from the Obama Administration, which at least publicly has never been made. Though President Obama declared today that the US is committed to diplomacy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had previously indicated that the administration didn’t expect it to accomplish anything.

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