The White House does Nowruz

Why does President Obama insist on continuing to deliver annual Navruz felicitations to the people of Iran?  There was a moment at the dawn of the first Obama Presidency when the Navruz greeting was very welcome.  In the wake of and in reaction to the dark night of the Bush-Cheney years the Obama Presidency was swept to power with an overwhelming mandate in favor of national and international transformation.  In apparent contrast to his warmongering precursor, the new President promised to seek diplomatic rather than military solutions to conflicts with countries that had been traditionally viewed as enemies of the United States.  So in 2009 the President's Navruz greeting to the people of Iran was entirely  appropriate.  Overnight it seemed a reversal was set to take place in three decades of implacable US hostility to Iran.  There was jubilation among people in America and across the world who regard amity between nations or at the very least non-aggression as the only morally acceptable basis of international relations.  For them the Navruz message was the logical culmination of candidate Obama's campaign promises.  It was fondly hoped and believed that the US President's video address to the people of Iran was the harbinger of improved relations between their respective countries.  These hopes have long since been dashed to the ground.  Fair words as the saying goes butter no parsnips.


With the persistence of unremitting hostility on the part of the US government toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Obama's annual Navruz greeting to the people of Iran has come to be charged with irony.  This year's message takes the irony to new heights.  As it happens the text of the greeting is more admonitory than in previous years.  There is less beating about the bush as to the "extraordinary blessings" enjoyed by Iranians.  Little is said about Navruz constituting the season of "hope and renewal."  The inclusion of such language in this year's message might have seemed too inappropriate to pass muster.  One doesn't offer a man a rose when stabbing him to death.  The relatively business like text of this year's message focuses on the canard of Iran's nuclear ambitions.  Nevertheless there is inherent hypocrisy in the use of the oval office to relay the traditional Navruz greeting “Eid shoma Mubarak” to the people of Iran.


Let's review the facts regarding the most recent phase of the economic warfare waged against Iran by the US.  By fall 2012 Iran's currency had weakened sharply under the onslaught of ever intensifying sanctions which have isolated Iran from the international banking system.  Thanks to what has been called a chokehold of unprecedented international sanctions the oil trade on which Iran's economy depends has been effectively sabotaged. By October 2012 the rial had lost 75% of its value in comparison with the end of the previous year.  Fifty-seven percent of the loss had taken place in the course of the three preceding months.  Riots broke out on the streets of Tehran as food prices skyrocketed.  A spate of media reports predicted the coming implosion of Iran's economy.  In his foreign policy debate with presidential candidate Mitt Romney President Obama boasted that his administration had “organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.”  The facts speak for themselves. It is unnecessary to say more about the incongruity of simultaneously offering season's greetings for Navruz and presiding over policies that ensure that for ordinary Iranians the new year will bring continuing economic hardship and misery.


As it happens thanks to first lady Michelle Obama's presence via satellite link at the Oscar ceremony and her announcement of the award for Best Film to the anti-Iranian film "Argo" this year's Navruz greeting to the people of Iran from the White House has taken on a dimension that goes beyond the usual economic warfare waged against Iran by the US.  As has been brought out by a number of writers the film's representation of the hostage crisis of 1979 and by extension of Iran, its people and its history is deeply flawed and ultimately mischievous.  As a sample of the analysis that has appeared to date I will extrapolate some of the comments made by the Iranian-American writer Nima Shirazi.  The entire article can be accessed at http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2012/10/argo-s-asinine-auteur-and-his-american.html.


If nothing else, "Argo" is an exercise in American exceptionalism – perhaps the most dangerous fiction that permeates our entire society and sense of identity.  It reinvents history in order to mine a tale of triumph from an unmitigated defeat.  The hostage crisis, which lasted 444 days and destroyed an American presidency, was a failure and an embarrassment for Americans.  The United States government and media has spent the last three decades tirelessly exacting revenge on Iran for what happened.


"Argo" recasts revolutionary Iranians as the hapless victims of American cunning and deception.  White Americans are hunted, harried and, ultimately courageous and free.  Iranians are maniacal, menacing and, in the end, infantile and foolish.  The fanatical fundamentalists fail while America wins. USA -1, Iran – 0.  Yet, "Argo" obscures the unfortunate truth that, as those six diplomats were boarding a plane bound for Switzerland on January 28, 1980, their 52 compatriots would have to wait an entire year before making it home, not as the result of a daring rescue attempt, but after a diplomatic agreement was reached.


In her remarks at the Oscar ceremony the first lady thanked Hollywood for encouraging children to open their imaginations.  It is to say the least disturbing that she should have chosen to congratulate Hollywood at a ceremony in which the Motion Pictures Association of America has awarded the top honor to a film that falsifies history and reflects and reinforces stereotypical perceptions of the Islamic revolution of 1979.  This does not augur well for a change for the better in Iran-US relations.


The circumstances preceding this year's Navruz message–both the escalation of economic warfare waged by the US against Iran and the ringing endorsement by the White House of a Hollywood film that is overtly offensive to the people of Iran–seem to call for a change in what has become an annual ritual.  In the interests of honesty and truth telling the White House might be well advised to dispense with its annual Navruz greeting to the people of Iran. After all why make a feint of expressing goodwill when the sentiment is clearly absent.

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