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Dueling Iranian New Year Greetings from Obama and Khamenei

The leaders of Iran [1] and the United States issued starkly divergent New Year messages to Iran’s home audience on Tuesday, with President Obama [2] calling for a new relationship that would end Iran’s prolonged isolation, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [3] exhorting fellow citizens to beware of enemy plots and to buy only domestically made products.

In the messages celebrating the Persian New Year, called Nowruz, posted on their respective web sites, Mr. Obama castigated Iranian leaders for seeking to block the free flow of information in Iran, and said that American makers of anti-censorship technology would be exempted from sanctions against selling to Iran. For his part, Ayatollah Khamenei denounced Iran’s foes for all of their “hostile and malevolent attacks” and announced what amounted to a buy-Iranian campaign to minimize the effects of sanctions, which are increasingly squeezing Iran’s economy.

In Iran, the year that has just concluded — 1390 in the Persian calendar — was the “Year of Economic Jihad,” the ayatollah said in his Nowruz message [4]. He decreed that the slogan for the new year, 1391, should be “National Production and Supporting Iranian Labor and Capital.”

“We should become used to consuming every product that is produced inside the country,” the ayatollah said in his message, which was posted in several languages. With the success of such an effort, he said, “once again the Iranian nation will manage to overcome the machinations of the enemies and the tricks of the ill-wishers in the economic arena in the year 1391.”

The ayatollah’s message implicitly acknowledged the growing deprivations in Iran’s economy because of the international sanctions, which have taken aim at the country’s banks and oil industry [5] and have become increasingly onerous, contributing to shortages, inflation and unemployment in the country. Many Iranian banks, including the Central Bank, were cut off a few days ago from a global telecommunications network that is an important conduit for financial transactions, and Iran’s currency, the rial, has been weakening in value against other currencies.

Mr. Obama’s New Year greeting message, in a video clip posted on the White House web site [6] with Persian subtitles, acknowledged the “continued tensions between our two countries,” but went on to say that Nowruz was a family occasion that served as a reminder of “the common humanity that we share.” “There’s no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another,” the president said in the message.

Continue reading in The New York Times [7]