In Video, Obama Appeals to Iranian Youth on Nuclear Deal – NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — Two weeks after Senate Republicans issued a letter to the Iranian leadership warning that any nuclear agreement Iran signs with the administration may be temporary, President Obama has issued a missive of his own: A video directed at Iran’s young people, urging them to pressure their leaders to accept the deal on the table.
The ostensible reason for the video was a greeting for Nowruz, the Persian New Year celebration that Mr. Obama has used before to deliver messages to the Iranian populace. But after mentioning a celebration held at the White House, he wasted no time making his case that an agreement that freezes Iran’s nuclear program could open the way to a far larger relationship.
He describes such a relationship in terms meant to appeal to a young Iranian population that the White House believes cares little about Iran’s nuclear capability and desperately wants access to the West, its culture and its universities.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, center left, in a face-to-face discussion with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic agency, during a break in Switzerland.
“Iran’s leaders have a choice between two paths,” Mr. Obama says in the video. “If they cannot agree to a reasonable deal, they will keep Iran on the path it’s on today — a path that has isolated Iran, and the Iranian people, from so much of the world, caused so much hardship for Iranian families, and deprived so many young Iranians of the jobs and opportunities they deserve.”
But a “reasonable deal,” he argues, would lead to “more foreign investment and jobs, including for young Iranians. More cultural exchanges and chances for Iranian students to travel abroad. More partnerships in areas like science and technology and innovation. In other words, a nuclear deal now can help open the door to a brighter future for you — the Iranian people, who, as heirs to a great civilization, have so much to give to the world.”
By releasing the message as a YouTube video, with Persian subtitles, Mr. Obama’s diplomatic team appears to be betting that the message could go viral in Iran, and widely exchanged over cellphones. It was unclear if Iranian officials would attempt to block it; the country’s censors have often been unpredictable when it comes to nuclear topics.
Mr. Obama alluded only obliquely to the Republican letter, saying that “there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you — the people of Iran — is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek.” He stayed clear of the arguments over whether the accord, which he is terming an executive agreement, will carry the lasting force of law, or would be a nonbinding political accord.
Nor did the president go into the substance of the remaining differences in the negotiation, though he referred to the role of scientists — a reference to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Iranian atomic agency — in what appeared to be an effort to defuse the ideological issues and portray the talks as more technical in nature. But he cites, as he has before, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons,” and argues that with “meaningful, verifiable steps” Iran could easily prove that “its nuclear program is, in fact, for peaceful purposes only.”
He tried to convey a sense of urgency, a reflection of fears of American officials that the complex Iranian political system might make any consensus on an agreement impossible, and that even if a deal was reached in Switzerland it face obstacles in Washington or Tehran.
“This moment may not come again soon,” he says. “I believe that our nations have a historic opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully — an opportunity we should not miss.”
He quotes the 14th-century poet Hafez, whose work is taught to every Iranian schoolchild, citing him writing “be joyful in spring,” for “many a flower will bloom while you will be in clay.”
Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6DfZyrT2AI#t=127