Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh.)
Let’s first of all put a positive spin on President Obama’s latest Nowruz message to the Iranian people for its New Year. By now, it’s a tradition for Obama to deliver a text and video message for Nowruz, addressed, says the White House, “directly to the people and leaders of Iran.” Because Obama is headed to Israel this week, where he’ll go mano a mano with a weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama’s message yesterday marks the official start of what might be called “Iran-Israel Week.”
That, in itself, is a victory for Israel, since Netanyahu since 2009 has managed to utterly change the subject from Israel-Palestine to Israel-Iran.
In his remarks to Iran, Obama said that Iran can establish a “new relationship” with the United States:
“I have offered the Iranian government an opportunity—if it meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries, and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations. ”
And though Obama says that Iran has “been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes,” he adds:
“If—as Iran’s leaders say—their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, then there is a basis for a practical solution. It’s a solution that would give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy while resolving once and for all the serious questions that the world has about the true nature of the Iranian nuclear program.”
That studied ambiguity, the parallel ambiguity to “all options are on the table,” doesn’t make clear whether not not Iran can ever negotiate the West’s acceptance of its right to enrich uranium. Nearly all Iran watchers by now, except for neoconservatives and some Israelis, recognize that Iran’s right-to-enrich will be recognized in a US-Iran accord. Obama could accomplish a lot simply by saying that.