US-Iran: Obama's message to Tehran 'significant', says analyst

London, 20 March (AKI) - US president Barack Obama's desire to create a new relationship with Iran was welcomed by a key expert in Iranian studies in the United Kingdom on Friday. Iranian-born Anoush Ehteshami from Durham University told Adnkronos International (AKI) that Obama's video message was a "very significant" development in the countries' bilateral relations.

"I think the video message is very significant," he told AKI. "This is an exercise of soft power in ways that former president George W. Bush was never able to do and (Obama) is continuing to apply pressure on Iran, while doing it in a very culturally rich fashion."

In an unprecedented move, president Obama released a video saying it was time for a "new beginning" between the US and Iran.

In the video he praised the country's contribution to world civilisation and also warned the country that Iran cannot "take its rightful place in the community of nations... through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilisation."

The two nations cut official ties after the US-backed monarchy led by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in the revolution in 1979 and replaced with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In recent years, former president George W. Bush took a hard line against Iran accusing it of being part of his so- called Axis of Evil, that included Iraq and North Korea.

Ehteshami said Obama's message was timely, as he made the new overture to Iran to coincide with the country's new year celebrations known as Nawrouz.

"What president Obama has done in terms of the Nawrouz new year is send a message to all Iranians, not just to the leaders," he said.

"I think that's very clever. It means that Iran is feeling the heat, but its very subtle and its a continuation of the message that we've had since the autumn, but particularly since president Obama's inauguration of trying to find a new modus-operandi as far as America's relations with Iran are concerned."

"He is continuing to sound forthcoming and is continuing to convey a message of dialogue and he is doing it very publicly," Ehteshami told AKI.

"This is not a back channel. He is letting the world know that he is trying to reach out to Iran and the indirect pressure that that will generate for the leadership, both at home but also abroad, will be quite substantial. "

While some in Iran will reject the new approach as he will be seen to be interfering in Iran's domestic affairs, others will see it as a "calculated" move.

"I do not think many people will welcome it at the leadership level, but they also will not be very hostile in public."

Anoush Ehteshami is a highly respected expert on Iran and is attached to the school of government and international affairs at Durham University. He is also a member of the Centre for Iranian Studies.

He was born in the Iranian capital, Tehran, and educated in Iran, Sweden and Great Britain.


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