Experts weigh in on Obama's Iran message

March 20, 2009 7:28:29 PM PDT
President Obama delivered a message to the Iranian government and its people offering a new beginning. The message was shown on TV networks in the Middle East.

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People in Tehran listened to Obama through the Internet. The three and a half minute message was intended to begin chipping away at 30 years of U.S. animosity toward Iran.

"It's a future where the old divisions are overcome where you and all your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace," Obama said.

The message was delivered in celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Still, an Iranian government official said minor changes in American policy will not end the differences between the two nations.

One of the issues before the two countries is Iran's nuclear program.

"A new point of consensus has to be that they do not expand their enrichment, that they allow for rigorous constant monitoring by the international community," Abbas Milani, co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University said.

Robert Baer spent more than 20 years as a CIA operative in the Middle East and has been pushing since last year for a change in U.S. policy towards Iran.

"They don't want to be accepted as a second class civilization; they say, 'why should the Israelis have nuclear bombs and we don't, because we are Muslims,'" Baer said.

But Milani cautions the current regime cannot be trusted.

"As President Reagan said, 'trust, but verify;' with this regime you have to doubly make sure you that have ways of verifying that they're promises are kept," he said.

According to both Milani and Baer, Obama's message was also designed to change Americans' mind set of Iran. Americans often associate Iran and its people with the hostage crisis of 979 where 52 U.S, diplomats were held captive in Tehran for 444 days.

Baer says while the government is in conflict with the U.S., there is a big pro-American sentiment among many Iranians.

"They know American rock and roll, they watch American movies, they listen to American radi," Baer said.

Milani says Obama knows this and will try to win the hearts and minds of the Iranian people.

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