Should Iran reverse its course toward further isolation and prove its pursuit of nuclear power to be peace-based, the possibility lies ahead that the nation will once again be positioned to "see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States," President Obama said in a video released today offering "best wishes" to the Iranian people ahead of Nowruz this week. The celebration of Nowruz "is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature," the United Nations website states.
"Iran's leaders say that their nuclear program is for medical research and electricity," the president said in the four-minute statement, featuring Persian subtitles. "To date, however, they have been unable to convince the international community that their nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes."
On Wednesday, the president lands in Israel for the first foreign trip of his second term. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - who has sounded the alarm on Iran's nuclear capabilities and threatened military intervention - is among the Israeli leadership with whom Mr. Obama will meet. Though the United States has long called for a diplomatic resolution to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, the president and his administration have said all options, including military force, are on the table should they be necessary.
"As I've said all along, the United States prefers to resolve this matter peacefully, diplomatically," Mr. Obama continued. "Indeed, 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.
"...The United States, alongside the rest of the international community, is ready to reach such a solution," he said. "Now is the time for the Iranian government to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue."
Mr. Obama said he has had "no illusions about the difficulty of overcoming decades of mistrust," and conceded any serious resolution will require a "sustained effort." Iran will be atop the president's agenda in his meetings Wednesday.