I noted President’s Obama’s remarkable Nowruz message to the people and government, of Iran earlier. Following the President’s message Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a message of his own – directed only at the people of Iran, not their leaders. As Ben Armbruster reports, Peres called on Iranians to topple their government:
I think that the Iranian people will topple these leaders…these leaders who don’t serve the people, in the end the people will realize that.
Obama had taken pains to spell out the opposite in his message:
In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. […] The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right — but it comes with real responsibilities.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton look willing to try some creative diplomacy on the Iran file. They have both made it clear that they view Pakistan and the amorphous Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan as the United States’ clear strategic focus and they would be happy to ratchet down the rhetoric with Iran, who also has a major stakes in the region, and put State Dept resources behind the coming challenges in Pakistan. Undoubtedly some Iran watchers will be disappointed that Israel seems to have evaporated the possibility of building on this initial outreach by Washington by demonstrating that without an engaged Tel Aviv there is no substance behind the President’s overture. However, given the current Israeli domestic political situation where sometime next week right wing Jewish settlers’ rights champion, Avigdor Lieberman, is likely to be named as the new Israeli Foreign Minister in the Netanyahu Cabinet, Peres could hardly have followed up Obama’s message with a similar one. The difference in tone between the two messages does not mean that Washington and Tel Aviv are not coordinating behind the scenes as Armbruster thinks. Unlike the previous administration’s world-view, international relations are all about compromise. There may have been tacit acknowledgement at lower bi-lateral levels that the President was going to make this overture and Israel would respond, after a fashion. The fact that Israel purportedly did not provide the text of their message to the White House does not surprise me. If from the beginning there was never going to be a coordinated message track it wouldn’t be necessary to share the text especially, as is likely, if Israel is less than overjoyed at Washington’s change of tone with Tehran. I stand to be corrected, but I don’t recall very many previous Nowruz messages from sitting American President’s, or Israeli ones. That they both did so this year could speak to some level of ‘compromise coordination’.