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Iranian, U.S. Leaders Vie For The Sympathy Of The People On New Year

Iranian women hold numbers forming the Persian New Year 1398, Norooz, on New Year eve in Tehran, March 20, 2019

U.S. and Iranian leaders issued statements or delivered speeches on the eve of the Iranian New Year or Norooz (Nowrouz), March 21, vying for the attention and sympathy of people in Iran, who are facing one their hardest years in the months ahead.

These messages inevitably had a heavy political tone, with leaders blaming one another for increasing hardship the Iranian people face.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the past year (1397) as a year “full of adventures”, blaming “enemies” for conspiracies but insisting that their plans will fail.

U.S. President Donald Trump in his Norooz message directly attacked the Islamic Republic’s 40-year record and expressed support for the Iranian people’s “aspirations”.

“We pledge never to turn a deaf ear to the calls of the Iranian people for freedom, and we will never forget their ongoing struggle for human rights”, Trump said.

Khamenei acknowledged the economic crisis gripping Iran in recent months and its deep impact on the people. He also said that part of the economic problems is due to “ineffective management”.

As in previous years, he has also chosen a slogan for 1398, which he labelled “The Year of Production Boom”.

Kahemeniei’s slogan will no doubt be repeated by his staunch followers among the clergy and the military in the coming months, but the fact is that Iran has lost almost half of its export revenues and is facing a daunting task of avoiding a total economic collapse.

This year, many Iranians faced extremely high prices, beyond their means, for basic New Year staples and at least part of the blame is directed at their own leaders.

Price rises are reaching hyperinflation levels and millions of people struggle to subsist. The regime is caught between an urge to blame everything on U.S. sanctions, and the need to blame lack of internal abilities to navigate the economy. Blaming everything on the U.S. brings up the question in people’s minds as to why the country does not change its confrontational foreign policy.

This is why Khamenei continuously speaks about the “resistance economy” and now “the year of production boom”. But few people seem to believe that without lifting the sanctions and without making big changes in the way the country is governed, it would be impossible to make a leap.

There was a hint of change for Iran in Trump’s message. Linking the meaning of Norooz in Persian, which is “new day” with the idea of change, he said Norooz “carries tremendous hope for a day when good triumphs over evil and sorrow gives way to joy”.

President Hassan Rouhani’s message was mostly about bread and butter, directed at ordinary Iranians. He pledged to do everything possible to keep “essential goods” available for the people and promised to reveal more of his economic plans in the coming days.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stayed away from any political messaging in a short Norooz video, simply wishing a good year for Iranians.