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March 20, 2009
Obama makes overture to Iranian people in video message

President Obama made an unprecedented gesture to the people of Iran and their leaders. In a brief videotaped message on the first day of spring, which marks the start of the major holiday Nowruz in Iran, the president made a direct appeal for better relations between the two countries, who have not had diplomatic relations since 1979.

Trita Parsi, an expert on U.S.-Iranian relations with the National Iranian American Council, discusses the significance of President Obama’s gesture toward Iran and how it is being received by the people and the government there.

For more from Trita Parsi on U.S.-Iran relations and modern Iran, listen to our Online radio show on Baha’i faith and modern Iran.

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Sources disagree over how many victims SAVAK had and how inhumane its techniques were. Writing at the time of the Shah’s overthrow, TIME magazine described SAVAK as having “long been Iran’s most hated and feared institution” which had “tortured and murdered thousands of the Shah’s opponents.”[17] Federation of American Scientists (FAS) also found it guilty of “the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners” and symbolizing “the Shah’s rule from 1963-79.” The FAS list of SAVAK torture methods included “electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” [18] According to a former CIA analyst on Iran,[19][20] Jesse J. Leaf, SAVAK was trained in torture techniques by the CIA. An example of the public image of the SAVAK in Iran as all-pervasive and fear-inducing, is “a much enjoyed joke” during the Pahlavi regime, where an Iranian Muslim is questioned by angels on the first night after his (the Muslim’s) death:

`Who is your God?`
`His Majesty, the Shahanshah (King of Kings in Persian)!`
`What is your religion?`
`The White Revolution.`
`What is your holy book?`
`His Majesty’s book, The White Revolution.`


[…] President Barack Obama sent a video message to Iran appealing for better relations between the two countries, Iran’s leaders wasted no time in […]


I don’t know whether Iran deserves an apology for the CIA’s involvement with the Shah or not, but doesn’t it seem that could have really demonstrated our peace efforts?

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