The last paragraph of Barack Obama's statement to Iran is off in a weird way:
Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights. It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people.We've heard for thirty years what Iran's government is for just as much, if not more than we've heard what it is against. (And most Iranians support the Iranian government. We can just say Iran.)
Americans do not have a good way to conceptualize Iran, and it should be easy. Imagine Iran as a Christian fundamentalist state. Founded by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren or any of them. Then imagine that most of the Palestinians are Christians - that Christians were moved from their homes against their will to make way for a Jewish (non-Christian) state and are in the position the Muslim Palestinians are in today.
That's it. That's all an American needs to fully understand Iran.
A country like that passes a lot of laws that Americans disagree with, but you'd never say they only stand against things. They stand for the Bible. Disagree or agree, but they stand for peace and equality of all men before God, and mercy, decency and morality. They stand for people living their lives, and countries conducting their affairs making a constant honest effort to do so according to the rules set down by God. They only make mistakes because they as humans fail, despite their profound longing, to reach the perfection represented by God. At least that's how they see themselves, and what they'll tell you over and over and over for as long as you can tolerate being an audience for them.
The Iranian government is not that mysterious, but no supporter of Iran or its government would ever think to define Iran as being opposed to, for example, the United States. They see the United States as acting against the rules set by God, while they are for God. Every speech we hear from any member of the Iranian government, if we listen to it reasonably, is less about opposing anyone than about working to achieve justice as God desires his servants to do.
Of course most Americans have a different conception of justice and will disagree with Iran's government on a whole lot of issues, as most Americans disagree with American religious fundamentalists on a whole lot of issues. Still Americans have a large store of experience that they can use to understand Iran's government as they disagree. No American would say that they only hear what Jerry Falwell is against, never what he is for. Americans know exactly what Jerry Falwell is for.
All Americans have to understand is that is the same thing the government of Iran is for.
I hope this makes understanding Iran a little easier for Westerners, especially Americans. Most Americans have had some exposure to very religious people who believe politics should be guided by religion. Just imagine them in control of their whole own country, then make them identify with the Palestinians more than the project of Zionism and you're left with Iran.