In Nowruz Message, Obama Lauds Rouhani and Plugs for Nuclear Deal

President Obama used the occasion of the Persian new year to pitch his nuclear deal with Iran as Ayatollah Khamenei issued a tweet threatening to obliterate Israel.

Obama also recognized a less-than-legitimate election, where opposition forces in the Islamic Republic didn't have a chosen candidate as the Guardian Council whittled the ballot down to those who were Ayatollah-approved.

"Last year, you—the Iranian people—made your voice heard when you elected Dr. Hassan Rouhani as your new president.  During his campaign, he pledged to strengthen Iran’s economy, improve the lives of the Iranian people and engage constructively with the international community—and he was elected with your strong support," Obama said.

"Last fall, I spoke with President Rouhani.  It was the first conversation between an American president and an Iranian leader since 1979. I conveyed to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people, just as he expressed his respect for the American people... Since then, we’ve made progress."

Obama said the sanctions relief for Iran was being followed with "intensive negotiations in the hopes of finding a comprehensive solution that resolves the world’s concerns with the Iranian nuclear program."

"As I’ve said before, I’m under no illusions. This will be difficult. But I’m committed to diplomacy because I believe there is the basis for a practical solution. Iran’s highest officials, including Supreme Leader Khamenei, have said that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. So there is a chance to reach an agreement if Iran takes meaningful and verifiable steps to assure the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Iran would have access to peaceful nuclear energy. And we will have addressed—peacefully, with diplomacy—one of the greatest challenges to international peace and security," he continued.

"A comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue—and an Iran that upholds universal rights, at home and abroad—would help move Iran along the new path that so many Iranians seek... Because for the first time in many years, we have the opportunity to start down a new path. If Iran seizes this moment, this Nowruz could mark not just the beginning of a new year, but a new chapter in the history of Iran and its role in the world—including a better relationship with the United States and the American people, rooted in mutual interest and mutual respect."

The lengthy address seemed more a chiding of Congress than a message to the American people. Lawmakers this week delivered letters to Obama demanding "core principles" in a final nuclear deal, with a July 20 deadline.

Those congressional letters had veto-proof support: 83 senators and 395 members of the House.

Moscow and Tehran have also been drawing closer in a cooperative effort that may scrap any need for Iran to negotiate with the U.S. at all.

Today's tweets from the ayatollah: