June 24th, 2009
12:23 PM ET
14 years ago

Officials: President Obama reconsidering July 4 invitations to Iran

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is seriously considering not extending invitations to Iranian diplomats for July 4 celebrations overseas, senior administration officials tell CNN.

The officials said intense discussions on the issue were taking place, but the final decision had not been made.

Late last month the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates worldwide informing them they "may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their July 4th celebrations.

The U.S. receptions marking Independence Day usually feature symbols of Americana, such as hot dogs, red-white-and-blue decorations and remarks by U.S. officials about America's founding fathers.

The Obama administration had decided to invite Iranians to the celebrations at overseas posts as part of President Obama's policy of engaging the Iranian regime.

As part of that engagement Obama videotaped a message for the Iranian people on the Persian New year and U.S. officials have engaged members of the Iranian government.

In March Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan spoke briefly with Iran's deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, at an Afghanistan conference in The Hague.

But officials said the violence against protesters that has ensued since the June 12 election has caused the administration to rethink the timing of such engagement.

One senior administration official said Wednesday the reconsideration of the July 4th invitations is consistent with Obama's comments Tuesday, in which he said he was "shocked and appalled" at the violence against demonstrators.

"The president said yesterday how this plays out will affect what we do," the official said.

Obama said Tuesday, "If Iran chooses a path that abides by international norms and principles, then we are interested in healing some of the wounds of 30 years in terms of U.S.-Iranian relations."

But he sidestepped questions on whether the offer to attend the celebrations still stand.

"That's a choice the Iranians are going to have to make," he said.

Officials said if such a decision is made invitations that have gone out will not be rescinded, although it was unclear whether any Iranians had accepted an invitation.

On Tuesday Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said an invitation to Iranian diplomats would send the wrong message to Iranians "who are bravely standing up for the same rights and freedoms which Americans celebrate on this day."

"The Fourth of July is a day when we celebrate democracy and reflect on the gift of freedom which all Americans cherish," she said in a statement. "The Iranian people are no less worthy of freedom and self-governance than citizens of the United States."

Administration officials believe the U.S. will engage Iran at some point to address issues of US national security, including the nuclear issue, the idea of bilateral engagement is in a holding pattern while the violence continues.

"I wouldn't say engagement is off the table, but it is certainly on ice," a senior administration official told CNN this week.

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Peace

    Leah: I beg to disagree with you. Diplomats represents their country. When you invite the diplomat, you are inviting the country or rather the President.
    Keeping the situation of Iran at the moment, it is extremely difficult to extend such an invitation to them.

    June 24, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Wow! Extreme and bold leadership – NOT. Has Umbama ever given a firm consistant opinion on anything? (besides himself)

    I suppose if they actually set off a nuke someday he might even frown at them. That would show 'em.

    There is no need for violience but gee whiz make the call here on the party invitations dude.

    June 24, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. James, Boston

    It is clear that the Iranian people want their voice to be heard and that the current political leaders have no regards to their opinions.

    How is that any different from before the Revolutionary War? Are we inviting the Queen?

    June 24, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    If the diplomats stand against their government, I say extend a hand out to them. Although Britain has kicked two diplomats out, we're not Britain. We are celebrating our Independence, and the Iranian people are fighting for theirs. Maybe they need to see what freedom is actually like then they can go back to their country and denounce the violence that their regime is commiting.

    June 24, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. Proc

    Obama should invite them over for milk n' cookies.

    June 24, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. b franklin

    Oh my God!! They will be devastated! President Obama is so tough. This will really show the terrorist led govt of Iran! I heard that if they continue to be bullies Obama is considering not inviting them to his Birthday Party too.

    June 24, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. D. Tree

    They should be invited, then our Diplomats can do their jobs to persuade them!

    Sometimes I can't believe we're even debating this. Don't get caught up in the hype, its diplomacy 101.

    The Iranian representatives should be invited, then when they arrive they should receive a thorough grilling from our representatives.

    June 24, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Independent

    its funny the stories the obama maniacs post on , and here or other serious issues silent, lol its funny just mention rush Palin anyone else on the list and there is 300 post. so ignorant this administration and its cult like followers.

    June 24, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. cjg

    Yeah , that should whip 'em into shape...since they have seen all the fireworks they need for awhile , I think they would pass on the invite anyway.
    Is this a slow news day or what!!!!

    June 24, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. JonDie

    Oh how our country's enemies (the Republican Party) will crow if Obama does this since according to Republicans, we Americans are a bunch of mental weaklings who cannot afford to confront or dialogue with our enemies face to face (kind of tell one what Republicans think about their own mental abilities though).

    June 24, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Laura, Boston MA

    A week of murdering people on the streets of Tehran and all this administration can come up with is sanctioning IRAN's 4th of July hot dog!

    I don't expect the POTUS to go off half cocked like the Bush administration did but come on...we need a little bit stronger message to send than "If you don't start playing nice in the sand box, we won't share our lunch with you".

    June 24, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Shirley In California Now On The Fence Re Obama

    This is one area Obama is 100% right on. His stance has been correct. I also believe this is his smartest move since taking office. They should, however, use caution on this subject because you don't want to punish everyone for something only a few caused.

    June 24, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. Ampleman

    Just have some doggie bags with freedom fries in them waiting for them at the gate. Tell them there was only seating for freedom loving governments. The symbolism will be a just reminder of their 1979 invasion of our embassy in Iran when they charged in uninvited.

    June 24, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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