This sends a curious message, but I doubt Obama’s State Dept had the sense to intend anything more subtle than “look, we’re giving you back something we stole, as a reminder of why you hate us.” I guess another iPod with Obama’s greatest capitulations was voted down.
Pre-Islamic artifacts are not exactly at the top of the interest list for Islamists. Will Iranians see this as an attempt to divide and conquer by appealing to (relatively) secular interests versus fundamentalists and Revolutionary Guard hardliners? Or does an evocation of the Persian Empire imply US acceptance of Iranian regional hegemony?
Don’t forget the other problem with Obama: not only is he an arrogant pathological narcissist, he’s not very bright. So it probably never even occurred to him to consider what islamists think about pre-Islamic art (hint: they don’t like it).