Speaking at the end of an hour-long prime-time news conference, the president held up ties with Tehran as an example of the need for patience while new policies take effect.
"We did a video sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, 'Well, they did not immediately say they were eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.' Well, we didn't expect that," he said.
"We expect that we're going to make steady progress on this front," Obama concluded.
In his election campaign, Obama promised more engagement with Iran, something that had been resisted under the Bush administration.
Russia welcomed the U.S. president's video message to the Iranian people, in which he congratulated them on the Iranian New Year. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last Friday that it was "important for us that the new [U.S.] administration is making advances to Tehran."
The United States and other Western nations suspect Tehran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity.