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4 Reasons Iran’s President and Obama are Eager for a Meeting

4 Reasons Iran’s President and Obama are Eager for a Meeting

Last week, Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, embarked on a so-called “charm offensive.” 18 prominent political prisoners were released on September 18th. Social media sites including Twitter and Facebook were temporarily unlocked. Rouhani expressed his openness to at least a short-term fix about nuclear arms and exchanged letters with President Barack Obama.

All of this has led to much speculation that, after a decade of war in the region, diplomacy “is suddenly alive again,” says the New York Times.

Rouhani’s actions have occurred just before he is to make a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 24th. His predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had used such speeches as a platform to criticize and censure his country’s enemies. In contrast, Rouhani and Obama are said to be planning to “arrange to run into each other” at the U.N., in what would be the first time the leaders of the two countries have met since the pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in 1979.

The Iranian president has been taking to Western media outlets to communicate his views. In a rare television interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, Rouhani stated that Iran would never “seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons” and that he himself had “full power and complete authority” to strike a deal about the nuclear issue. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he expressed his willingness to restart negotiations with the U.S. about Iran’s nuclear program. Since last August, he has used his Twitter account to express opinions not in keeping with those of his predecessors, including wishing “all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.”

This rapid “change of pace” is “unprecedented” in the Islamic Republic’s 34-year history, the Economist points out. Not only Rouhani but also Obama have reason to be eager to embark on some kind of rapprochement.

1. Years of United Nations sanctions have taken their toll on Iran, reducing its oil revenue by more than half, making it essentially impossible for international banking to go on and crashing the currency. With medicines in short supply, Reformist politician Zahra Eshraghi, a granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution, says in the Guardian that even hardliners have realized they must “come to terms” with the necessity of dialogue with the United States.

As M. Hashem Pesaran writes in the Guardian, continuing sanctions ultimately  radicalizes “the extreme groups further and, by distorting the functioning of the markets, encourage[s] economic manipulations that largely benefit those radical groups that are close to the regime.”

2. Rouhani is only a few months into his presidency after an election in which he won a “landslide victory.” While he currently has a popular mandate, it remains to be seen if the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will continue to allow Rouhani to carry out a program of “constructive engagement.”

3. In contrast, Obama is in his second and final term in office and faces the risk of becoming a lame-duck president. Having been criticized for wavering about what measures to take regarding Syria, he and his administration now have a “chance to pull off something big” with Iran.

4. Rouhani has been called the “diplomatic sheikh” for his years of experience in diplomacy and foreign policy, including serving as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. His reputation and his recent actions suggest that he wishes to use diplomacy to ease his country’s isolation, to the approbation of the Obama administration.

Rumors suggest that the Iranians may offer to close the nuclear plant, Fordo, whose existence was revealed in 2009. Rouhani has already transferred authority over Iran’s nuclear program from the national security council to the foreign ministry, whose leader, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is described by the Economist as a “moderate former diplomat with deep knowledge of America.” This move has led some to ask if there might be a way for Iran to produce a “very limited amount of nuclear fuel” that would not be used to produce a bomb, as feared by Israel and other nations.

Hardliners have plenty of reason to express caution. Israeli Prime Minister Benhamin Netanyahu has called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and has spoken out against Iran’s nuclear program in the past week. The possibility of the United States entering negotiations with Iran could lead to a “potential showdown” between Netanyahu and Obama. Israeli skeptics are warning that Iran’s seeking to negotiate is a change of “tactics not strategy” and that the country is still set on advancing its nuclear program.

Not all U.S. officials are convinced about Rouhani’s overtures, either. After Iranian energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi pledged more cooperation at the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said, in words that resonate,”the proof will be in the pudding. The words have to be followed by concrete action.”

Indeed. Rouhani’s words need to be backed up with actual changes, including allowing international monitors to inspect its nuclear facilities and granting women far more rights. Are the Iranian president’s gestures only symbolic or really signs that his government wishes to start a broad dialogue with the United States and the world?

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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108 comments

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10:20PM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

Thank you, Ms My Shariah M., for validating by your words and writing all my points exactly. It's truly rare that I find someone as enthusiastically shallow in their on-line behaviour as you are, so it's a great comic relief when it does come about.

In your arrogant ignorance you presume to know me, my history, what I know, and even what I think, and then ascribe them to your favourite bash-doll of the hour, which looks to be poor old Salman Rushdie. Well, your expertise at ad hominem attacks is exceeded only by your churlishness, so that's another validation of what I wrote.

I know you didn't bother to research what I write for the Internet, or the millions of postings they have had, or the awards my writing has won, because you are --as you point out w/o any help from outsiders-- so deluded as to refer to me as your father. If you do not know whom your parents are, you should perhaps seek some cover to deflect the coming stones and arrows you invite upon yourself.

Finally, get a life and do as I suggested as a positive alternative: "Read good histories and join the best discussion groups you can find to self-educate yourself."

By the bye, when I was in college during the early Sixties, I had a house share w/two students from Jordan, and let me assure you they were completely unalike, and very far from the stereotypes you put up as strawmen to attack. People in the umrah are as varied and grand as we in the West are, but one would never know that from you

7:24AM PDT on Oct 2, 2013

There are too many trolls, bad actors, and curmudgeons in this trumped-up 'War of Civilisations' and they plague websites. They nearly always write poorly, attack the people in the article or making comments, and never have a good new thought.

At nearly 71 I'm tired of political propaganda that has no basis in facts, and ever-increasing false flag ops add to that negativity. It serves only to enrich the merchants of death and destruction. Wars are never solutions: if they were the entire planet would have entered a perpetual peace more than a thousand years ago.

Greed is almost always at the root of most wars, even those deemed religious in origin. Just now the USofA is determined to get all the mineral resources it can under its control, and that nearly always is initiated by a trumped up war. Read good histories and join the best discussion groups you can find to self-educate yourself.

6:03PM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

And--- now maybe there is a chance that Iran will NOT "DO" Nukes !!!

12:48AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

"Pres" Rouhani is the Mullah who bragged of buying TIME (10 YEARS!) by "negotiating" with the West as Iran made nuclear weapons fuel ! He's a HOLOCAUST ENABLER! See: Reza Kahlili: "Iranian president brags about deceiving the West", 22SEP13, DailyCallercom. Interview with subtitles.

7:56PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

ty

1:52AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Ira H I have just heard on SBS World News Australia that the meeting will happen tonight (our time). Also that Israel has made some concessions for Palestine Workers..by allowing another 500 visas...hope you're not trying to spread misinformation.. hopefully just short on hearing.

9:45AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

(last bit again....)

Discover the courage to trust, while intelligently and cautiously verifying. After all, you are asking them to trust you too, and they, too, are entitled to verify.

These goals are too important to turn your backs on. WAVE.

9:44AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

I invite you all to read Pres. Ruhani's speech to the UN General Assembly - not some Congressman's interpretation, nor some news editor's selected quotes with comments, but the official UN translation;

http://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/68/IR_en.pdf

No bellicose or belligerent statements, no threats to anyone. He is reaching out to the world community in a call for moderation, for an end to all the violence and a peaceful world.

".....now let me say loud and clear that "peace is within reach." So, in the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran I propose, as a starting step, the consideration by the United Nations
of the project: "the World Against Violence and Extremism." (WAVE) Let us all join this "WAVE.""

Now, many of you may feel he cannot be trusted (understandable after all the negative rhetoric that's been pumped at us for 30 years, and particularly in the last 10 by the US in particular) - but I ask you, for a moment at least, to put aside that mistrust and ask yourselves "IF he what he is saying is genuinely meant, genuinely from the heart, is this a message I find appealing? IF it was coming from anyone else, would I agree with it?"

If your answer to those questions is 'yes', then you should be prepared for a while to suspend that mistrust, while remaining cautious, and ask your congressmen to do likewise, while those steps are explored. Discover the courage to trust, while intelligently and cautiously verifying. After all

8:56AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

Excuse me, I should have noted that was Christians being tortured, expelled or slaughtered all over the Middle East. He can back and support Islamists all day long, but can't even mention the word Christian... being one, so he claims, you would think he would be concerned about his "fellow" believers in Jesus Christ.

So why the hesitation to defend their rights in the region, but so quick to support Islamists rights in the US and abroad. Something just doesn't smell right with his rhetoric.

8:40AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

More BREAKING Middle East NEWS I can't find on ANY leftist website...

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/09/25/theft-us-weapons-in-libya-involved-hundreds-guns-sources-say/#

This administration is sooo incompetent that they didn't realize that when they vacated the embassy's and training bases in Libya due to the threat of hostility, this would happen, 100's of weapons, vehicles, night vision goggles, etc are being stolen from bases across Libya.

How many "ooops" is this administration allowed before we realize their complete incompetence.

And WHY during Obama's speech to UN he simply stated "people being killed in Afghanistan, and not that they were specifically "Christians" being targeted. What is his problem???? Don't any of you see we have serious issues in the WH these days, and getting worse.

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