U.S./Iranian Thaw? Exchange of letters between President Obama and new Iranian President Rouhani
In perhaps the most positive development since the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran severed diplomatic ties 34 years ago, President Obama & new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have exchanged correspondence.
Indeed, the last several weeks have seen a thaw in the U.S./Iranian relationship.
The next test: Both presidents will go to the United Nations to address the U.N. General Assembly. Might they have at least a casual encounter, even if nothing is officially planned? Time will tell. (Paradoxically, the Russian-Syrian deal may have greased the wheels.)
For some folks in the United States - particularly hawkish supporters of Israel - all this will be anathema. Their arguments? The Iranians are only playing for time; Hassan Rouhani is just a more moderate face for a brutal, theocratic regime.
Or, even if President Rouhani really does want to strike a deal - and liberate Iran from international sanctions - at some point, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will undermine Rouhani.
Indeed, we've seen a "moderate" elected to the Iranian Presidency before: Mohammad Khatami. He ultimately proved to be rather ineffectual, and even acknowledged the resistance of hardliners in the clerical establishment.
But, consider: As the recent Syrian debate underscores, Americans of many political stripes are truly war-weary. And the Iranian people may have been trying to send a signal with their election of Hassan Rouhani.
An Iranian-American I've known for a quarter of century - who KNOWS Rouhani - portrays the new Iranian president as both crafty and erudite, and above all, pragmatic - someone who knows the skeletons in the closet of the ayatollahs and knows how to play multi-dimensional chess. In that, Rouhani represents the mirror opposite of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came off to many Westerners as an uncouth Persian bull in a China shop.
Still unclear if Rouhani is in any position to make concessions regarding Iran's nuclear program. I've blogged about this subject before: To average Iranians - proud Persians descendant from an ancient civilization - Iran has every right to possess nukes, especially with Israeli nukes to its west and Pakistani nukes to its east. Indeed, Iran under the Shah probably would have been nuclearized by now.
That's the sticking point. Israel regards a nuclearized Iran as an existential threat. (In this, Israeli & Saudi interests converge.) But for others, the international community will just have to accomodate a nuclearized Iran -- at some point.
The late General Bill Odom - former director of the National Security Agency (with whom I used to have long conversations) - argued that U.S. threats directed at Iran were only creating a vicious circle... making Iranians MORE intent on acquiring nukes. In other words, Bush Administration policies at the time were only exacerbating the very thing the United States and Israel didn't want. (If General Odom sounds like some dove in this regard, remember he served as N.S.A. director under Ronald Reagan.)
Indeed, just three days before his sudden death, General Odom co-authored a piece with Zbigniew Brzezinski berating the Bush Administration's approach to Iran. This policy, Odom declared, "may work with donkeys but not with serious countries."
Iran remains a complex place: Let's not forget Iranian Islamists were NOT aboard those planes on 9/11... Egyptians and Saudis (from countries regarded as U.S. allies) were. Iran condemned the 9/11 attacks; Iranians held a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the United States.
Yet we remember the occupation of the U.S. Embassy after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and Iranians remember the U.S. alliance with Iraq during the Iran/Iraq War (1980-88). Iraq was the country which mounted an air and land invasion of western Iran, not the other way around. (Although Iraqi apologists claimed Iran had launched artillery attacks on Iraqi towns; this stemmed from a territorial dispute over the Shatt al Arab waterway.)
You can hear my in-depth interview with Iran expert Dr. Hossein Askari, Professor of International Business & International Affairs at George Washington University, who knew Hassan Rouhani long before he became the Iranian president... (Dr. Askari also predicted Rouhani would win the Iranian presidency long before that became obvious!)
It looks like having the US not discuss the bombing of Iran every weekend news cycle to hide the inadequacies of the Cheney administration, is finally paying off.
Thu, Sep 19, 2013 9:36am
If one looks at this from Iran's perspective, Iran must acquire a bomb, simply because the U.S. is too much of an enemy. They see us gear-up to provoke regime change in Syria, and do nothing with North Korea (except send Dennis Rodman, lol). They can figure things out for themselves.
The method or way out of them not getting a bomb is to align themselves more with China, so that provoking Iran, pokes China too. There are very interesting developments which took place 2 weeks ago in Samarkand with Putin, Xi, and Rouhani. Overall China is investing close to a trillion to provide roads, railroads, pipelines into the "stans" of Central Asia, thereby making itself the hub and export destination for all those countries.
Economically, this is also beneficial to Putin, who would prefer the petroleum exports all get sucked up by the East, so that Europe would not gain any alternate source of natural gas to rival Gasprom's monopoly on Europe.
Thu, Sep 19, 2013 1:40pm
Don't be fooled.
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