Friday, September 20, 2013
Will Obama act rationally with Iran
In anticipation of the visit next week by Iranian President Rouhani, the Iranians have been vigorously pressing a conciliatory line regarding the stupid disagreements between the US and Iran.
The Iranian leadership was encouraged by what was described as Mr. Obama’s offer to conduct face-to-face talks, which they prefer to the more bureaucratic and lengthy negotiating process with a group of five major world powers, Mr. Mohebbian said.The Iranians are not stupid. If they can begin something here they will have achieved a diplomatic triumph. On the other hand, if the US clings to the position dictated by Benny "Bugsy" Netanyahu, then another precious opportunity will slip away.
The one-and-a-half-page letter, which the Iranian president answered with a letter of similar length, has kindled hopes that the international charm offensive Iran began after Mr. Rouhani’s election in June may produce a genuine diplomatic breakthrough. But the differing interpretations of Mr. Obama’s letter in Tehran and Washington are a reminder of the political hurdles and the legacy of mistrust that both sides will have to overcome in negotiating a deal.
The American official said Mr. Obama had congratulated Mr. Rouhani on his election, and characterized the vote as an opportunity for change. But on sanctions, the official said, the Iranians were inferring relief from the president’s more general pledge to resolve issues and move forward. And while Mr. Obama is open to direct talks, the official said, they will not necessarily be leader to leader.
The Iranian reaction to the letter provides critical insight into a decisive and unexpected shift in strategy by the moderate new president as Iran struggles to restore vitality to its economy and undo years of hostile relations with most of the world under the former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The overtures to the United States are part of a flurry of steps altering the trajectory of the Iranian state, including domestic liberalizations and returning the politically powerful military to the barracks — for now. Those actions, along with the changed diplomatic tone, have convinced some experts that the changes are more than cosmetic.
Mr. Rouhani will present Iran’s new face to world next week with an address to the United Nations General Assembly, an evening speech to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society, and a television interviews with Charlie Rose and CNN.
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