Saturday, September 21, 2013

Very Important Week Ahead for US/Iran Relations...

Tuesday's General Assembly meeting at the United Nations in New York city promises to interesting. There are many issues surely to be addressed by world leaders, including the conflict in Syria, the global economy and for certain, there are a number of countries who may wish to comment on the United States surveillance of some of their nations.

The other interesting thing to follow this week will be what Iran's new President, Hassan Rouhani, has to say to his peers. Rouhani seems to be cut from a different cloth than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who's annual UN speeches were controversial to say the least. As well they should be. Ahmadinejad was on record as questioning the existence of the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. (The true story of that quote is in interesting-follow this link for context...) And keep in mind that Iran's spiritual leaders are even more hard line, anti-Israel than Mr. Ahmadinejad was.

The tone and the words coming from President Rouhani are very different. For example, in a op-ed he wrote a few days ago about this UN appearance, he said, 

"A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favourable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss." 

And this:

My approach to foreign policy seeks to resolve these issues by addressing their underlying causes. We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East."

Read his entire column here....

Read this analysis by the Washington Post of his upcoming speech at the UN here...

It would be a welcome change in the conversation if Mr. Rouhani stays on his current theme of reconciliation, cooperation and communication. We've learned a hard lesson over 12 years or so that as mighty as our military is, its relatively powerless to reshape hearts and minds via force. Diplomacy seems to be the best tactic to explore and we should so earnestly. Iran has some unseemly friends and changes may be difficult for them going forward. Likewise, I imagine there are reasonable minds in the Middle East who view the United States and some of her allies as dangerous to their lives. I suspect both sides could and should look inward and re-evaluate their foreign policies going forward. 

It is an opportunity, that shouldn't be wasted...


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