Apparently with the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is taking huge and significant steps toward a thawing of relations with the West while also moving to lessen the grip of hard line positions within Iran.
Rouhani and US President Barack Obama have been exchanging letters that seem to have paved the way for further discussions and improved negotiations on the issue of Iranian nuclear technology. Iran released a number of political prisoners on Wednesday. Iran also appears headed toward another round of P5+1 talks, with the date to be arranged while diplomats are in New York next week for Rouhani to address the UN. The diplomatic push reached a high point on Wednesday when Rouhani sat down in Tehran for an interview with NBC’s Ann Curry:
The entire interview in this clip is compelling, but I want to emphasize one bit that occurs near the end once the discussion moved to Syria. From the NBC blog post where the interview video is posted:
Asked whether he thought Obama looked weak when he backed off the air-strike threat, Rouhani replied, “We consider war a weakness. Any government or administration that decides to wage a war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace, we look on it with respect to peace.”
What a different viewpoint than we see inside the DC beltway. Throughout the entire Syria episode, we have been bombarded with the refrain that Obama simply had to attack Syria because if he didn’t, he would lose his credibility and look weak. Rouhani, on the other hand, states that it is resorting to war that is the real weakness.
If going to war is the real weakness, then it appears that Lindsey Graham may want to be the weakest politician in the US:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday he’s working on legislation that would give the president the green light to attack Iran if negotiations over the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program stall.
Graham is clearly approaching the issue from a very different side than Rouhani.
Who’s weak now, Lindsey?
Rouhani and Khamenei are taking steps to tell the “weaker” elements on their side to STFU:
On Monday, the new president said the Revolutionary Guards — who report to Khamenei and have been accused of backing hard-liners — should stay out of politics. The next day, Khamenei was quoted on state TV as saying, “It is not necessary for the Guards to have activities in the political field.”
If only Lindsey would show a little bit of strength and bite his tongue while diplomacy has its best chance in years.
Reaction to the leaked IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear technology continues. In a remarkable article in the New York Times that reads more like an Op-Ed (h/t MadDog), we see the writer urging the US to join the more militant posturing coming from . . .France. [It appears that the world has now completely inverted from the days of Freedom Fries in 2003.] In addition, the New York Times has joined in repeating the whispers that some sort of Mossad-MEK operation was involved in the blast in Iran that killed the head of their missile development program. Also, Iran is discussing changing the extent to which it cooperates with the IAEA. International intrigue surrounding Iran also is enhanced with conflicting reports on the cause of death of Ahmed Rezaei in Dubai. Rezaei is the son of Mohsen Rezaei, who previously served as head of the Revolutionary Guards, ran for President of Iran and now heads the Expediency Council. Dubai has termed the death a suicide but most Iranian sources are labeling it suspicious.
The Op-Ed piece in the New York Times masquerading as a news article is penned by John Vinocur who is based in Paris for the Times’ sister publication the International Herald Tribune. Vinocur opens with a slap at US leadership:
That’s not the way the French would describe their role in the world. Rather, the fact is that France, in many respects, led the United States into battle in Libya and provided much of the willpower leading to a victory over the Qaddafi regime that is shared by the Americans, British and others.
Vinocur then misrepresents the findings of the IAEA report, stating flatly that “the Iranians now have enough fuel on hand to produce four nuclear weapons”, leaving out the key piece of information that this fuel has not yet been enriched to weapons grade and that there is no evidence or even any suggestion that Iran is engaging in enrichment to weapons grade. Continue reading