Revision — From the October 2013 issue

Changing Partners

Can Hassan Rohani end the Iranian impasse?

( 2 of 4 )

Of course the Western narrative of Iran is not entirely false. The country has been guilty of horrendous human rights abuses, and some of its leaders have made poisonously anti-Semitic pronouncements. Still, the United States and its clients in Europe, including Britain, have frequently behaved in a far more aggressive and irrational manner. Again and again, Iran has offered the opportunity for a comprehensive peace deal. It did so in the aftermath of 9/11, when thousands of Iranians held candlelit street vigils and the nation’s leaders offered practical help in tracking down Osama bin Laden. It did so again during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both initiatives were brushed aside by George W. Bush, who rewarded Iran’s overtures by declaring the country part of the “axis of evil.”

Is there any way to break this cycle? Perhaps. We now have a new Iranian president, Hassan Rohani, who was elected in June and took office in August. Rohani has replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose strident Holocaust denialism lent weight and credence to Iran’s critics. And despite the railings of the anti-Iranian media, which has already been hard at work discrediting him, Rohani is sensible, pragmatic, and (of crucial importance) well-connected in Tehran. If the United States and the West really want a negotiating partner, he is close to ideal.

Rohani’s record suggests that he will be more than ready to make concessions. Western diplomats who dealt with him during the crucial period between October 2003 and August 2005, when Rohani headed his country’s nuclear negotiating team, say he is a man of his word — very much contrary to the established image of Iranian negotiators as apocalyptic madmen and cheats. Jack Straw, who met with Rohani many times as British foreign secretary, characterized him as “naturally courteous, respectful, and engaged. He’s straightforward and pragmatic to deal with — but intensely protective of Iran, its people, and of the Islamic revolution.” And Rohani’s choice for foreign minister — Mohammad Javad Zarif, a U.S.-educated official known for his fluent English and diplomatic expertise — also suggests the new president is eager to break the long impasse between the two countries.

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  • BB98136

    Credibility lost in the second paragraph:

    “… the country spent less than 1 percent of the amount the United States does on its military — $9 billion versus $650 billion.”

    The correct math is about 1.4%, not less than 1 percent.
    Where are your “math checkers?”

    • Iranophile

      I love IRAN & my Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei.

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