Friday, September 20, 2013

Iran’s ‘Constructive Engagement’ Undermines Israeli Propaganda

In anticipation of his first trip to the United Nations General Assembly as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani is making it increasingly difficult for American and Israeli propaganda against Iran to continue to work.

The prospect of genuine diplomacy and even a cessation of increasingly hostile actions by the United States has never looked brighter. Rouhani recently conducted a high-profile exclusive interview with NBC's Ann Curry, his first with a U.S. media outlet, during which he not only reiterated Iran’s consistent condemnation of nuclear weapons, but also affirmed that, when it comes to nuclear negotiations with world powers, his administration has “full power and has complete authority” to make a deal.

“The problem won’t be from our side,” he told Curry. “We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.”

Nuclear negotiations are no longer the responsibility of the Supreme National Security Council and instead have been placed under the purview of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Rouhani’s foreign minister now in charge of the nuclear file, is well-known as a respected diplomat and international interlocutor.

Moreover, this week in Iran saw the sudden release of sixteen prisoners, including human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who had been held in Evin Prison for the past three years and it was confirmed that Rouhani and President Barack Obama have exchanged letters, thus setting the stage for potential direct talks between Iran and the United States, the first in over three decades. Rouhani, ever the pragmatic optimist, even described the tone of Obama’s letter as “positive and constructive.”

Both Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani have recently warned the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to avoid political activity and Khamenei has given his assent for “heroic leniency” in the diplomatic arena. Beyond the new administration's recent Rosh Hashanah greetings, it has also been announced that parliamentarian Siamak Morsadegh, the elected legislator representing Iran’s Jewish minority, will be accompanying Rouhani to New York. Speculation is even swirling about a possible Obama-Rouhani tête-à-tête on the sidelines of the annual UN confab next week.

Due to these overtures and opportunities, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is getting desperate. It has enlisted its dutiful Congress members and reliable propagandists to ramp up its push for an American-led war against Iran. As Syria moves to destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles and join the vast majority of the world as a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Israel is increasingly isolated and hypocritical – a colonial pariah with weapons of mass destruction and a constant outlier in international treaties such as the CWC, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A new oped in The New York Times, entitled “Let’s Be Honest About Israel’s Nukes,” exposes the absurdity of Israel’s nuclear “ambiguity” and the continuing, counterproductive American denial of Israel’s own arsenal.

In response to Rouhani’s latest assurance that Iran will never seek nuclear weapons, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement warning, “One must not be fooled by the Iranian president’s fraudulent words. The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning.”

Meanwhile, at the annual International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting of member states on Wednesday, Saul Chorev, head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, declared, “The picture that Iranian representatives are portraying regarding openness and transparency of their nuclear program stands in sharp contradiction with Iran’s actual actions and the facts on the ground.” He then proceeded to accuse Iran of “deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency…with a view to buy more time in Iran’s daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program.”

Israel's hysterical Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz is apoplectic. "There is no more time to hold negotiations," he said in an interview with the conservative Israel Hayom daily published on today. "If the Iranians continue to run, in another half a year they will have bomb capability," Steinitz added, revisiting the tired assessments made constantly by Israeli officials frantic for attention, and complained, "Today the Iranians take into account that they have room to maneuver, and that is the most dangerous thing." He also made sure to state that "all options are on the table" when it comes to Israeli action against Iran.

The simple problem for Netanyahu and his administration is that, by and large, few are buying this pathetic fear-mongering anymore.

Today – Friday September 20 – just days before he addresses the General Assembly on Tuesday, Rouhani has taken his charm offensive one step further by publishing an oped in The Washington Post.

“I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world,” Rouhani writes, adding, “International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously.”

In calling for “a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions,” Rouhani urges Iran and its Western counterparts to “join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.”

He concludes with this deft analysis of the failure of past diplomacy and an irresistible appeal to future rationality:
We and our international counterparts have spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — discussing what we don’t want rather than what we do want. This is not unique to Iran’s international relations. In a climate where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn't want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders. Expressing what one does want requires more courage.
After 10 years of back-and-forth, what all sides don’t want in relation to our nuclear file is clear. The same dynamic is evident in the rival approaches to Syria.
This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot. But to move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher. Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want — clearly, concisely and sincerely — and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action. This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.
As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. Most of all, I urge them to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations.
Without a doubt, next week at the United Nations, all eyes will be on President Rouhani, the soft-spoken 64-year-old cleric from Sorkheh.

So, don’t expect any pre-staged walk-out this time around, unless, perhaps, if Netanyahu returns to the hall with another red marker and visual aid in hand and proceeds to draw another one of his cartoonish red lines. This year, it’ll probably look something like this:


Originally posted at Muftah.



Amir said...

It is worth noting that the "soft spoken" cleric declared that protestors at the University of Tehran should be "crushed mercilessly and monumentally" and has described the Islamist regime's constant "Death to America" slogan as a "beautiful unifying chant".

Nima Shirazi said...

It should be noted, per a June 20, 2013 article on LobeLog:

"[T]he Wall Street Journal...[in] its profile of Rouhani by its assistant books editor, Sohrab Ahmari, actually leads with an highly tendentious — not to say false — accusation by Ahmari’s major source, Reza Mohajerinejad; to wit: “Hassan Rohani unleashed attacks on pro-democracy student protesters in 1999.” According to journalist Bahman Kalbasi:

The [Sohrab Amari] piece in the WSJ says:

Mr. Mohajerinejad recalled how after Mr. Rohani’s statement in 1999 security forces “poured into the dorm rooms and murdered students right in front of our eyes.”

As I recall, Rouhani’s speech came on the 23rd of the month of Tir in the Government-sponsored rally. The attack on the dorms came on the 18th of Tir and most of the protests happened in the 5 days in-between. I have confirmed this with a few Tahkim (main student body of the time) leaders. While there were arrests made after Rouhani’s speech (myself included) no one could recall any attack on the dorms after the 23rd of Tir. And certainly this is the first time I hear any of those being arrested were killed in front of anyone’s eyes. Again he may be talking about 18th of Tir, but that was 5 days before the speech by Rouhani not “after”.

This same article is being quoted all over the place by the neoconservative echo chamber as the must-read profile on Rouhani. The AEI’s Michael Rubin calls it the “best summary of Rouhani’s rise and record”. In an interview with the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez, Rubin, an erstwhile champion of confidence man supremo and possible Iranian agent Ahmad Chalabi, also declared that describing Rouhani as “a moderate would be like calling Attila the Hun a moderate because he reduced prison overcrowding and was, relatively speaking, to the left of Genghis Khan.” This is what passes for Iran expertise in Washington, D.C.

Amir said...

I guess Behzad Yaghmaian's book, "Social Change in Iran" is part of the so-called "neocon echo chamber". In that book, you can find the "soft spoken" Rouhani's speech where he stated, "And at dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur".

Yaghmaian notes that the speech was part of "a new and heightened level of violence authorized against the young dreamers for a better tomorrow" (i.e. the student protestors). He also notes the use of the terms "mofsed-e fel-arz" (corrupt on earth) and mohareb ba khoda (warriors against God) -- "a charge only punishable by death. A call to kill".

Mehrnaz said...

Thank you, Nima, for this excellent analysis. As you say, the war party, Israel, its lobbies and agents, including the Iranian stooges, are reeling in rage that their much loved war is slipping through their fingers.