Can Iran sweet-talk itself into a deal that suspends the United Nations’ economic and political sanctions and leaves it in command of its nuclear program? The answer is not clear, but Iran has clearly decided to give it a try. That itself is evidence that the very tough sanctions adopted in June 2010 are really working.
In an article in Friday’s Washington Post, Iran’s newly elected president Hassan Rouhani declared that he has been given a mandate by the Iranian people to “engage in constructive interaction with the world,” a mission apparently endorsed by Iran’s supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Borrowing from President Obama’s lofty foreign policy principles, Mr. Rouhani wrote, “We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart.”
And Mr. Rouhani declared in an interview with NBC that “we have clearly stated that we are not in pursuit of nuclear weapons and will not be.” If only that were believable.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran is enriching uranium to a higher level than required for reactor fuel, suggesting that it is seeking an enrichment level needed for nuclear weapons material. The IAEA also has reported evidence that Iran has engaged in studies to master the engineering required to make a nuclear warhead that can be fitted to a missile.
Mr. Rouhani added in his Washington Post article, “Gone is the age of blood feuds,” in a clear reference to the fiery language of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who often repeated that Israel “must vanish from the page of time.”
Nevertheless, in the NBC interview the Iranian president called Israel “an occupier, a usurper government that does injustice to the people of the region” and said it “has brought instability to the region with its war-mongering policies.”
Small wonder Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Mr. Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said Mr. Rouhani’s “very positive” words regarding Iran’s lack of nuclear ambitions must be “put to the test,” indicating that the Obama administration is ready to talk with the Iranian leader.
Indeed, there are reports that President Obama might be willing to meet Mr. Rouhani when the two leaders attend the U.N. General Assembly opening session next week.
Now if Mr. Obama would only sit down with John Boehner and reach a meaningful agreement on the budget.