“Why Iran seeks constructive engagement” By Hassan Rouhani


"At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved. "  Rouhani


Identity.  Identity.  Identity.  We all search for identity.  pl 


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35 Responses to “Why Iran seeks constructive engagement” By Hassan Rouhani

  1. mac says:

    I think this is a man, a la Thatcher/Gorbachev in 1984, that the West ‘can do business with’
    However, expect the hasbara et al to howl like the wind and probably, far worse….is this the beginning of the end of the US/Iranian estrangement?

  2. An Iranian cleric states a truth which is indeed — as Colonel Lang points out — applicable to us all, but which it is hard to imagine any senior policymaker in Washington or London acknowledging.
    This is, I fear, indicative of how stupid we have become: partly under the influence of economic theory, whose destructive intellectual effects increasingly seem to me as bad as those of Marxism. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that the stupefying effects of ‘rational choice’ theory may be even worse than those of Marxism.
    But then, Rouhani is a ‘multi-cultural’ person, having done post-graduate work at Glasgow Caledonian University. What he made of that strange but fascinating city it would be most interesting to discover.

  3. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nothing will come out of this either as the “West” imagines to have gotten Iran over the barrel and can extract what she wishes:
    “There has been little progress in talks on the nuclear issue because, until now, the Iranian position has been extremely intransigent,” the French official added.
    “Now there is hope of an opening and the message we will be sending is that it is time for Iran to accept the gravity of the crisis and the need to make the necessary gestures.”
    Josh Earnest, the deputy White House spokesman, told reporters on Air Force One:
    “And over the course of those conversations there will be an opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate through actions the seriousness with which they are pursuing this endeavor,”

  4. PS says:

    Holding out the option of a win-win scenario for the U.S. and Iran seems to display an openness to the type of “grand bargains” that have been discussed on this website.
    Could the KSA or Israel accept an Entente Cordiale between the U.S. and Iran?

  5. JohnH says:

    Identity vs. megalomania. That is the question.
    Identity that exhibits pride in one’s heritage and cultural accomplishments is one thing. Identity that is based on one’s ability to subdue and dominate others is something else entirely.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think there are just too many obstacles that could be overcome during any decent interval:

  7. Walrus says:

    Translation: the rest of the world doesn’t want to be like Americans.
    I read the Op Ed yesterday, the comments on the WaPo website are revealing.

  8. JohnH says:

    I think we are at the beginning of a very deft Iranian public relations campaign. I expect Rouhani will make the United States a very significant offer that entirely meets stated demands.
    The most likely scenario is that the US will refuse, move the goalposts, and make new demands. Rouhani will make a big deal of the West’s perfidy and intransigence.
    We have seen this play out before. Brazil and Turkey worked with the US to do a deal with Iran that met conditions contained in a letter from Obama. Obama then nixed the deal. That time around Iran did not capitalize from a PR standpoint. This time they are better prepared and laying the groundwork more carefully, so the negative fallout on the US will be greater.
    The other scenario is that the US accepts, as it did when Syria offered to get rid of its chemical weapons. I see that scenario as unlikely, given that Obama is already being pummeled for being weak on Syria. Being weak on Iran would be seen as intolerable by the megalomaniac political class.
    To the megalomaniacs, it is better to be loathed and stand tall than to be liked and reasonable.

  9. Tony says:

    I agree with Babak and am highly doubtful that anything major will come out of this….a lot of hype and no substance. Israel, SA and even Russia don’t want the rapprochement between Iran and the US. In MO, the danger is that if this approach to reconciliation fails, then we have to witness worsening of situations in ME.

  10. Charles I says:

    Nonetheless, the rest of world, esp Iran, must ‘prove” itself. By prostration, preferably with a bend ’em over and spread ’em, lest it be visited.

  11. Paul Escobar says:

    To all,
    The image introducing this post fascinates me. What is its source?

  12. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Your analysis may be accurate, but I’d point out another factor that portends new opportunities: shifting US demographics.
    The Millennials that I know – if they pay attention to politics at all – get the bulk of their info from The Daily Show, or possibly msnbc.com or one of the business news outlets. Or Facebook, podcasts, or NPR.
    Jon Stewart recently presented a hilarious riposte rubbishing the ‘Obama is weak for not bombing [nameYour Country]’ rhetoric. The ‘megalomanic’ claims were exposed as hysterical, egoistic idiocy.
    Consider that the Daily Show reaches a huge audience, and one that tends to actually vote. And it is viewed on televisions, desktops, and mobile devices far more than its news competition (with the exception of msnbc, for technical reasons).
    Meanwhile, the ratings for Fox News and other more conservative outlets (as well as mainstream newspapers and magazines) are declining steadily. Limbaugh’s audience is dwindling. And IIRC, Murdock and Co are aligned with the climate-deniers and the neocons. The diminishing ratings of Fox News suggest that the megalomanics are talking to an ever-shrinking (and aging) echo chamber. They simply do not have ‘cred’ with Millennials and Gen-Xers, who are tuned to other media.
    When the Fox network was dominant (90s, early 2000s), the Millennials spent their teens watching Katrina, watching the economy tank, and watching the Iraq and Afghanistan wars grind on year-in, year-out. Any Millennial who is 23 has heard about these wars since they were 13 and in junior high. (Gen Xers in their 30s have been hearing about these wars since they were starting their careers.)
    Millennials are far more interested in issues like climate change, economic opportunity, and education costs, than in the ongoing, endless ‘bickering’ in the ME.
    If my analysis is reasonably accurate, it suggests a new possibility for diplomatic action that has not existed for a generation. Consider that when the US embassy in Tehran was overtaken in 1979, the Millennials had not yet been born. Consequently, the events that the megalomanics (by which I assume you mean ‘neocons’) get all hysterical about are simply not part of the life experience of most Millennials, nor most Gen-Xers.
    I think there are new diplomatic opportunities, but they are attributable in large part to demographics. That does not preclude the kind of outcome you (and I) fear, but it does make it less inevitable. And any US politician with an eye to the future is going to cast their lot with the Millennials, rather than with the megalomaniacs.

  13. Stephanie says:

    There is a rogue state in the Middle East that is believed to have chemical and nuclear weapons, routinely flouts international “norms,” and has a penchant for invading its neighbors. Somehow I don’t think we’re going to launch a bombing campaign against Israel any time soon.
    If I could I’d send the Iranians some nuclear weapons special delivery for Christmas. That would make Israel and the Gulf states behave themselves.

  14. Medicine Man says:

    I agree — those comments are something else.

  15. optimax says:

    Bibi has already voiced his displeasure over the US going off track to bomb Syria and Iran. The last thing he wants is peace in the ME and economically strong neighbors. It becomes more difficult to create a greater Israel when the attention of the world is focused on Israel stealing land from the Palestinians instead of worrying about a “psychopathic” (his word) Assad and Iran gaining the upper-hand in the civil war or influence in the region. Hopefully, Obama can resist the pressure the Zionists, and other warmongers, will use to block peaceful resolutions.

  16. optimax says:

    The hasbaraists are working hard on the WaPo but there is plenty of intelligent push back. Readerftealeaves is correct that the younger generation hasn’t been seduced by Paul Newman in Exodus. They know the US claiming to be the world’s Supremacy Clause is breaking our bank and making claims on their future earning. They want a country that works foremost for its citizens and are happy and feel secure enough to not have to dominate. I wish them success.

  17. JohnH says:

    Perhaps the Millennials represent the long awaited peace dividend from the fall of the Soviet Union. I assume most Millenials have only the vaguest notion of the Cold War which was largely before their time.
    The megalomaniacs (neocons, liberal interventionists and Zionists) spent most of their adult lives as Cold Warriors. Other Baby Boomers grew up loathing the Vietnam experience but were blocked from rising to positions of power by the post-World War II generation. Of those who did, some, like Kerry, proved to be turncoats.
    When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cold Warriors ended up as warriors without a cause. And so, a new cause had to be fabricated, because the warriors were too old to let go of their identities.
    Obama was born at the end of the Baby Boom, came of age at the end of the Cold War and was apparently taken under the wing of Cold Warriors who have yet to be put out to pasture in Washington.
    The emergence of the Milennials combined with demise of the Cold War generation may well generate opportunities. Let’s hope they don’t end up blocked from power like Vietnam War Baby Boomers.

  18. johnf says:

    Talking of Marx and the USSR and crazy economic systems, I think Alexei Yurchak’s book on the last Soviet generation: “Everything was Forever, until it was no more,” is highly relevant to what is happening in the West today. The book chronicles how the intellectual and media classes continued to spout incomprehensible streams of marxist-leninist jargon almost until the end – until one day, when nothing any longer made any sense and nothing joined up any more, one day suddenly they stopped.
    A whole language, a whole culture dissolved. A new language started to be spoken.
    I think a new language is starting to be spoken in the world today. Who are its Gorbachev’s as opposed to its Breznevs?
    Two religious/political leaders – The Pope and Rouhani. I suppose Ed Miliband (more by luck than judgement) who won Commons votes ante Murdoch and bellum, the Pauls, Greenwald, Putin in his foreign policy, and even, tentatively, Obama and Assad. They are relatively calm, they are realists, they believe in compromise. As much as politicians can, they tell the truth. They are not into hyperbole, hysteria, paranoia, and blatant lying (the old language).
    To do another 1940 parallel. When I was young my parents generation always told me that, however much he might have been disliked and distrusted for his history and his domestic policies, the great thing which Churchill brought to Britain in 1940 was The Truth. He spoke the truth and the language of truth (albeit in the archaic language of the C18th).
    The marxist jargon of late capitalism and neo-conservatism and liberal interventionism is now, and sounds like, the language of the dead.

  19. Babak Makkinejad,
    Certainly, I am not getting carried away by euphoria. But the fact that French and American — and British — officials may go on mouthing the same old cliches is only part of the story.
    Do not underestimate the significance of the clearly demonstrated revulsion both against military adventures and against ‘regime change’ among the general population in the U.S., as in the U.K.
    After the failed projects of remodelling non-Western societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also the questionable outcome of ‘regime change’ in Libya, the notion of toppling the Assad regime in favour of an opposition with a heavy jihadist presence has been a bridge too far for many. The Saudis and also the Israelis and their American fellow-travellers may have overplayed their hand very badly.
    Also, the change of president does make a very real difference. The WP op-ed — a very impressive piece of work — will I think strike a chord with an emerging mood among a significant body of opinion in the U.S., as in the U.K.
    It is interesting that — by contrast to his annotations to Putin’s NYT op-ed — Max Fisher’s annotations to Rouhani’s are in general fair and to the point.
    (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/09/19/iranian-president-hassan-rouhanis-washington-post-op-ed-annotated/ )

  20. jonst says:

    ROTL…..you wrote: “. And any US politician with an eye to the future is going to cast their lot with the Millennials, rather than with the megalomaniacs”…
    that presupposes the so called Millennials (one of those stupid marketing device names)will remain static in their ideological and emotional foundations. I don’t think it works like that for any generation. People grow up..they change. Maybe not all people and maybe not all in dramatic ways. But people change. Just ask Obama….mr. lets party to mr bill Crosby dad.
    Finally, if you think that “megalomaniacs” refers only, or primarily, to neocons, I suggest–respectfully–you miss a few episodes in the drama. The R2P types…and Stenny Hoyer types have a more than a touch of the same disease.

  21. confusedponderer says:

    Interesting, if very pro Saudi, piece:
    Saudi Arabia’s Proxy Wars
    ” It is no secret that the Saudis are supplying elements of the Syrian opposition with weapons. They all but admitted as much when the prince said a few weeks ago that “if the international community is not willing to do anything, then they must allow Syrians to defend themselves.”
    The Saudis will use all tools available to oust Assad, while taking measures to ensure that the weapons they’re supplying to the rebels do not fall into the hands of extremists. …”
    ‘while taking measures to ensure that the weapons they’re supplying to the rebels do not fall into the hands of extremists’??! Speak about insulting the readers intelligence.
    Who is it again who the Saudis and Qataris in are supporting? The guys who want Sharia in syria? Jihadis? Where are they recruiting them? Salafist schools? Not extremists? What?
    For context, and contrast this: A press conference at the UN from September 6, where casually it was mentioned that 11 UN staff had been killed in Syria, excerpt:
    “Question: Sure. First, I just… I… to follow up on what Valerie Amos said, this idea, the… I mean, did I hear her right that 11 UN staff have been killed?
    Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
    Question: And what can… I mean, and is there any sense from the UN on… on… on… first a breakdown of, you know, what parts of the UN… were they all national staff?
    Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware of the nationalities. I believe the majority of them were national staff, yes.
    Question: And do you have any idea of… of… I mean, what were the circumstances of their death? Were they killed by… by armaments, were they… were they…?
    Associate Spokesperson: These are deaths that occurred in the course of a war. As you know, many other nationals of Syria have also been killed. So this is part and parcel of what is happening on the ground and another reason, yet another reason, why the violence must be ended.
    Question: But is there… so… I mean, can we get… I guess what I am asking is, we are… we have seen other announcements by the UN when… when staff are killed, is there some way to get some, you know, information both for… you know, in terms of who did it, who did what, where these things happened, it seems it might… might be important.
    Associate Spokesperson: Well, there is a difficulty, a built-in difficulty, in getting some of the details in the course of a war such as this one. There has been any number of violent incidents throughout the country. We’ve drawn attention to some killings as they occur when we have more precise circumstances, but in this case, we just have an overall tally of casualties in the course of the last two-and-a-half years of fighting.
    Question: One last thing, do you… do you have… to… to your knowledge, are there UN staff that are held… she mentioned kidnappings, that are held… kidnapped by armed rebel groups?
    Associate Spokesperson: Yes, there have been. We’ve drawn your attention to some of the cases of, for example, the detained peacekeepers of UNDOF — the Disengagement Observer Force — who have since been freed. I don’t think at this stage we can really comment much on any other detained staff, just to let you know that we are trying to get all of our staff released, wherever they may be held. That’s it? Have a good weekend. …”
    The killings didn’t make the news in the West, oddly. Likely reason: They were killed in rebel held Aleppo. By moderate rebels no doubt.
    Makes me wanna retch.

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In Max Fisher’s commentary, the statement:
    “…. you in the United States seem to have come around to coexisting with the Islamic Republic instead of toppling it”
    is not true.
    Nor is European Union.

  23. Thomas says:

    “Could the KSA or Israel accept an Entente Cordiale between the U.S. and Iran?”
    Do they have a choice? One can be a Geographic Player with wealth induced public relations allowing you to punch above your weight, though if a Preeminent Player says their interests have priority then there is nothing one can do.
    The establishment of formal relations would provide the economic turbo-boost for a global recovery which is one of Our long term interests.

  24. Mac says:

    Of course, divining whether or not either party will come to the table in good faith is impossible to discern from the outside looking in. And the failure of the BHO White House to respect the Turkey/Brazil accord cannot be ignored. And lest we forget, there are significant voices howling against any step towards arriving at some sort of modus vivendi with Qom. However, the economic realities are not subject to reasonable dispute inasmuch as Tehran cannot simply continue to operate and expect to avoid social upheaval at some point in near future. Over the barrel? Not exactly, but I frequently speak with folks in Iran, from various cross sections soceity and the sanctions have been effective.
    Time will tell, but I sense compromise is now Rouhani’s objective.

  25. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    jonst – your point that ‘megalomaniacs’ refers not only to neocons, but to ‘Stenny Hoyer types’ and what I might call ‘unctious sentimentalist liberal interventionists’**, is apt. I should have been more complete in my description, and appreciate your observation.
    With respect to the term ‘Millennials’, it may be a ‘stupid marketing device’ term, but it is the handiest, best one I know to describe people born betweeen 1980 – 1995 or so. All of these people were born after the Tehran US embassy incident, and have come of age in an era of increasing weather instability, and what are now being called ‘mega-storms’ (aka, Sandy).
    I realize that people change, but demographic cohorts as a general rule maintain some basic world views over time. I didn’t mean to make any overarching, grand statement about the political stasis of any demographic cohort. Nevertheless, the point remains that the Millennials watched Katrina in their formative years, while reading about polar bears drowning in Arctic seas. Their college costs (if they hope to pursue a college education) are escalating sharply. These experiences inform their political perspectives, which will certainly mature with time.
    ** Having at moments been lulled into this peculiar mix of naiveté and arrogance myself, I realize its seductions. It is a form of illusion that is dangerous when applied to ones’ own life, let alone the world. It is exceedingly imprudent in a strangely narcissistic fashion; hence, your point about this group also fitting the ‘megalomaniac’ category is very well taken.

  26. CK says:

    Who was asking those imbecilicly phrased, grammatically incoherent, questions?
    Journalism embarrassment eh what?

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I doubt that Iran faces social upheaval in the near future; the situation in Iran was much worse during the Iran-Iraq War.
    The sanctions have been effective in moving ten million people below poverty line; the Iranian government can deal with it as the entire society is dependent on government largess.
    Yes, time will tell but I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that this will amount to nothing.

  28. Fred says:

    I would not read too much into the leanings of ‘milenial’ voting patterns. The percentage voting for Obama declined from 2012 compared to 2008. Look at his opponents and his record.
    You mention college. I think one very salient implicit point in current political and pundit speech is that if you have no college degree you have ‘no’ (or certainly less) value. That is a very bad idea. Metaphorically we are creating a separate but equal people – those with degrees and those without such ‘credentials’. No titles of nobility here, just a degree (or two or three).
    My old man had humorous definitions for some of those academic acronyms that he told me when I was about ten: B.S. = Bull S*&@, M.S = More of Same; PHD = Piled Hip Deep. Those definitions very sadly seem to apply quite succinctly to the depth of intellectual and moral integrity of the architects of the war in Iraq, the potential one in Syria, the financial melt down of 2008 and the complete lack of accountability of these noble degreed ones who created or cheer-leaded our nation into each mess.

  29. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Fred — At the risk of making this thread too long, in case you happen to return:
    – I couldn’t agree more with you that we live in a society with too many degrees and too many credentials
    – At least in my state, technical programs are underfunded
    – A degree is no guarantee of sense, expertise, nor competence
    – Nevertheless, it is an easy barrier for employers to insist on degrees, so many people feel pressure to obtain one
    FWIW, I also think new resources like iTunes U and the Khan Academy are going to raise serious questions about the expense, time, and validity of conventional college programs – it’s probably a challenging historical moment to be a college administrator.

  30. Babak Makkinejad,
    Of course this is not one of Fisher’s statements which can be regarded as accurate reporting, to put it mildly.
    I would be extremely surprised if Rouhani had any confidence that the powers that be in the United States — or indeed the United Kingdom — had given up dreaming of ‘regime change’ in Iran.
    That however does not diminish the significance both of what Rouhani wrote, and of Fisher’s gloss on it.
    It seems to me that Rouhani was gently intimating that, in terms of any rational ordering of priorities for the U.S., cooperation with the Islamic Republic might have more to offer than an attempt to destroy it.
    As to Fisher’s gloss, while it may be a misinterpretation, it indicates that a senior Washington Post journalist may actually be contemplating the possibility that Rouhani’s suggestion is worth investigating.
    Of course, even if my interpretations are right, this would not indicate that some new era of sweetness and light in relation between Washington and Tehran could be anticipated. But it might be a not entirely trivial step in the right direction.

  31. johnf,
    I agree absolutely that the disintegration of a language which had become totally empty was a fundamental part of the story of the disintegration of the Soviet system. And I also agree that — for reasons I do not understand — many people in the West have come since 1989 to talk their own equivalent of what used to be called, in relation to the USSR, the ‘language of wood’.
    This is a fascinating area, about which there is a great deal more to be said.

  32. Fred says:

    I agree with most of of your points. As to iTunes and Khan Academy, I think that there are too many intangibles lost in that mix. Education is as much about the social development, maturation and to some extent enculturation of the students as it is the academics. The latest generations of graduates seem far to homogenized in outlook to me. I find the lack of intellectual diversity somewhat troubling. I think that we have an over abundance of college administrators who contribute to standardizing out look as must as they rely on standardized tests. It appears that the last thing colleges want now is individuality and creative thinking amongst the students.

  33. Mac says:

    Reading the reports from Geneva are you still unconvinced that this Iranian driven policy is in fact the real thing? I have long believed the nuclear issue was consciously chosen as the vehicle via which Tehran and DC would breakout from their own respective domestic political restraints…this has been a very long chess game, each sides moves planned out long in advance.

  34. Fred says:

    Come now, Isreal just wants to distract attention from all the oil and gas development offshore of blockaded Gaza, because nobody could realize that is Palestinean territory:

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