January 6, 2015


Rouhani's Big Gamble : Iran's president is squaring off against his country's hard-liners. We better hope he succeeds. (Fred Kaplan, 1/06/15, Slate)

It didn't receive much attention in the American press, but on Jan. 4, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech of jaw-dropping boldness, calling for a more open, pragmatic diplomacy with the West, not just at the talks on Iran's nuclear program--where he urged serious compromises--but across a wide range of issues.

Fred Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War and 1959: The Year Everything Changed.

Rouhani made his case so bluntly, and challenged his country's hard-line factions so directly, that the speech will likely have one of two consequences--either the official adoption of his ideas, which would augur a dramatic change in Iranian politics, or the end of his career. [...]

[I]n speeches (and those who have dealt with him say he does this in private discussions, too), Rouhani frequently notes that the Iranian people elected him to make changes--and in Sunday's speech, he slapped the popularity card on the table. The fact that he delivered this speech at an economics conference, attended by hundreds of businessmen--who have suffered keenly from the sanctions and who applauded his most dramatic statements--drove the point home harder.

Rouhani made clear that he sees the settlement of the nuclear talks, and the end of the sanctions, as the first step in rejoining the international community. "By God, by Lord," he said, "it is impossible: The country cannot have sustained [economic] growth when isolated."

He also rejected the idea that negotiations with other nations should be governed by passions or ideology--a key premise among hard-liners, who see the United States as the Great Satan and therefore deem any diplomatic discourse as courting evil. Though stressing that he wasn't advocating a "retreat from our ideas and principles," he noted that, in "today's world, the main debate is about interest; every country is after its own interest. Threats, opportunities, and mutual interests, or specific interests--these are the basis of foreign policy."

Posted by at January 6, 2015 5:14 PM

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