On this 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks on the United States, and as the US gives diplomacy a chance in Syria, we share NY Times/International Herald Tribune columnist Roger Cohen’s hope for a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the contentious issue of Iranian nuclear development; but it’s not going to be a “slam dunk,” as the expression goes. For example, we have this contrary report in Haaretz, as summarized in the J Street daily News Roundup the other day:
Iran will not forgo its nuclear program, Rouhani says, Iranian President Hassan Rohani was reported to have said Tuesday that Iran will not forgo any part of its nuclear program. The president also said his country would not relinquish its right to nuclear technology, which he called “complete.”
Cohen begins with the reported tweats of Rosh Hashana greetings from Pres. Rouhani and his foreign minister, while also noting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s skepticism. But Cohen urges a renewed diplomatic effort over threats and sanctions:
. . . Ahmadinejad was a parochial rabble-rouser who proved to be all hat and no cattle. Rouhani, a Western-educated former nuclear negotiator, is a political pragmatist sensitive to the yearning of Iranians for an end to the nation’s pariah status and restoration of normality in its dealings with the world. He has promised to “pursue a policy of reconciliation,” impossible without compromise on Iran’s nuclear program.. . . With Iran there are always conflicting signals. Reading Alice in Wonderland is good preparation for dealing with it. But residents of Tehran report a palpable easing of tension under Rouhani. He bears dispassionate scrutiny.. . . Iran is in a vulnerable state: It has reached a post-revolutionary dead end where its anti-American rhetoric serves no strategic purpose. . . .
. . . The sanctions-hit economy is a shambles. The country has leveraged its nuclear program for influence about as far it can without taking the added step to bomb-building that would invite a feared U.S. military response. Iran is stymied, its immense potential blocked.But the Islamic Republic has demonstrated again a deep-seated resilience. By Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and Egyptian standards it is an island of stability. As Rouhani’s election showed, it is capable of liberal eddies within its authoritarian model. Les Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, noted this month that Iran’s elections are “more free and open than those in most Muslim countries.” This is a modest distinction — the 2009 election and its brutal aftermath were a fiasco — but underscores the important point that, unlike Assad’s Syria, Iran is not a totalitarian society.The Islamic Republic is here to stay. It has largely acquired the nuclear know-how it sought without taking the high-risk bomb-making decision. The election of Rouhani reflects the desire of a society at an impasse to change course. All of which says: Negotiate now before another “red-line” drags the United States into confrontation. . . .
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