Tags: rouhani | obama | oped | dialogue

Iran's Rouhani to Obama: Let's Focus on 'How to Make Things Better'

Thursday, 19 Sep 2013 10:01 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday called for broad dialogue among world leaders to solve the problems of the volatile Middle East, including Iran's nuclear weapons program, through a policy of "constructive engagement."

"Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better," Rouhani said in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post.

"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."

Rouhani's piece comes a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin took his case against a military strike on Syria directly to the American public through an op-ed published by The New York Times. In that piece, the Russian leader warned that President Barack Obama's view of America's leadership in the world as part of its "exceptionalism" was "extremely dangerous."

Rouhani, who was elected Iran's president in June, is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.

In his first U.S. television interview on Wednesday, Rouhani told NBC’s Ann Curry that Iran has never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb, "and we are not going to do so."

Iran is an ally of Syria, which has been involved in a standoff with the United States over Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians last month outside Damascus.

Some U.S. officials have feared Iran might retaliate against U.S. interests on Syria's behalf if the United States launches missile strikes against Syria.

"A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights," Rouhani explained in the Washington Post opinion piece. "It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.

In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss."

Rouhani has offered to "facilitate dialogue" between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the rebel forces intent on wresting power from it.

He noted that, "more than a decade and two wars after 9/11, al-Qaida and other militant extremists continue to wreak havoc" and he described Syria as "a jewel of civilization" that has become "the scene of heartbreaking violence, including chemical weapons attacks, which we strongly condemn."

He said a "unilateral approach to international affairs" only "glorifies brute force and breeds violence," while being "clearly incapable of solving issues we all face, such as terrorism and extremism."

Referencing the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Rouhani said his approach to foreign policy would address the underlying causes of problems.

"We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East," he penned.

With respect to Iran's nuclear ambitions, Rouhani said, "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."

He adds, "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."

First, he said that it was important for the international community 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."

In addition, "we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions," Rouhani writes, adding that Iran would make "a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions."

He urged his counterparts "to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election" and "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."


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