Rouhani’s WaPo Op-ed, Trip to the UN, Major New Concession, and an Opportunity Not to be Missed

Many will have already read Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s op-ed published yesterday in the Washington Post. Part of an interesting trend lately, begun with Russian President Putin’s op-ed in the NYT last week, of foreign leaders trying to speak directly to the American people through leading American media outlets.  Rouhani’s op-ed is just the most recent installment in a number of statements by the new Iranian president, including through a Twitter account, in which he has tried to strike a much more conciliatory and positive tone with the West and with Israel than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has said repeatedly that he is willing to negotiate on a real and meaningful basis with the West in order to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

It has been reported that President Obama and President Rouhani have already exchanged letters, in a very rare instance of direct communication between US and Iranian leaders. Further, in what appears to be a significant sign of goodwill, the US Treasury department has twice this year eased some provisions of its sanctions on Iran.

In the midst of these positive signs of a changed tone and willingness on the part of both sides to cooperate productively in negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program, President Rouhani will be traveling to the United Nations in New York next week, for his first address to the UN General Assembly.

In perhaps the most significant sign yet of Iran’s commitment to serious negotiations with the West over its nuclear program, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported a few days ago that President Rouhani is prepared to offer as a concession something that President Ahmadinejad would never have considered offering – the decommissioning of of the Fordow enrichment facility. The decommissioning of Fordow has been one of the P5+1’s longstanding demands in the negotiations.  I wrote about it in one of my very first ACL posts last summer, including the explicit rejection of this idea by Iran’s IAEA representative at the time. The Der Spiegel report says that Rouhani may even make this offer publicly during his UN visit next week.

It it’s true that Rouhani is willing to put the decommissioning of Fordow on the table, then people can stop their dismissal of Rouhani’s recent statements as a charm offensive without any real substance. The decommissioning of Fordow would be a major concession by Iran to Western demands, and would, as part of a negotiated package deal, deserve a reciprocal major concession on the part of the P5+1, in the form of real and meaningful sanctions relief for Iran.

I think that the current circumstances of Rouhani’s election and mandate from the Iranian people, and his expressed willingness to negotiate productively and to put major concessions on the table, represent a historic opportunity that President Obama would be a fool to miss. I think he has a real chance here to do something that would re-earn him his Nobel Peace Prize – negotiate an accord with Iran over its nuclear program that will significantly reduce international tension surrounding this longstanding dispute, that has harmed the reputation of the US and the EU in the world, seriously damaged the perceived credibility of the IAEA, and harmed millions of Iranian civilians through international sanctions that courts in the EU have repeatedly found to be unlawful.

If President Obama takes this opportunity to lead the P5+1 to a negotiated accord with Iran, I think there is a real possibility for rollback of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran. This in turn would likely lead to a significant rollback in EU unilateral sanctions on Iran, which I suspect EU leaders would welcome in light of the ongoing legal problems they have encountered in implementing them. Rolling back US unilateral sanctions on Iran will be the most difficult part of the puzzle to put into place, primarily due to the influence of special interest groups supporting pro-Israel policies in Congress. I’m much less optimistic about meaningful unilateral US sanctions rollback. But rollback of UN Security Council sanctions and EU sanctions would appear eminently achievable if President Obama decides to exercise his second-term prerogative of doing what is, in fact, in the best interests of the United States and the world, even if it’s not politically popular in Congress, and seizing this historic moment to negotiate a meaningful diplomatic accord with Iran.


17 Comments on “Rouhani’s WaPo Op-ed, Trip to the UN, Major New Concession, and an Opportunity Not to be Missed”

  1. Cyrus says:

    Well, I hate to be the cynic (not really) but decommissioning Fordo is actually not a new concession offer by Iran. Fordo is the site where Iran is using its more advanced centrifuges to create 20% enriched uranium. Iran has repeatedly offered to cease 20% enrichment entirely, in return for being able to purchase the reactor fuel for the TRR that requires 20% enriched uranium. In fact Ahmadinejad himself came before the UNGA and made this offer

    This whole idea of “new concessions” by Iran assumes that the current standoff actually has something to do with Iran’s nuclear program — when by now it is obvious that it most certainly does not, and whatever concessions Iran offers will — again — be met with either indifference or increased demands.

    In reality the US has no intention of allowing this standoff to end. Heck even the Western diplomats are admitting (anonymously) that they would not accept US offers if they were in Iran’s position.

    And even if Obama wanted to deal with Iran, he’s hamstrung by Congress and AIPAC.

  2. Nick says:

    First what does decommissioning means?

    If it is dismantling, then it is beyond Almaty II, which demanded a pause, from what has been mentioned based on publicly available sources.

    Dismantling Fordo is a major mistake on the part of IRI. Because then the goal posts will be moved to Natanz and further demand for cutting back on installed and operating centrifuges, to say a Mickey Mouse plant with half a dozen cascades. Furthermore, as has been said many times, Natanz is much easier target to take out.

    I think the op-ed did not go far enough. It should have addressed the Holocaust and no plan to attack any country very clearly in the text. All long the lines of what Rohani said with Ann Curry, the article should have said:…I don’t dispute historical events that have occurred in the past and my opinion for the loss of lives whether it is Palestinians or German Jews are the same, these are equally abominable acts that have to be rejected by everyone…also we don’t plan to attack anyone…

    Just a correction for Cyrus’ comment. All the IR2ms are in Natanz and just sitting there, based on the Agency report. Fordo has IR1, the older model.

    • Cyrus says:

      You’re right about the models nevertheless the idea that Fordo is some sort of big deal is still silly. Iran’s ENTIRE 20% enrichment program started because the US prevented Iran from buying the fuel for the TRR as usual on the world market. Fordo was a site that was later recommissioned as bomb shelter, not a weapons site. Considering that neither the fuel, nor the reactor at TRR pose ANY sort of credible weapons proliferation threat, one has to ask what purpose was to be served by denying Iran the right to purchase the fuel, other than to encourage Iran to start 20% enrichment on its own — nevermind how Obama deliberately scuttled the negotiations that would have removed a large chunk of the stuff from Iran after Iran had said “yes” to the deal.

      And yet despite Iran’s repeated insistence that it wants to cease 20% enrichment, the US media engage in neverending scaremongering about how “close to a bomb” Iran’s 20% enrichment makes it (indeed some reporters have started referring to this as Iran’s “medium enriched” uranium stockpile — in fact it is just under 20% so it is low-enriched, and there is no such thing as “medium enriched” uranium according to the IAEA Glossary.)

      So now Iran is supposedly making “new concession” — which in fact are not new. In reality, Iran has said that everything is on the table except for Iran’s right to enrich uranium on its own soil. Repeatedly. Consistently. Over many years. If the Obama administration wants to pretend that Rouhani has made some significant new concession that moves this standoff along, that would be great. I could live with the false pretense of a victory for Obama. He’ll need it to sell any deal with Iran in Congress. I just don’t think it is what’s happening now though. We’re simply seeing a repeat of past raised expectations IMHO. The basic structural foundation of this conflict has not changed.

    • Fiorangela says:

      Look, you guys are experts in the law, some of you, and others in nuclear technology and logistics.

      I know about the history of zionism and of what zionists were up to from its mythological birth to its ideological re-conception (in Russia ~1860) to its implanting in Palestine to Weizmann’s manipulation of British government to get the Balfour Declaration ….. etc.

      I know — and you should, if you were half-way informed citizens of the United States, that the US was involved in WWI thru British trickery, and in WWII through combined trickery of American and British Jews in concert with Churchill.

      I know — and you should know, that American and Allied forces bombed the hell out of Germany (and Japan), with the deliberate and criminal intention of terrorizing working class Germans. I know — and you should know that it wasn’t JUST Dresden and Hamburg, it was 131 German cities and towns — 75% of Germany’s civilian infrastructure and damn near all of its ancient historical structures. This was done, deliberately, with knowledge and collaboration of Jewish leadership, most likely David Ben Gurion and Chaim Weizmann. When Bibi waves the “you didn’t bomb Auschwitz” bloody shirt, the question you should ask yourself is, “How many Jews died as a result of the Allied firebombing that killed 600,000 German civilians? I posit that number is Zero.

      Norman Podhoretz knows that the United States and Britain committed crimes against humanity in WWII — in 1961 he moderated a round table in which the Allied crimes against humanity were identified as “the world’s first use of weapons of mass destruction to terrorize a civilian population.” (The Commentary Reader, 1966). He also knows that American Jews — Rabbi Stephen Wise & others, including Felix Frankfurter, Louis Brandeis, Sam Untermyer — deliberately provoked passions in the US to involve Americans in a war that Hitler did NOT want but that Churchill most definitely did. He knows that American Jews declared an economic war on Germany with the intention of crippling Germany’s economy, and he and Stuart Levey — though probably not current terror rock-star Juan Zarate — know that the Jewish declaration of war on Germany in March 1933 is the template for the economic war that AIPAC, Levey, and yes, Zarate, are so delighted to be waging against Iran today — illegal declarations of “financial war” relying for authority on an Executive Order signed by George Bush, and functioning by blackmailing international banks.

      So, if you want to open the holocaust Pandora’s box, bring it on. You will lose. Ann Curry was despicable, but worse than that, she displayed an ignorance that is stunning in its arrogance: Iran was occupied by US and Britain in WWI AND WWII; all told, occupation in those two wars — in which Iran was neutral — cost Iran upward of 30 million citizens. Just because she is ignorant of history, doe she really think Hassan Rouhani is ignorant of the crimes against humanity that his nation has suffered at the hands of Americans — and Israel and the Israel lobby? Is she ignorant of the 100,000 Iranians harmed by chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein purchased from American companies and dropped on Iranian targets using American-supplied intelligence?

      You wanna wave the holocaust flag? Bring it on. The holocaust flag is a false banner.

      I’m just a housewife who reads books.
      If I can read books, anybody can read books.

      I know that the holocaust narrative as it is enforced by state diktat is bogus.

      ANY narrative that has to be sustained by force of law is, perforce, suspicious. At very least, it is an affront to American Constitutional guarantees, inasmuch as the holocaust narrative relies on a special State Department office guaranteeing to Jews and ONLY to Jews that THEIR dogma will be enforced. That’s state sponsorship of religion, and it is not acceptable.

      So drop the holocaust whinging, shall we?

  3. Don Bacon says:

    Iran has denied the der Spiegel decommissioning of Fordow claim as a precondition to negotiations. That Iran would consider such a move at any time is highly unlikely under any conditions.

    In Iran, Fordow Nuclear Plant Virtually Sacred Ground

    According to an Al-Monitor source in Tehran, “Fordow wasn’t built near Qom for no particular reason. On the contrary, there is one and only one reason for that — to create a symbolic sacredness between the holy city and the nuclear program and to send a message to the world in general and the West in particular that Iran’s nuclear program possesses the same holiness as Shiism in Iran.”

  4. Cyrus says:

    Plans for building Fordow existed before it was to be used for centrifuges, so I don’t buy the “sacredness” claim. It has nothing to do with Qom or Shiism. It so happens that Qom, Kashan and Isfahan (Natanz nearby) are all on a major transportation axis in Iran.That probably is a more prosaic explanation.

  5. Nick says:

    Watch out for spoiler numero uno, Bibi, to have another theatrical performance at UN this week. Comparing North Korea with Iran and how negotiations with the former resulted in NK to have the bomb.

    As suspected the op-ed machinery of the US main stream media is taking off with Bibi’s 4 point talking points (1. stop, 2. ship, 3. dismantle, and 4 inspect); see WSJ today. I expect more in the next few days. Funny thing is that if 1-3 is done then what is to discuss?

  6. yousaf says:

    UANI Announces Dr. Gary Samore as New President

    New York, NY – United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is pleased to announce that Dr. Gary Samore, who recently served four years as President Obama’s Coordinator for WMD Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, has accepted the position of UANI President.

    Dr. Samore currently serves as Executive Director for Research at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

    As White House WMD Coordinator, Dr. Samore served as the principal advisor to President Obama on all matters relating to arms control and the prevention of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and WMD terrorism.

  7. Nick says:

    Don’t forget that US was deciding in early 1990’s if Iran could have a nuclear power plant in Bushehr or not.

    This is way before Arak, Natanz, Fordo, IR1, IR2m, 5%, 20%, Albright’s “critical capability”, “breakout”, and the list goes on.

    BTW, there is a very nice piece by Michael Krepon on the dysfunctional Congress, which is at the heart of this problem, in my opinion.

  8. Fiorangela says:

    ‘Rolling back US unilateral sanctions on Iran will be the most difficult part of the puzzle to put into place, primarily due to the influence of special interest groups supporting pro-Israel policies in Congress. I’m much less optimistic about meaningful unilateral US sanctions rollback. But rollback of UN Security Council sanctions and EU sanctions would appear eminently achievable if President Obama decides to exercise his second-term prerogative of doing what is, in fact, in the best interests of the United States and the world . . .’:

    It would be terrific for international law scholars to analyze Juan Zarate’s and US Treasury’s “unleashing of a new era of financial warfare” — a “new weapon” in the “whole government” tool box.

    Does such a “war” require a declaration of war for US Constitutional purposes? Does “financial warfare” fall under any international constraints, treaties, conventions? If “financial war” is waged aggressively, as Zarate’s war certainly is, then is the aggressor subject to sanctions, the requirement to pay reparations, etc.

    In a discussion of his book at Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zarate explained that the “beauty” of the US Treasury Department’s “grey-suited guerilla” war is that banks and institutions themselves restrict their own behavior, out of fear of jeopardizing their own bottom line and customer relations. “The US can do this because the dollar is the global currency and the US is the strongest economic force in the world.”

    However, as a member of the audience who is an investor pointed out, Treasury is playing a dangerous game, and if the dollar loses its strength, it’s game over.” [That audience member mentioned that he and his colleagues noticed how Syria’s wheat and grain had been manipulated and concluded that, like the dollar manipulations that they had observed but could not otherwise rationalize, “it must have been Treasury’s doing,” Zarate smiled knowingly.]

    Zarate said that precisely because of the [institutional arm-twisting] nature of Treasury’s “guerilla war” it is unclear how it can be unwound if, for example, Iran were to come to an agreement with US re nuclear question.

    • Cyrus says:

      In fact the same political pressures that prevent Obama from rolling back sanctions in Congress, also impact and control his decisions with respect to rolling back sanctions at the UN. He may not need Congressional authority to do so, nevertheless the political context is the same: if he does so, he opens himself and his party (and their desire to have a winning candidate next term) to charges of “coddling terrorists” etc since it is the Iranophobes who have set the terms of debate over hte isue.

  9. Don Bacon says:

    The US goal in Iran is regime change, just as it has been in all the countries in the area that the US has attacked and invaded. The concocted “nuclear issue” is a red herring.

    • Cyrus says:

      This, and I suspect and fully expect — yet again — that the Iran hawks suffer through this brief period of built-up speculation about a Rouhani-Obama thaw becauyse they expect it to fall apart, the only question being whether they can blame it on Iran and use it as further justification for further aggressive measures against Iran. And it will fall apart because they have foisted a position on the US which is simply not going to be met by Iran or any other nation: giving up enrichment.

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