Does Iran’s Softer Tone Reflect Real Reform Or Just A New Image?

In what appears to be a developing trend of negotiating via editorial page, Hasan Rouhani seeks make his case for constructive engagement in an editorial placed in the Washington Post days before his visit to the United Nations.

Saying it does not mean “relinquishing one’s rights,” Rouhani asserts 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 a direct broadside to American foreign policy, he lamented that “unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches” in today’s global political climate, “where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn’t want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders.”

Iranian President Increases Outreach Through Media
Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations notes that the Post opinion piece , another longer editorial (“A Realistic Initiative on the Nuclear Issue”) that appeared in the Iranian newspaper Bahar, and tweets recognizing Jewish holidays indicate a desire to promote its policies through the media, a departure from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But, he writes, the softer tone does not necessarily mean Iran is adopting a softer approach to its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“The new government’s soothing words have not lessened its determination to forge ahead with its nuclear program. Rouhani has stressed, as reported on state radio this month, that Iran ‘will not withdraw an iota from the definite rights of people.’ That message was reinforced by the appointment of Ali Shamkhani to the powerful position of secretary of the Supreme National Security Council,” reminds Takeyh.

Reading Behind Rouhani’s Words
In reading Rouhani’s editorial, Said Amin suggests readers should view it on multiple levels, including the earnestness of Iran to engage in outreach and reform.

Secondly, what he professes and states should be placed in contrast to how Iran has conducted its affairs in the previous years. Amin errs on the side of the Iranians in his belief that Rouhani’s “election marks a profound change in attitude and approach in Tehran.”

He also notes in his National Interest article that Rouhani’s statements are in line with “what any dispassionate and well-reasoned analysis would arrive at as necessary to facilitate resolution” of the issue of nuclear weapons and the Syrian war.




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