Thomas Friedman | Hassan Does Manhattan

Select media and Iran experts had a rare face-to-face with the Iranian president last week.  Fareed Zakaria mentioned it on his Sunday GPS program.  Here, Friedman gives his takeaway on what to think about Iran’s President Rouhani:

1) He’s not here by accident. That is, this Iranian charm offensive is not because Rouhani, unlike his predecessor, went to charm school. Powerful domestic pressures have driven him here.

2) We are finally going to see a serious, face-to-face negotiation between top Iranian and American diplomats over Iran’s nuclear program.

3) I have no clue and would not dare predict whether these negotiations will lead to a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis.

4) The fact that we’re now going to see serious negotiations raises the stakes considerably. It means that if talks fail, President Obama will face a real choice between military action and permanent sanctions that could help turn Iran into a giant failed state.

5) Pray that option 2 succeeds.

via Hassan Does Manhattan – NYTimes.com.

Which leads to the question–Is Rouhani sincere?  Can we know now?

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7 thoughts on “Thomas Friedman | Hassan Does Manhattan

  1. rgettys says:

    I do not feel that Iran will allow negotiations to fail. There is too much at stake for them. With the new president and economic adviser, I feel like the Ayatollah is doing what he can to get sanctions lifted so Iran can thrive. The real roadblock seems to be the revolutionary guard. Not only will the negotiations be a balancing act for the good of Iran, but I feel that it will become for the good of Rouhani. In other words, if Rouhani gives too much away, he will have to answer to the Revolutionary Guard members.

  2. It looks like the world is really concerned about the turnout of this meeting. However, as dangerous and risky this is all turning out, I find it highly exciting. It is the second time that the United States is going through nuclear negotiations and even though it is not at the same level of risk as it was during Cuba, it will be interesting to see how the US manages the situation. The nuclear game has changed since Cuba but there is still diplomacy at stake. I am also looking forward to the reasons for Iran to become a nuclear power, I believe it was due in part to gain an audience and have something to bargain with once they state what they want.

  3. I’m enjoying just watching Rouhani play the diplomacy game. Right now feels like something right out of Orson Scott Card’s Shadow series. Leadership, diplomacy, playing strengths and weaknesses, and negotiations. That series brought all that alive for me. And now we’re watching the same sort of thing live.
    Like Rafael said, it will be interesting to see how the US handles this. We don’t know all of Iran’s motives. How will they convince us that they should have nuclear power? Are they just trying to play us for fools and pursue nuclear weapons? This will be cool to watch.

  4. I think we can read into Rouhani’s actions fairly well: his “charm” and openness reveal little about himself or his positions and far more about the length of his leash. The Ayatollah is finally feeing the long-term effects of the sanctions and realizing, however painfully, that letting his country bleed out to prove an ideological point isn’t going to get him anywhere. Iran’s leaders don’t Ike the west any more than they did six months ago, but their economy depends upon the stablily and freedom they enjoyed before sanctions were imposed. If renouncing nuclear weapons and going against their own thumb-biting is their only way out, then the new philosophy is: “so be it.” The question I’m asking myself is when, not if, Rouhani’s leash will be swiftly retracted.

  5. I agree with Nicholas. It’s hard to believe that all of a sudden Iranian leaders had a change of heart and decided to pursue a completely different ideology than what has been at the core of their foreign and national policy all along. Rouhani is sure trying hard to prove himself—did anyone else think that the holocaust comment was totally unnecessary? Hey, the man’s trying—and to establish the grounds for a better, more trusting relationship with the US. I do think that Iran is mostly concerned with having the sanctions lifted right now, and I don’t know quite yet if Rouhani is completely trustworthy. But regardless of whether he has ulterior motives, I do think that Rouhani’s trying to steer things in the right direction, and that in itself is praiseworthy.

  6. After listening to some of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech in the General Assembly, I agree that it is extremely important, not only for our interests in the US but also for Israel’s interests, that the US goes into negotiations with the demands that he outlined. If Iran is willing to “relinquish its right to enrich uranium, turn over its stockpile of enriched nuclear fuel, dismantle its Fordo nuclear facility and suspend construction of a heavy-water reactor at Arak,” then we can start talking about lifting sanctions. Though I want to give Rouhani the benefit of the doubt, who’s to say that if sanctions were lifted and Iran’s economy began to thrive, that the Iranian people wouldn’t turn around and elect a more radical conservative president, who would in turn start up nuclear programs again? We have to remember that Iran has many times committed itself to the destruction of Israel and abhors Western society and the United States. Lifting sanctions will not change that.

  7. josephdecker says:

    Although there are plenty of reasons to have reservations concerning Iran’s motives, I still think making concessions with Iran in order to see progress towards a solution to the nuclear weapons program is the best thing to do. We cannot expect Iran to make changes without doing anything ourselves. Part of the negotiations could be more extreme economic sanctions if Iran doesn’t comply to our demands in the long run.

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