Tuesday’s message from President Hassan Rouhani in his first press conference was clear:
We are ready to immediately resume talks on nuclear issue. The key is for “them” to understand that threats is not the solution. We can resolve the nuclear dispute if all sides have the political will. I as the President of #Iran have the will….
Actions matter more than words. My administration will defiantly reciprocate actions by US.
I am not accusing US Gov and the Congress [of playing bad cop, good cop]. I am saying they are sending mixed messages….Sadly in US the warmongering lobby — that has the interest of another country in mind — opposes dialogue and is imposing its will….Statements by White House do not match the actions we see from them.
All we want US to do is to hear the message of Iranian people in the recent elections and end sending these mixed messages.
The line that Iran wants constructive nuclear talks with the US and the rest of the 5+1 Powers (Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) is far from new — Tehran has been proclaiming this during and between the rounds of negotiations since the start of 2012.
What is different, however, is that Hassan Rouhani rather than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is delivering the line — a change of tone and a “new” opportunity after the Government of the last eight years.
And there’s more in that Tuesday statement — Rouhani’s reference to “mixed messages” from Washington is an important clue to how Tehran sees the latest US position.
There was genuine hope among Iranian officials and analysts that last month’s letter from 131 Congressional representatives to President Obama, calling for “real” talks rather than a pretext for further pressure, marked a shift in the American approach.
That hope has been dashed in the last two weeks, however, by the counter-attack from US politicians and activists rejecting engagement for a tough, no-compromise position. The House of Representatives has approved legislation for more sanctions to reduce Iranian oil exports by another 1 million barrels per days, and 76 of 100 Senators have written Obama demanding that the prospect of military action is highlighted.
Rouhani’s message, brought out by questions from US journalists, was to President Obama to take charge and rein in the hawks: “We are looking to see if US shows goodwill. We never liked this carrot stick policy. It will not work.”
And the new President was the second prominent figure to put out that signal. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani — Rouhani’s mentor and a leading advocate of engagement with the US and the “West” — said on Tuesday, “do not send a good signal to the Iranian people.”
Of course, even if the US responds positively to Rouhani’s entreaties, this does not begin to address the detailed issues in the talks. The Iranian President appeared to call for the removal of all sanctions on the Islamic Republic, paralleling the American insistence on a cessation of Iranian enrichment of 20% uranium and a closure of the Fordoo facility. The step-by-step timing which will take the two sides to those respective goals has been in dispute for 18 months.
But Rouhani was asking, before we return to that detailed challenge, if the US is sincere in making that effort.
Which raises the immediate question: will Obama respond?