Really important action
may come behind the scenes
The new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Click image to enlarge.
THE EYES OF THE WORLD will turn to New York City this week where the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly gets under way.
But, according to many reports, the really important action may come in the hallways and cloakrooms.
It has been widely reported that President Obama and the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, are hoping to arrange a “casual encounter” … or perhaps even a formal meeting.
Then there is the unfinished business of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile and the age-old issue of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
It could make for some interesting headlines in the coming days.
A PREVIEW OF what might come was published early Monday by the Washington Post, among others.
In the story headlined Obama opens UN meetings with diplomatic opportunities on Iran, Syria, Mideast peace we learn from an Associated Press dispatch:
The Washington Post’s story on Monday about the possibilities at the U.N. General Assembly meeting. Click image to enlarge.
“President Barack Obama opens meetings at the United Nations with diplomatic opportunities on three vexing issues: Iran’s disputed nuclear program, Syria’s chemical weapons use, and elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Top of the agenda, it seems, is the possibility that Obama and Rouhani will have a face-to-face meeting.
This would be the first since the new leader of Iran replaced his predecessor, the incendiary Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, often referred to by late-night television comedians as “Ahmed-nut-job.”
But, as the Washington Post story points out, there are potential dangers on all three issues facing the president.
“All three pathways are fraught with potential pitfalls and hinge on cooperation from often unreliable nations,” the story says, with considerable understatement.
“Obama also risks being branded as naive and misguided if the efforts fail, particularly in Syria, where he’s used the prospect of diplomacy to put off a military strike in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.”
Indeed, the Syria situation is far from resolved. There, President Bashar al-Assad must still comply with the diplomatic deal reached between the U.S. and Russia two weeks ago. His compliance is far from assured; it may just be a delaying tactic, which would put Obama back in the position of deciding whether to use military force – a not-very-popular option.
The real power behind the throne, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran. Click image to enlarge.
The real focus, however, is on the potential for U.S.-Iran rapprochement.
“But this year, Iran has a new leader who is making friendly overtures toward Obama, raising the prospect of a meeting at the United Nations,” the Washington Post reported.
THIS ASPECT OF the General Assembly meeting was highlighted in another story, this one from NBC News on Monday.
In the story headlined Five burning questions about high-stakes UN General Assembly Daniel Arkin reports:
“The eyes of the world will be fixed on a six-block patch of New York City this week as dignitaries and envoys gather at United Nations Headquarters for one of the most pivotal General Assembly meetings in recent history.”
After the obligatory mention of the Syrian crisis, he adds the following observation:
“And yet as the General Assembly gets underway, the debate over Syria may not get nearly as much attention as a single handshake in a hallway or nod across a conference table: Analysts and observers will likely watch closely for any encounter between President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — no matter how fleeting — after the recently-elected moderate leader’s friendly overtures to the U.S.”
The BBC story about Rouhani taking over as president of Iran in August. Click image to enlarge.
Indeed, whether it’s a formal meeting or a “chance” encounter in the hallway, any face-to-face meeting between the two leaders will mark an historic breakthrough.
Relations have been on ice for most of President Obama’s term. There has been little or no progress on finding a way to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. This item is at the top of Obama’s agenda – and that of many other nations in the Middle East, especially Israel.
The Iranian president is also scheduled to speak to the General Assembly.
“Although it remains unclear what, exactly, Rouhani will say in his speech, he is likely to strike a balanced, conciliatory tone to distinguish himself from his predecessor: the fiery, vitriolic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used his annual appearances in New York as opportunities to condemn Israel and harangue America,” NBC reported.
Rouhani was installed as president of Iran on Aug. 4, according to a report by BBC News.
“Cleric Hassan Rouhani has officially replaced
ahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran,” the BBC reported.
“Mr Rouhani’s election was endorsed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a ceremony in the capital, Tehran, on Saturday.”
Rouhani won the presidential poll in June, promising reform and to put an end to Iran’s international isolation.
The 64-year-old is a former nuclear negotiator for Iran and was an Islamic activist before the 1979 Revolution.
As the world turns its focus to New York this week, it will be vital to watch the unfolding dance between the U.S. (referred to in Iran as “the great Satan”) and its nemesis Iran.
Will a new chapter in the frosty relations be opened?
Stay tuned for breaking news bulletins.
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