If politics is the art of possibilities, there is no end to the possibilities politicians can explore. In that sense, the current communication between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offers new, unlimited opportunities.
Obama has said that he has exchanged letters with Rowhani. This is the first time the US president has confirmed the outreach to Rowhani, and even expressed confidence that diplomacy could work if backed by threats of military action. The act of exchanging letters also raises the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders at the United Nations next week, which, if it happens, would be the first face-to-face encounter between a US president and Iranian leader since Iran’s 1979 revolution. Adding to the optimism is the fact that Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague is due to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif at the UN general assembly meeting in New York.
All these developments are an outcome of Iran’s new leadership’s eagerness to choose the path of reconciliation over confrontation. The election of Glasgow-educated Rowhani as president and his appointment of a largely pragmatic cabinet had given plenty of hope. That hope is still alive. While Ahmedinejad was noted and reviled for his rigid policy on the nuclear issue, Rouhani has been praised for his diplomacy.
The latest development has opened the door to a diplomatic solution to the 11-year international standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme. It’s the duty of both sides to make sure that they build on this, but the onus is more on Iran to produce results. Iran must abandon its nuclear programme which is causing tension in our region. There is nothing wrong with pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and for generating power, but it must be done according to international guidelines and international supervision to dispel all doubts of misuse.
The Syrian chemical deal, brokered by Russia, is expected to give an impetus to diplomatic efforts on Iran. According to some experts, Tehran is already claiming some of the credit for the Syria deal, and Rouhani might want to show that through his diplomatic efforts he has already avoided a war.
There is no second option to Iran on its nuclear plans than the path of dialogue. The country has suffered enough due to international sanctions. Its economy is in dire situation, currency has lost much of its value and people are struggling to make ends meet. The suffering is likely to worsen if a diplomatic solution is not found. The US has threatened to launch military strikes if diplomacy fails. And that threat is likely to be carried out, unlike in the case of Syria, because the Israeli lobby will have the final say•