Will Obama and Rouhani meet at the UN next week?

posted at 9:21 am on September 20, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Iran’s new president has gotten off to an impressive start — or at least Hasan Rouhani has impressed the media.  He tweeted out Yom Kippur greetings [see update], and managed to avoid Ann Curry’s invitation to engage in a little explicit Holocaust denial, which for a leader in the Iranian mullahcracy is at the very least a change of pace.  That’s grading on a curve, however, as Dan Amira reminds us with his reaction to Rouhani’s “I’m not a historian” demurral. “”Rouhani doesn’t explicitly deny the Holocaust,” Amira writes at New York. “But he refuses to acknowledge its existence, which isn’t much better. You do not need to be a historian to know that the Holocaust happened any more than you need to be a barber to believe in Rouhani’s beard.”

Still, the change of tone has some believing that Rouhani has a specific mission from Ayatollah Ali Khameini to reach out to the West and settle the standoff over Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.  The Christian Science Monitor wonders whether Rouhani’s charm offensive can deliver:

After more than six decades of strife, a senior adviser to Iran‘s leadership has signaled the country’s openness to a profound and historic strategic change in Iran’s relations with the West.

A brief letter from US President Obama offering potential relief from international sanctions in return for a swift agreement regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear program has been reportedly answered by an equally brief and amicable note from Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani. …

Efforts to broker a deal on Iran’s nuclear program have long remained elusive. But the newly elected Iranian President Rouhani has matched his reputed private interest in reaching some kind of settlement with public statements: He told NBC two days ago that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons, and that he has sufficient political clout to reach a deal with the West on Iran’s program, saying: “We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.”

That brings us to the UN meeting next week in New York.  Rouhani has the opportunity to meet with the leader of Western diplomacy, and the only question is … whether Vladimir Putin will arrive in time.  Actually, that’s Barack Obama, and the White House signaled that the US would be open to an ad hoc summit, if Iran made its peaceful intentions clear:

President Obama is open to meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at next week’s United Nations General Assembly Meeting, the White House said Thursday.

Press secretary Jay Carney said Obama is “willing to have that meeting … provided that Iran demonstrates a seriousness about dealing with its nuclear weapons program.”

The AP’s Julie Pace and Lara Jakes report that expectations have already been raised:

The presidents of America and Iran may meet briefly next week for the first time, marking a symbolic but significant step toward easing their countries’ tense relationship. An exchange of letters between the leaders already has raised expectations for a thaw in relations, and any progress in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile could signal whether their elusive diplomacy will last longer than a handshake.

At the heart of the U.S.-Iran impasse is a years-long dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.

In small steps and encouraging statements, Iran’s leaders appear to be opening wider a door to detente. Cautiously optimistic yet still skeptical, Washington is weighing whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent overtures actually represent new policies or just new packaging.

I’d guess … new packaging.  Tehran still hasn’t met its obligations for kidnapping American diplomatic personnel and keeping them hostage for 444 days, let alone its intransigence under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Iran is a signatory.  Just this week, the US moved to seize ownership of a Manhattan skyscraper that Iran secretly owns in violation of the sanctions resulting from the 1979 seizure of the embassy in Tehran:

The United States is set seize control of a midtown Manhattan skyscraper prosecutors claim is secretly owned by Iran, the justice department said, though the ruling is to be appealed.

The seizure and sale of the 36-story building, in the heart of New York City on Fifth Avenue, would be “the largest-ever terrorism-related forfeiture,” the statement added.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the government’s suit this week, saying the building’s owners had violated Iran sanctions and money laundering laws.

Manhattan Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara said the decision upholds the justice department claims the owner of the building “was (and is) a front for Bank Melli, and thus a front for the Government of Iran.”

Besides, meetings between heads of government typically take place after other contacts establish whether outreach is genuine or deceitful.  That keeps the heads of state from getting publicly played by their enemies on the global stage, a status for which Iran not only qualifies, but openly declared repeatedly since 1979.  Iran operates a terrorist proxy army in Hezbollah, which was responsible for the deaths of over 240 Marines in 1983, and also funds other radical Shi’a terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

In that context, a meeting between the two would be premature, to say the least.  But now that the expectations have been raised, and oddly encouraged by the White House, it may be impossible for Obama to avoid it.  Backing away now could damage his standing in the strategic fight against Iran with our allies.  And the opportunity to score a big (if meaningless) diplomatic coup after his humiliation by Putin may simply prove irresistible.

Anne Bayefsky writes that the dynamic has changed between the US and Iran in part because of the embarrassing denouement on Syria, and that Obama needs Rouhani now more than the other way around:

Nevertheless, the person who really runs Iran — Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — has decided a new tone is in order. President Obama is clearly desperate for any lifeline. Why not toss him a “moderate” Iranian that the American president can use to avoid doing anything serious about preventing an Iranian nuke.

In light of Obama’s extreme reluctance to use “unbelievably small” force — as Secretary of State John Kerry described Obama’s Syria plan — manufacturing Rouhani’s moderate credentials is proving to be a piece of cake.

President Obama is even providing the prompts. He is withholding from the American people the congratulatory letter he sent to Rouhani, [even though] it is the vehicle by which the Iranian is donning a cloak of reasonableness. Rouhani described Obama’s letter to NBC this way: “The tone of the letter was positive and constructive.”

The new tone was accompanied by Iran’s staged release of eleven political prisoners. According to the Guardian, that leaves 800 or more to go, journalists, lawyers, human-rights activists, bloggers, feminists, Christians, Bahais — and Americans, such as Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Bob Levinson. …

But never mind all that. The Obama administration appears positively breathless in anticipation of the New York rollout of “moderate” Rouhani.

So this week President Obama reduced his demand on Iran to a fraction of what is actually required to prevent an Iranian nuke. On September 17 he told Telemundo that Iran would have to demonstrate “that it’s not trying to weaponize nuclear power.”

Allowing Iran to move within a trigger finger of such weaponization gives the United States no capacity to stop it before it happens. We don’t even have the capacity to verify whether they have weaponized, once we allow them to get too close to it.

Israelis are charitably saying, publicly, that Iran is stalling for time. The truth is, President Obama is stalling for time.

Perhaps the Iranian mullahcracy has reformed, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Update: Our friend Meryl Yourish points out that the Yom Kippur tweet was a hoax; the Iranians denied that Rouhani sent it the day after Western media reported it.


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Head fake. By the end of the meeting Dog Eater will have signed an agreement with Iran to provide them with 500 F-16′s, an armored divisions worth of M1A2′s, advanced ground penetrating bombs, and the precise targeting coordinates for Israel’s nuclear weapons depots.

“Yeah, I took a hard line and showed Iran that I’m not to be trifled with”, Bark said afterward to an adoring press, “Don’t ever question my toughness”.

Bishop on September 20, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Maybe 0b00ba will give Iran those 1.6 billion hollow point rounds as a good will gesture.

Akzed on September 20, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Will Obama and Rouhani meet at the UN next week?

Back in 2008, didn’t the thin-skinned rat promise to meet with our enemies without pre-condition?

I think it is a big mistake. It gives the Iranian regime credibility that it shouldn’t have. The first meeting of the American President with our enemy should only be in conjunction with a substantive act like the dropping their nuclear bomb building activities. Meetings at lesser levels perhaps but not a President to president visit.

Happy Nomad on September 20, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Before Putin’s B!tch has this meeting, he’d better check with Daddy Vlad and get his approval. Just sayin’.

TXUS on September 20, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Why not ? He has nothing else to do . Can’t meet with those damn
Republicans . Might as well negotiate with someone .

Lucano on September 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Why not ? He has nothing else to do . Can’t meet with those damn
Republicans . Might as well negotiate with someone .

Lucano on September 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM

You’re missing the critical question here. How many style points do you get for meeting with an enemy one-on-one for no productive reason? It’s already the 20th and the thin-skinned rat’s style point tally took some serious hits when he opted to give an economic speech even as civil servants lay dead and dying four miles away.

Happy Nomad on September 20, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Don’t know and don’t give a crap.

bgibbs1000 on September 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM

What is up with the low comment counts here? Did everyone leave or something?

OmahaConservative on September 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

What is up with the low comment counts here? Did everyone leave or something?

OmahaConservative on September 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

They’re at the Apple store, standing in line and fighting over the new iPhone.

TXUS on September 20, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Obama is trying to go 2 for 2 in losing out to another country.
Putin rope-a-doped him in Syria and Obama’s ego can’t take it.
So he will try to do a Putin on the Iranians.
We know how this story will end.
After meeting with the Iranians (a bow down greeting, of course), Obama will have agreed to start supplying Iran with missiles to nuke Israel.
Obama will most likely bring all his Muslim Brotherhood buddies to the meeting.
But he will make John Kerry stand outside the room to flap is lips and screech, “New Red line! New Red line!”
Meanwhile, Biden will be sent to Alaska to dedicate a new bear poop recycling center….

albill on September 20, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Of course NOT!!

Don’t you all read Le Carre? You never meet your handler in public.

WryTrvllr on September 20, 2013 at 10:24 AM

They’re at the Apple store, standing in line and fighting over the new iPhone.

TXUS on September 20, 2013 at 10:15 AM

AP taking posters on an HA field trip?

NotCoach on September 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Maybe Obama can bring Hillary and the reset button the Russians gave back to her and have a nice sing-a-long around the camp fire. That would go a long way in gaining experience for Hillary.

iamsaved on September 20, 2013 at 10:33 AM

What is up with the low comment counts here? Did everyone leave or something?

OmahaConservative on September 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Faced with an economy that is about to tank, and an utterly incompetent administration, O’bozo has decided to make his move against the internet and conservatives.

WryTrvllr on September 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Bet Obama, once again, bows.

marybel on September 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

It makes sense to thaw relations with Iran for a few reasons. For starters the arab spring has proven that strong governments are more reliable in the Mid East than mob rule. Iran is not going anywhere; better to work with them to some extent than to have to rely on the toppling mobs in the region.

Beyond that though, from a broader perspective, working with Iran sticks it to Russia. Putin thinks he has a footing in the Middle East now. Why not pull Iran out from under him?

eski502 on September 20, 2013 at 10:50 AM

What is up with the low comment counts here? Did everyone leave or something?

OmahaConservative on September 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Perhaps Ed should do a write up on Pope Francis’ new direction for the church?

WryTrvllr on September 20, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Putin thinks he has a footing in the Middle East now. Why not pull Iran out from under him?

eski502 on September 20, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Putin didn’t before. Seriously????

WryTrvllr on September 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM

If Iran is serious and conciliatory enough to meet the EU/US demands and end the EU/US sanctions against them, I’ll be glad that the Iranians will then have an opportunity to build economic ties with us and leave the Stone Age. Beyond that it bodes well for stronger democratic values in Asia, a more stable Islamic world and also a stronger liberal opposition in Iran to the ultraconservative Islamic theocrats in power.

Well, at least I’m encouraged by Rouhani’s new language and actions. Doesn’t mean it’ll follow through.

ZachV on September 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM

You’re missing the critical question here. How many style points do you get for meeting with an enemy one-on-one for no productive reason? It’s already the 20th and the thin-skinned rat’s style point tally took some serious hits when he opted to give an economic speech even as civil servants lay dead and dying four miles away.

Happy Nomad on September 20, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Sadly, the REB’s meeting will be trumpeted by his faithful servants in the old media as a new opening, a herald of a new age of diplomacy, the equivalent of President Richard M. Nixon’s opening to Red China.

slickwillie2001 on September 20, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Mark my words – it’s all about obama asking him to retain the US dollar as an oil-trading currency. The media are obtuse or silent on this topic.

All else is bull-caca.

Schadenfreude on September 20, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Why wouldn’t he meet with a like minded pal?
In Syria the “rebels” are joining Al Qaeda and this is falling into Obama’s game plan.
This is what Obama is all about and it is who Obama is!
Wake up! This is not just some guy out of his league!
He has destroyed our Military,our society, and now he is looking to take the whole United States down with his Obamacare!
Wake up!

Delsa on September 20, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Imagine. A leader who thinks he is told exactly what to do by God, meeting with a leader who thinks he is God.

If you subtracted the nuclear weapons, it would be comedy gold.

clear ether

eon

eon on September 20, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Obama and Rouhani are not equivalents. Obama and Khameini would be equivalents. If Rouhani wants to meet with someone, it should be Joke Biden.

slickwillie2001 on September 20, 2013 at 3:59 PM