Rouhani's Stellar Performance at UN
President Hassan Rouhani delivered a landmark, highly impressive speech at UN's General Assembly on September 24 that was notable for its no-nonsense address of the root causes of terrorism and the necessary steps by the regional powers in order to combat this threat, which is a source of common concern by Iran and its neighbors.
Compared to the US President Barack Obama's self-righteous paternalistic lecture to the Muslim world, President Rouhani's speech was remarkable for its balanced content, combining stern critique of "strategic blunders" by certain regional actors in supporting the terrorist groups, who are now threatening the hands that fed them. Instead of emulating the pattern of sheepishly following the US's lead in building a new coalition against the ISIS-led terrorism, President Rouhani, true to the independent nature of the Islamic Republic, proposed an alternative "coaliton of enduring peace" that would combat terrorism through horizontal collective efforts.
Simultaneously, President Rouhani made it crystal clear that until the nuclear issue had been resolved, there would be no possibility of any US-Iran cooperation on other, e.g., regional security, matters. The link between the nuclear and non-nuclear issues was thus established with unequivocal certainty.
On the whole, Rouhani's speech was a certificate of Iran's self-identity, as a powerful regional actor with significant international output, given Iran's current presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, that stands up for global justice and resists new and old forms of "colonialism." It thus carried a 'badge of honor,' one that is paved by the blood and sacrifice of a whole generation of Iranian people.
With respect to the on-going nuclear negotiations, Rouhani's speech is bound to impress the world community of Iran's steadfast commitment to serious negotiations in order to reach a final comprehensive agreement. President Rouhani has admonished the Western governments led by the US for their addiction to "pressure politics" and has called on all the parties involved in the sensitive nuclear negotiations not to lose the unique opportunity to end the "unnecessary crisis."
When comparing and contrasting Obama's UN speech with Rouhani's speech, one is struck by the similarity of language in condemning violence and extremism, as well as defense of Islam against any attempt to link this great religion to the violent ideology of ISIS terrorists. On a deeper level, however, such semantic similarities paled in comparison to the strategic outlook of the two presidents, one (Obama) intent on acquiring new legitimacy for a new chapter in US interventionism in the Middle East in the name of combatting terrorism and, the other (Rouhani) seizing on the same threat for regional unity and self-reliance.
As an astute observer of global politics who has a long record in managing the national security affairs of his nation, President Rouhani after one year in office aptly utilized the opportunity for his second address to the UN to emerge as a respected leader of a developing nation that occupies an important strategic location and acts as pace-setter for regional cooperation.
Undoubtedly, with respect to the delicate nuclear negotiations, Rouhani's masterful performance at the UN must be considered a definite plus for Iran's nuclear diplomacy, which is as the President made amply clear, a sine qua non for cooperation on regional security matters with the western governments. As a result, the ball is in the laps of the latter, principally the US, to decide whether or not they want to use the opportunity to end their hostility toward Iran and to view it as a powerful trade and non-trade partner -- that acts according to its own incandescent atmosphere and needs and interests, rather than heeding the call for action by the outside powers.
*Kaveh Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown's Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.
Key Words: President Hassan Rouhani, UN General Assembly, Coalition of Enduring Peace, US-Iran Cooperation, Iran's Self - Identity, Pressure Politics, Violence and Extremism, US Interventionism, Iran's Nuclear Diplomacy, Afrasiabi