Der Speigel reports that Rouhani is preparing to announce a plan to “decommission the Fordo enrichment plant and allow international inspectors to monitor the removal of the centrifuges”:
Rohani reportedly intends to announce the details of the offer, perhaps already during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will meet Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top diplomat, in New York next Sunday and give her a rough outline of the deal. If he were to make such wide-ranging concessions, President Rohani would initiate a negotiating process that could conceivably even lead to a resumption of bilateral diplomatic relations with Washington.
Other developments seem promising as well. On Monday, Iran’s new nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi reportedly told the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) member states that the country was ready to “enhance and expand” cooperation. Additionally, US President Barack Obama revealed on Sunday in an interview with broadcaster ABC that he and Rohani had exchanged letters, though he did not discuss the content of their correspondence.
If verified, this offer strikes me as a huge gamble by Rouhani which demands a commensurate gamble from Obama. Following the Syria model, Obama has a golden opportunity to reach out to the moderate leadership in Tehran, which commands considerable support in the country, in order to propose international transparency for Iran’s nuclear program without regime change. Rouhani, in the mold of Gorbachev, is obviously signaling a willingness to talk.
The nuclear weapon’s only purpose is deterrence – in this case as an instrument to bolster Iran’s hard-won independence and the survival of the Iranian regime. If there were no hostility, or if the level of hostility could be reduced and made safe, the threat and the need for deterrence would also be reduced. The fundamental problem is that hostility and the need to resolve it – easier said than done, of course.
But it is perhaps relatively easy, notwithstanding the history, the harshness of the rhetoric, the intransigence, the failures of understanding and imagination on both sides, and the vested interests some have on both sides in the continuation of the hostility. Relatively easy because this dispute lacks many of the features that make other longstanding international crises and problems intractable. The three states most deeply involved, Iran, the U.S. and Israel, share no mutual borders. There are no border disputes or territorial claims. There are no refugees demanding the right to return. There is no inter-communal violence. Within quite recent memory the peoples involved have been allies, and even today there is no deep-seated hatred between them – for the most part, indeed, rather the reverse.
The mutual animosity between Iran, Israel and the US is a tragedy. It’s a tragedy forged by history, by the machinations of the CIA, the evil of the Iranian theocracy, and the understandable paranoia of Israelis. But it can be undone. And it must be undone. If that means dealing with a regime, elements of which (the Revolutionary Guards et al) are anathema to us, so be it. There were plenty of factions in Gorbachev’s USSR that were hostile to us. But Reagan saw the bigger picture – and took the risk.
Your call, Mr president. But the stars may be aligning.