We and our international counterparts have spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — discussing what we don’t want rather than what we do want. This is not unique to Iran’s international relations. In a climate where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn’t want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders. Expressing what one does want requires more courage.
This section is very promising. Rouhani is subtly drawing attention to the fact that both American and Iranian politics include hard-liners who oppose detente, and that for the two countries to end decades of enmity would require not just international diplomacy but domestic political change as well. It’s good news that Rouhani sees this, for two reasons. First, he will have to take on the hard-liners in his own government to see detente through. And, second, he will have to be prepared for the possibility that some members of the U.S. government may attempt to undermine peace; it’s helpful if he’s aware that such people don’t necessarily act on behalf of the entire United States.
Michael Rubin wants more proof that Iran is serious:
[T]he White House should not be afraid to take ‘yes’ for an answer. And here history provides some paths for Iran to demonstrate its sincerity. After decades of pursuing war with Israel, Anwar Sadat offered a dramatic gesture to Israel—and flew to Jerusalem—to demonstrate his commitment to peace. Perhaps if Rouhani is serious that “gone is the age of blood feuds,” he can make as dramatic a gesture, or at least something that commits him to peace far more than a Washington Post opinion editorial.
Paul Pillar’s perspective:
The new Iranian administration has opened a door to a better relationship, and one better for the United States, about as widely as such doors ever are opened. The United States would be foolish not to walk through it.