Hassan Rouhani Op-Ed: What Iran's President Really Meant

The latest fad for countries who quarrel with the U.S. is for their leaders to pen op-eds in American newspapers. After Vladimir Putin urged President Obama not to attack Syria in the NY Times, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made his case for dialogue and diplomacy in the Washington Post this week.

Rather than a sincere appeal for mutual understanding, however, this op-ed is merely rhetoric.

It's clear President Obama has to engage with Iran in order for the U.S. to establish stability in the Middle East. However, reading between the lines of Rouhani’s article gives insight into what engagement Tehran would like to see take place.

Here are some excerpts:

“A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.”

“battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world.”

"… nuclear power ... is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved."

“... we must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain ..."

“I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.”

“What all sides don’t want in relation to our nuclear file is clear. The same dynamic is evident in the rival approaches to Syria. This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot.” 

These quotes demonstrate a regime now feeling more confident than it was a few years ago; no longer a regime fearing air strikes, but one recognizing its huge influence in the region and seeing the U.S. more reluctant to intervene. Iran regards itself to be a power to be engaged with at the negotiating table over future events in the region.

Yet, despite saying that it wants to be a negotiating party in the Syrian crisis, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard is actively arming and training Assad’s forces. It was Iran who gave the Assad regime the blueprint for crushing the uprising, after having crushed its own 2009 Green movement. 

President Rouhani talks of recognizing the plurality of identities throughout the Middle East, yet in Bahrain, his regime usurps these ethnic grievances towards Iran’s own regional interests. Bahrain is comprised of Shite Muslims (70%) but ruled by a Sunni minority. Iran has the influential capacity to ferment unrest, putting this U.S.-friendly regime (housing the U.S.’s fifth naval fleet) into jeopardy.

Thus, Rouhani's op-ed is not so much an appeal that his regime wishes to be engaged with, but a strong suggestion that President Obama should engage with him due to Iran's weight and influence in the region.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Will Hadrian

A political science student, with the aspiration to go into the field of foreign affair analysis. Studying at the University of Ottawa . Recently Interned for the Armenian Young Lawyers Association. An NGO which seeks to sustain social norms regarding the rule of law and other legal civic practices in the former Soviet Union. Interests revolve around regional affairs in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. Blog- The Last Roman willhadrian.wordpress.com

MORE FROM

At least 8 dead, 30 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

At least 8 dead, 30 injured in locked tractor trailer outside Walmart in Texas

Authorities told press that the deaths were caused by "a human trafficking crime."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.