Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 20, 2013

Analysis of a new president's message

Max Fisher's op-ed pieces in the Washington Post are thoughtful and informed. This one deals with international relations much more than comparative politics, but it contains some background that might be informative.

Two great signs and a dubious one from Iranian President Rouhani’s first Western interview
One and a half months into his tenure, and just one week before he addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sat down with NBC News on Wednesday. It was his first interview with the Western media since taking office, and it appears to be the latest move in his not-so-subtle campaign signaling to the United States that he's interested in ending decades of enmity…

Here are three important take-aways from the parts of the interview… The first two are great, positive signs… The third is a bit more complicated.

1. He's got the supreme leader's okay to cut a nuclear deal… If true, then for Khamenei to hand Rouhani that power would be a remarkably positive step just in itself, a sign of institutional weight shifting toward compromise and diplomacy.

2. He's pen pals with Obama. A few days ago, Obama revealed that he had written to Rouhani after his election… Rouhani didn't say much when asked about the letter, but his tone was positive and he did reveal that he wrote back to Obama…

3. He denied that Iran will ever build a nuclear weapon. This is the one point that's gotten a lot of positive attention but about which I'm a touch less sanguine…

It also strains credulity a bit. Western intelligence agencies tend to believe that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. But there are lots of signs that it is at least trying to give itself that option…

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