Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters September 24, 2013. (Photo Reuters)
"I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly... [I'm] hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interests of warmongering pressure groups and we can arrive at a framework to managing our differences."
Then he outlined what has always been the official Iranian position: "Talks can happen; equal footing and mutual respect should govern the talks."
Then he addressed the expectation (actually, the world's): "Of course, we expect to hear a consistent voice from Washington. The dominant voice in recent years has been for a military option."
But now he had another idea. So he sets the stage for the punch line: It's WAVE time. WAVE as in World Against Violence and Extremism. Not in Farsi, lost in translation; in English.
"I propose as a starting step... I invite all states... to undertake a new effort to guide the world in this direction ... we should start thinking about a coalition for peace all across the globe instead of the ineffective coalitions for war."
Talk about a rockin' entrance on the world stage (Here's the full Rouhani speech, in English, which deserves careful reading). Rouhani was measured and composed -- but forceful enough to debunk the "imaginary Iranian threat propaganda," stress the horrible effects of sanctions, and still remain hopeful that the 34-year Wall of Mistrust between Washington and Tehran can be torn down.
Obama, to his credit, had tried hard not to be upstaged. It took no less than 60 years for an American president to finally admit Washington had a hand in overthrowing the democratically elected Mossadegh government in 1953 (although the ghost-written formulation in his speech was extremely sloppy).
Obama officially recognized the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons (imagine the George W Bush administration doing it). And he said on the record that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran -- thus speeding up former vice president Dick Cheney's next heart attack. Obama even mentioned the key words "mutual respect."
As for the cinematic coup de grace -- the "casual" meeting or handshake in the corridors of the UN -- it could never have happened so soon. Both Rouhani and Obama are under enormous pressure from hawks on both sides, and so far there's nothing substantial on the table.
Yet even while trying to send all the right signals to Tehran, Obama simply could not resist the urge: "I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all."
The corollary: he kept plugging for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the bombing of Damascus if anything goes wrong with the Syrian chemical weapons disarmament. And this for the "interests of all" -- as in Israel and the House of Saud.
The overwhelming majority of the real world, though, is busy reminding the US president that America is not exceptional at all, from Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in the case of secrets whistle-blower Edward Snowden and the Syria tragedy to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who in a stinging speech qualified NSA spying as an "affront." It's not by accident that all the original four BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India and China, have been spied to kingdom come.
Will WAVE drown the hawks?
After the UN catharsis, the stage is now set for the real heavy work to start this Thursday, when US Secretary of State John "Assad is like Hitler" Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the cadre of the multilateral P-5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany).
The key points of the road map ahead are clear. Total clarification of details regarding Iran's rightful peaceful nuclear program should proceed with dismantling of sanctions. Washington's nasty financial blockade of Iran's oil sales is not working; no one, from China to India and beyond, will stop buying Iranian energy because the US says so. And Iran should also be reinstated in the global bank exchange mechanism.
Here, Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, makes an extremely important point. Timing -- by a series of circumstances -- may be perfect, but the window of opportunity is not going to last very long.
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