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All Eyes On Iran

Prepared for negotiation, President Rouhanis address to the world on September 24, 2013 embodied hope; putting the ball back in the Obama administrations court. (800 Words)

In stark contrast to speeches delivered by former Iranian President Amadinejad, the newly elected president Rouhani espoused elements of peace and hope in his highly anticipated address to the United Nations General Assembly. Expressing his fear of institutionalized extremism, Rouhanis rhetoric reinforced his foreign policy approach, directed toward reconciliation over highly controversial issues. Leading these concerns is the Iranian Threat: the Wests obsession over Iran's nuclear weapons program. Rouhani took the opportunity to emphasize and reiterate the nonviolent intentions of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program and its decision to develop nuclear energy for "exclusively peaceful purposes." He asserted, "Iran poses no threat to the world or the region, explaining that weapons of mass destruction contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions. Furthermore, Rouhani highlighted Iran's "right to uranium enrichment, alongside a number of countries, not excluding Israel, whose nuclear arsenal has been developing since the 1950s. Although Irans nuclear intentions remain unconfirmed, it is curious that Iran, a committed signatory to the NonProliferation Treaty, must justify its national interests to the U.S. and Israel. Despite the passage of a UN General assembly resolution calling on Israel to join the Non-Aligned Movement (174-6), it remains the only non-signatory to the NTP and the only

possessor of the nuclear warheads in the MENA region. Establishment of nuclear free zones requires the cooperation of international institutions and transparency on behalf all nuclear powers, including the U.S. and Israel. Implementation will not proceed as long as the U.S. and Israel insist on upgrading their own possession of nuclear weapons. In direct relation to Iran's nuclear advances, Rouhani referenced the highly contentious U.S. sanctions posed on the Iranian economy. Rouhani argued that these sanctions imposed on Iran have caused only "war mongering and human suffering," targeting not just the state, but innocent civilians. As a result of sanctions, hundreds of human rights activists, students and academics, wrote a letter to President Obama in August 2013, demanding the elimination of sanctions and cooperation with the Rouhani administration. Despite this message, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new set of sanctions just 3 days before the inauguration of President Rouhani. Meanwhile, the Obama-Netanyahu fraternity appears determined to keep sanctions in place, with a military aggressive option "on the table." As long as these leaders maintain this position, the West will continue to foster a bitter generation of young, educated Iranians who find blame in the U.S. for their depleting economic prosperity. Though Rouhani avoided the use aggressive rhetoric against the U.S., his opposition to Obamas insistence of a military strike in Syria was made clear. Rouhani made sure to emphasize Iran's belief that "there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis" and that "the pursuit of expansionist strategies in attempt to change the

regional balance through proxies cannot be camouflaged behind humanitarian rhetoric." He supported this statement by explaining that extremist access to weapons is both dangerous and reckless. However, this statement should raise the eyebrows of those familiar with Irans generous financial support of Hezbollah and the substantial role Hezbollah has played within the Syrian crisis. Regardless of ones opinion on Hezbollah as an extremist organization, the group continues to fight alongside pro-Assad militias against the Syrian rebels. It is no surprise that Rouhani's address included statements regarding Israeli treatment of Palestinian citizens. Amongst sanctions and nuclear development, what Rouhani terms "the institutionalized aggression against Palestinian citizens," remains a focal point in U.S.-Iran contentions. While the U.S. and Israel insist on direct negotiations (with strict preconditions of course) as the only path to peace, Israel continues to build settlements into Palestinian territory, and its global image continues to erode. The same can be said for the U.S., whose undaunted support for Israel--secured by the pro-Israel lobby in Washington--will continue to shape U.S. foreign policy and the perspectives of Iran and Arab nations looking West. Overall, the President defended the national rights of Iran and exposed the combination of U.S.-Israel foreign policy as destructive. The phone conversation exchanged between Obama and Rouhani on September 27-the first direct form of communication between an Iranian and U.S. President since 1979-is evidence of the effectiveness of Rouhanis address.

Looking forward, future prospects for negotiations between the U.S. and Iran will require transparency on both sides of the table. We must accept that neither country is innocent of hypocrisy and dishonesty. In the current Wiki-leaks Age, legitimate justification for foreign policy decisions is becoming the new standard, as transparency works towards its realization. ________________________________________________________________
Shelbie Strykers is an Undergraduate, studying Political Economy at the University of California, Berkeley.