September 24 2013
If Rouhani Meets President Obama...
Don’t you just know that President Hasan Rouhani is licking his chops?
President Obama, mastermind of Syria, may meet with the Iranian president at the U.N. this week. It won’t be a proper sit-down, of course—just a choreographed encounter in a U.N. corridor.
But it will be enough time for President Obama, at last realizing his dream of a face2face with an Iranian “leader,” to give away something or, at the very least, to show weakness. Indeed, the U.S. may be serving up the tastiest morsels since Yalta, when we allowed the Soviet Union to gobble up a significant portion of Europe.
Time magazine’s Michael Crowley doesn’t see it this way. In a piece headlined “A Handshake that Could Shake the World,” Crowley writes:
One of the great unresolved questions of Barack Obama’s presidency is whether he can peacefully resolve America’s conflict with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. An encounter between Obama and Iran’s new president at the United Nations on Tuesday would be the most important—or at least the most analyzed—handshake since the historic grip between Rabin and Arafat (or, if you prefer, Nixon and Elvis). It would only be a symbolic act, to be sure. But when it comes to international diplomacy, symbolism can go a long way.
“Everyone understands that this week in New York is all about stagecraft and setting the tone for future interactions,” says one administration official.
Where to begin? How President Obama will “resolve” the Iranian nuclear power issue is not one of the “great unresolved questions.” We all know what he intends to do: nada. (This doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to shut up.) If you had doubts, his failure of nerve in Syria should have resolved them. I was not in favor of action in Syria after the chemical weapons attacks, but President Obama’s performance was disgraceful. Stagecraft? Give me a break.
Oh, and Rouhani tweets nice things about Jews:
[Rouhani] has tweeted kind words about Jews at a time of fear that Iran’s nuclear program—which its leaders deny is meant for military purposes—poses a mortal threat to Israel. And his government has released dozens of political prisoners in an apparent signal of reform and openness. Even more important, Khamenei, successor to the infamous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has shown clear support for a new diplomatic push; last week he endorsed “heroic leniency” in Iran’s diplomacy. …
“The acid test remains whether the Iranian government is prepared to take actions that constrain, limit, and roll back its existing nuclear program in a manner that provides confidence it is peaceful nature,” says the Obama official. One fleeting encounter won’t answer that question. But it could be a promising start.
It might be a start with a man less naïve about world affairs and less vain about his own powers than President Obama. He is a celebrity president. He’s great singing Al Greene at the Apollo Theatre. World affairs? Not so much. I hope he rereads Little Red Riding Hood before meeting with that moderate Mr. Rouhani.