As diplomats prepare for the annual whirlwind of formal talks and private side meetings at next week’s gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Obama administration and its overseas allies are debating how best to respond to the seemingly friendlier face – and negotiating posture – of Iran.
Recent weeks have seen the newly inaugurated Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, launch what passes, for the Islamic regime, as a charm offensive.
has used Twitter to post a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world – an astonishing move after eight years of inflammatory Holocaust denial by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has released jailed political prisoners. He has exchanged courteous letters with President Obama.
Rouhani also has hinted at a new flexibility in the longstanding impasse over Tehran’s march toward a nuclear weapons capability, which has prompted Western allies to impose ever-tougher economic sanctions on the regime.
It really doesn’t take much effort to be less insane than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Alec Baldwin drunk is less unhinged than the former Iranian president.
During the recent election in Iran, the press here loved referring to Rouhani as a “moderate Muslim cleric”. Again, we’re dealing with a very relative scale here. And, as everyone knows, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still in charge over there. The puppet master may have swapped puppets but it’s still basically the same show.