Rouhani Elected to Change
On September 24, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will address the UN General Assembly in New York, and is also expected to attend the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament two days later. His appearances at these events will be closely monitored for concrete indications of winds of change from Tehran.
On the face of it, Iran’s president will have an easy time of it after years of his predecessor’s rhetoric against the West, the UN, gays and Jews. But Rouhani has set the bar – and expectations – much higher than that.
Tips for Rouhani
For Rouhani to project real change, he should follow these guidelines while in New York:
Don’t ignore Ahmadinejad: If Rouhani keeps silent about the issues that granted his predecessor near-leper status – especially denial of the Holocaust and the existence of gays in Iran – his visit will amount to a lost opportunity. Rehashing historical wrongs, placing blame on western powers, and emphasizing theological arguments simply won’t cut it.
Aim high and shoot low: Rouhani will succeed only if he projects strategic change – but even then he’ll need to back his assurances with definite timelines and specific tactical objectives. Without these, Rouhani will join a growing list of “Teflon” politicians who talk and talk – but don’t walk their talk.
Rouhani’s oratory style has been a welcome departure from the roughness of his predecessor. However, so far his comments have failed to clarify whether he takes issue fundamentally with the strategic vision held by Iran’s leadership – starting with Supreme Leader Khamenei.
On the eve of his arrival in New York, it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to Rouhani’s opposition to UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions calling for a suspension of Tehran’s nuclear activities – not to mention his support for Iranian allies Syria and Hezbollah.
This is precisely the reason why his UN appearances hold so much promise: there he will hold in his hands the power to signal change. Stay tuned.