Afghanistan: It's what's for dinner. (side dishes include Iran and Pakistan)
It has happened.
After 34 years.
The Presidents of Iran and the United States have spoken on the phone.
Both Rouhani and Obama had been giving inclinations of a warmer relationship in their addresses to the UN General Assembly. Iran’s delegation pushed for a meeting while Rouhani was in New York, but the US preferred the phone call. Apparently the call lasted 15 minutes and covered regional cooperation, among other topics. I blogged on Iran’s potential role in Afghanistan in April, and I hope that the two countries view that as a fertile ground for cooperation.
However, I find it interesting how we’ve gotten to this point. Some are whispering very softly that the sanctions have worked and have caused Iran to cave on their nuclear program. But they would be wrong. The sanctions have played NO role in bringing Iran to the table. Rather, this is a shrewd political move on the part of Rouhani.
Iran was never going to be permitted to have a nuclear weapon. It wasnt going to be a Pakistan situation, Iran would either be bombed or isolated to the point of impotency once they achieved a nuclear weapon. And I think Iran realized this years ago. However, until a coherent replacement policy was hatched, Iran had to do enough to keep the program alive, but not enough to achieve a bomb so as not to appear weak. This, I believe is why we’ve been hearing Iran is ‘months away from a nuclear weapon’ for over 5 years, however they haven’t seemingly taken the final steps to a nuclear weapon.
The replacement policy was laid clear this week. Rouhani launched Step 1 by firmly stating that Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons in his address to the General Assembly. Step 2 was to call for Israel to sign the NPT, Step 3 was the phone call.
If Iran can’t have the bomb, then they will do whatever they can to lobby other countries to press Israel into giving up its nuclear weapons. If Iran comes into line with the NPT and allows the IAEA uninhibited access, Israel would be in a difficult position if they chose to continue to flout these norms. Iran has called for the Middle East to be a nuclear free zone, deliberately pointing a finger at Israel (The only nuclear power in the region). The phone call plays a huge role in this. It shows that Iran is no longer the regional boogeyman, further shifting scrutiny on Israel.
IF Iran can successfully convince the international community to turn its eyes to Israel’s nuclear program, and can be cut into the regional cooperation on Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, (and granted that’s a HUGE if), we can start calling Iran a regional leader. If they can get their economy firing, Iran can have a meteoric rise in global politics. Rouhani has proven himself an astute statesmen in but a couple months in office, if his success continues, his star could rise to the point that he overshadows both Mossadegh and Ayatollah Khomeini as a national hero in Iran.
And to think, it started with something as simple as a phone call.