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Militarism Vs. Diplomacy: Whose Voice on Iran Will Win?

In an op-ed in German newspaper, Iran's president writes: 'We are striving... to remove the tensions that we have inherited.'

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has reiterated his calls for improved relations with the West, writing in an op-ed on Monday that his country was 'striving to remove inherited tensions' with the U.S..

Iran's President Rouhani speaking in New York in September. (Photo: Asia Society/cc/flickr) Reuters quotes the op-ed, which appears in the German news daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung as reading, in part:

We want to rebuild and improve our relations to European and North American countries on a basis of mutual respect.

We are striving to avoid new burdens on relations between Iran and the United States and also to remove the tensions that we have inherited.

We must now concentrate on the present and orientate ourselves towards the future.

The increasingly thawed relations between the U.S. and Iran have not been welcomed by Israel or hardliners in Washington.

As foreign policy analyst Jim Lobe writes at Inter Press Service, new legislation put forth by 26 senators—Democrats and Republicans—"could result in the biggest test of the political clout of the Israel lobby here in decades." Lobe continues:

The White House, which says the bill could well derail ongoing negotiations between Iran and the U.S. and five other powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme and destroy the international coalition behind the existing sanctions regime, has already warned that it will veto the bill if it passes Congress in its present form.

The new bill, co-sponsored by two of Congress’s biggest beneficiaries of campaign contributions by political action committees closely linked to the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), would impose sweeping new sanctions against Tehran if it fails either to comply with the interim deal it struck last month in Geneva with the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China plus Germany) or reach a comprehensive accord with the great powers within one year.

To be acceptable, however, such an accord, according to the bill, would require Iran to effectively dismantle virtually its entire nuclear programme, including any enrichment of uranium on its own soil, as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani has warned repeatedly that such a demand is a deal-breaker, and even Secretary of State John Kerry has said that a zero-enrichment position is a non-starter.

The bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, also calls for Washington to provide military and other support to Israel if its government “is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program.”

Middle East analyst Juan Cole adds:

In fact, the vast majority of Americans approve of Obama’s Iran negotiations in polling and only a minority is opposed. So the rebel senators aren’t playing to the voters, but rather to determined and very wealthy special interests in the Northeast.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned that a major new round of sanctions would kill the negotiations.

The government of President Hassan Rouhani, elected this past summer, faces its own hard line hawks who want to cause the talks with the US to fail. Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Jaafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, criticized Rouhani for being infected with Western ideas.

The question is if Jaafari from his side and Menendez and Schumer from their side can succeed in sinking the talks and ensuring we march off to war instead.

In an address to the UN General Assembly in September, Rouhani said that "People all over the world are tired of war, violence and extremism. They hope for a change in the status quo. And this is a unique opportunity—for us all. . . Warmongers are bent on extinguishing all hope. But hope for change for the better is an innate, religious, widespread, and universal concept."

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