The week before his first visit to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – perhaps taking his cue from other prominent world leaders – published an editorial in the Washington Post discussing his country's “two-pronged approach” to developing a “constructive engagement” with the rest of the world.
Like Vladimir Putin and John McCain's recent essays, Rouhani's op-ed was quick to criticize certain policies of the publishing paper's government, though Rouhani's tone was far more diplomatic than the Russian president's or Arizona Senator's.
Sadly, unilateralism often continues to overshadow constructive approaches. Security is pursued at the expense of the insecurity of others, with disastrous consequences. More than a decade and two wars after 9/11, al-Qaeda and other militant extremists continue to wreak havoc. Syria, a jewel of civilization, has become the scene of heartbreaking violence, including chemical weapons attacks, which we strongly condemn. In Iraq, 10 years after the American-led invasion, dozens still lose their lives to violence every day. Afghanistan endures similar, endemic bloodshed.
The unilateral approach, which glorifies brute force and breeds violence, is clearly incapable of solving issues we all face, such as terrorism and extremism. I say all because nobody is immune to extremist-fueled violence, even though it might rage thousands of miles away. Americans woke up to this reality 12 years ago.
Rouhani also offered some suggestions on how to best approach such issues and, one sentence later, connected those suggestions to Iran's plan to develop nuclear energy.
My approach to foreign policy seeks to resolve these issues by addressing their underlying causes. We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart. We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East.
At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world. The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program. To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.
But how can we resolve these problems? By following Iran's “two-pronged approach,” which Rouhani plans to implement in Syria.
First, we must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Second, we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions. A key aspect of my commitment to constructive interaction entails a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions.
And Rouhani also suggested that world leaders stop focusing they don't want —" focusing on what one doesn’t want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders" — and instead discuss what they do want, a move that, according to Rouhani, would require “more courage" from leaders.
The op-ed was published one day after Rouhani gave his first interview to a Western news outlet, telling NBC news that "under no circumstances would [Iran] seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever."
[Image via AP]