Something has shifted in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran, so much so that despite other pressing international concerns (ahem, Syria) it can no longer be ignored. For the first time today, President Obama explicitly acknowledged the shift. Stating that he “firmly” believed the “diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama announced that he’d directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue an agreement with Iran.
“We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy,” Obama said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. “Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
Obama said that recent positive developments, such as President Rouhani’s reiteration that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon, have been encouraging to the administration.
“These statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement,” Obama said. He added that “to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.”
Beyond the obvious positive tones of Obama’s U.N. speech, some have speculated that comments on Kerry’s engaging with his Iranian counterparts “in consultation” with US partners might signal a future for bilateral negotiations, a step many believe is necessary if the U.S. expects to secure a deal.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday at a discussion of the P5+1 concerning the resumption of talks, but many are still watching closely for a potential meeting between the two Presidents themselves. Iranian and American leaders have not met since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, so the moment, if even just a handshake, would be hugely significant.
We’ll be waiting and watching too, here at Nukes of Hazard, and will report the outcomes as they arise.
UPDATE 9/25/13: Unfortunately, Obama and Rouhani were not able to come together for a meeting at the UNGA. In a later interview, Rouhani noted that “In principle, [Iran was] not opposed to meeting at all,” but felt that the two sides, having been estranged for so long, needed a more solid plan.