Yesterday, Der Spiegel reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered to decommission the most problematic of its nuclear reactors and allow in inspectors in exchange for an easing of sanctions.
Rohani reportedly intends to announce the details of the offer, perhaps already during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will meet Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top diplomat, in New York next Sunday and give her a rough outline of the deal. If he were to make such wide-ranging concessions, President Rohani would initiate a negotiating process that could conceivably even lead to a resumption of bilateral diplomatic relations with Washington.
The offer, while reported a few places, was met generally with….crickets. The only word in response seems to be from the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, who is skeptical.
In Israel meanwhile, the Walla! News portal quoted Deputy Foreign Minister MK Zeev Elkin as saying that Rouhani is buying time as the Iranian nuclear program continues undisturbed. “[Rouhani] is the father of the method of talking and enriching uranium at the same time,” he said.
Is this skepticism warranted? Absolutely. Is the silence warranted? I don’t see why.
Meanwhile, after denying that it had exchanged letters with President Obama, Iran is now confirming that it did–a rare instance of communication between Iran and the United States since their ties were formally broken in 1980.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Tuesday that Obama had sent Rouhani a message of congratulations on the occasion of his election.
“This letter has been exchanged,” Afkham said, according to the ISNA news agency. “The mechanism for exchanging these letters is through current diplomatic channels.”
Though rare, it is not the first time letters have been exchanged. Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote one to Obama three years ago, and Obama wrote twice directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in 2009 and 2012.
Obama said in an interview broadcast on Sunday he had exchanged letters with Rouhani. The two men will speak on the same day at the U.N. General Assembly next week, though there are currently no plans for them to meet.
In other news that briefly affords the slightest glimmer of progress before immediately blackening under the supple and damning bough of reality, Iranians were granted the ability to use social networks yesterday.
Late on Monday, several people in Iran found they could log in to their accounts on the U.S.-based social media sites without using techniques to circumvent blocks on Twitter and Facebook that the state imposed four years ago, during a clampdown on the biggest protests since the Islamic revolution.
By Tuesday, the access was gone. Iranian officials said the renascent freedom was “a glitch.”