Why Did Rouhani Say ‘No’ to Obama?

Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaking during the U.N General Assembly

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Iran's President Hasan Rouhani speaking during the U.N General Assembly

For decades, Iran has conducted secret negotiations with the United States, only to publically back off before a major diplomatic breakthrough. Rouhani's behavior at the United Nations was more of the same. By Michael Ledeen

It may not have been a flat-out rejection, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani certainly surprised a lot of people by declining to meet with President Obama yesterday. We don’t know anything approaching the whole story. Letters between the two, back-channel messages, and in all likelihood, secret conversations between representatives of the two countries have been going on for quite a while. The secret diplomacy has been conducted for decades, even though Rouhani was only recently elected.

So far, the plot of “hopes and expectations raised, then a slap in the face” follows the usual script. Just ask Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, both of whom believed they had reached agreement with the Iranian regime, a “grand bargain” that would put the two countries on the path to better relations, lift some American sanctions, and, in Bush’s case, end Iranian uranium enrichment. At the last minute, Iran said “forget it.” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her top deputy, Nicholas Burns, had flown to New York in the fall of 2006 to welcome the Iranian diplomat Ali Larijani to the United Nations, where the Grand Bargain was to have been signed. But he never left Tehran. Clinton got a public rebuke from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, currently Rouhani’s boss.

There is nothing particularly new or surprising in Iran’s behavior this week. 

Read more at The Atlantic

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