Iran’s Rouhani: “The World Has Changed”

by James M. Wall

On July 30, 2009, conservative columnist Pat Buchanan  wrote a column in the American Conservative.  He called it, “Tell Israel No”. Here is a key paragaph:Rex:Sipa Reuters

“Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away. Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?”

This column appeared four years ago. Nothing has changed except the date. Israel continues to cry nuclear wolf. The U.S. consistently indulges Israel in its desire to make Iran a pariah among nations.

This indulgence could start to change this week when, and if,  President Obama meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders are scheduled to speak to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

There are strong signs they will meet somewhere at the UN.  The meeting could be serious, or it could just be accidentally on purpose. But it will happen.

Before he spoke to the General Assembly, President Rouhani had set the agenda for a thaw in relations, writing that “the world has changed”, in a column published in the Washington Post.

CNN reported on the column:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made his case Thursday to the American people and the world for “a constructive approach” to contentious issues including his nation’s nuclear program, arguing that failing to engage “leads to everyone’s loss.”

“We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart,” Rouhani said in an op-ed published Thursday evening on the Washington Post’s website.

Letters had earlier been exchanged between Washington and Teheran, a correspondence Israel has greeted with its customary cries of dismay, followed by a call to action by Israel’s U.S. political/media troops.

This effort by Israel to arouse U.S. public opinion against Rouhani appears certain to bring a second defeat to Israel and its U.S. hardline backers. The first defeat came when the U.S. chose diplomacy over a military assault on Syria’s chemical weapons sites.

Assuming any sort of Rouhani-Obama meeting does take place, score this round: Diplomacy, two wins, War, zero wins.

Diplomacy as the better of the two options was highlighted in a recent interview on the  Bill Moyers weekly television broadcast,  September 6.

This interview was taped on the weekend before a joint U.S.–Russia diplomatic agreement postponed and hopefully derailed, any U.S. cruise missile strikes against Syria.

In this Moyers segment, which may be seen in its entirety by clicking above, guest host Phil Donahue interviewed historian and military scholar Andrew Bacevich about America’s role in the world and the possible repercussions of our current relationship to Syria.

In the interview, Bacevich tells Donahue,

“[T[ick off the number of military enterprises that we have been engaged in that part of the world, large and small, you know, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia — and on and on, and ask yourself, ‘What have we got done? What have we achieved? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing America’s standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?’ ‘The answers are, ‘No, no, and no.’ “

Military solutions have failed in the region. Why has the U.S. ignored the failures of these “military enterprises” and continued to follow the lead of Israel’s demands?

Columnist–academic Juan Cole points to U.S. hawkish hubris as one culprit in The Hubris of the Interventionists:

The hawks who are deeply disappointed that diplomacy has likely forestalled a US military intervention in Syria in the foreseeable future often attempt to tug at our heart strings by pointing to the over 100,000 dead and the millions of displaced, implying that the US has a responsibility to intervene to stop the carnage on humanitarian grounds.

If the world were such that the US could in fact do so, perhaps they might have a point. The problem is that social engineering on that scale is currently beyond even a superpower. We need a humanitarian realism to forestall the utopians from taking us into quagmires. There is nothing wrong with doing good where you realistically can. Trying to do good by military means where you cannot, can be deadly to both you and the victims.

Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the U.S. House Mideast Subcommittee, did her best to undermine any rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran.  Writing in the Times of Israel  Haviv Rettig Gur reported her story:

Within hours of the Obama administration’s tentative indication on Friday that President Barack Obama might be willing to meet with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, an influential Republican member of Congress cautioned that the administration should not put much faith in Tehran’s recent diplomatic overtures.

The congresswoman was harsh in her criticism of Rouhani. She issued a statement about the new Iranian president, which the Times  of Israel reported. This is a part of her statement:

Rouhani is a master of deceit who has been putting on an all-out charm offensive since he took office.

In many ways Rouhani is much more dangerous than [former Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. At least with Ahmadinejad you get what you see – his hatred for Israel and the United States is not disguised with rhetoric or spurious gestures of goodwill,” added Ros-Lehtinen, who is considered a staunchly pro-Israel member of the House of Representatives.  .   .   .

Rouhani will use any opportunity he can to try to fool the US and the West into offering concessions and to stall for time while Iran completes its nuclear weapons program, as he had bragged about doing once before. Believing that he has any other agenda is folly.

The Administration must not fall for this charm offensive, and must increase the pressure on the regime with more sanctions until Iran completely abandons its nuclear pursuit and dismantles its program.

What the congresswoman sees as a shallow “charm offensive” will have to be judged on President Rouhani’s words and, as President Obama insists, his actions. Meanwhile, the American public will want to reflect on what Rouhani calls “a constructive approach to diplomacy”.

With a possible meeting pending between Obama and Rouhani, these insights from Rouhani’s Washington Post column, demand our further attention:

Three months ago, my platform of “prudence and hope” gained a broad, popular mandate. Iranians embraced my approach to domestic and international affairs because they saw it as long overdue. I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.

The international community faces many challenges in this new world — terrorism, extremism, foreign military interference, drug trafficking, cybercrime and cultural encroachment — all within a framework that has emphasized hard power and the use of brute force.

We must pay attention to the complexities of the issues at hand to solve them. Enter my definition of constructive engagement. In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights.

It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable. A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss.

Time alone will tell what they mean for future Iranian actions, but these words sound like they might have come from a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama, way back in 2007. That was the state senator who promised change.  

This week, the now-President Obama will have an opportunity to speak face to face with a world leader who sounds, for this moment at least, like a man who wants change.

The pictures above are by Rex/Sipa. They are from Reuters.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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14 Responses to Iran’s Rouhani: “The World Has Changed”

  1. mike g says:

    Israel was created on stolen land from the Palestinians, it stole government secrets, speed boats from France neuclear power from the US and so on so on. It does not want peace but wants total governnace of the whole middle east. Time will tell, if they can achieve this or will it be their own demise and destruction

  2. Jack Graham says:

    Putin has so badly outplayed Obama in international chess on Syria that Obama will never be able to get by with an attempt to make war on Iran. Rouhani has a queen, two bishops and a rook, all in good position. Obama now has three pawns, and will not strike, Congress will not allow it. The American people won’t stand for it, — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim. Outstanding as always.
    It is totally unacceptable for the US – regardless of Administration – to continue to ignore American interests and moral values, in order to await Israeli instructions on “Next Steps”.
    It is very clear and very embarrassing to note how Israel dictates and our Knesset-Congress drives it home and our President follows without a spine.

    I hope that President Obama talks to Rouhani and listens to Iran’s perspective. More importantly, I hope that the UN will demand that Israel open its nuclear weapons arsenals to UN inspectors. No one can ask Iran to comply with what Israel refuses to do.

    The only logical and courageous message for President Obama to deliver is to turn the Middle East into a Nuclear-Free Zone.

    As long as Israel continues to insist on such a monopoly, there is no hope in stopping this horrendous arms race. Israel, and only Israel, is to blame when other countries follow this path, and if any of them uses its arsenal.

  4. Chris Wheeler says:

    Israel was created on stolen land from the Palestinians

    mike g,

    Last I checked, Israel was created by the Jewish population who wanted independence as promised by the British Mandate. The jews agreed to the ’47 partition plan and the arabs (Palestine was never an independent country) rejected it. France, China, Russia and a few dozen other countries have stolen a lot more secrets from the US. Do you whine about this on anti-Chinese websites? Just wondering.

    Click to access gov2013-40.pdf


    Pat Buchanan must know that not only is Israel concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, but so is the IAEA, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, the US and the European Union. That is why Iran is under so many sanctions.

    Click to access gov2013-40.pdf

    Also, I find Pat Buchanan a bit of a hypocrite since he was a big support of the Vietnam War.

    He said:

    “Vietnam was an attempt to defeat the enemy on the enemy’s terms, a concept that ran counter to every strategic principle of warfare, but appealed to the academic-minded “best and the brightest.” Although the US had more than adequate power to defeat Hanoi, it never had a strategic plan for final victory or the will to pursue such a strategy. Johnson picked the most expensive war option, and then pursued it incrementally to avoid the higher costs–a formula for failure that produced failure.
    Source: “ A Republic, Not an Empire,” p.313-4 , Oct 9, 1999

  5. John Kleinheksel (Rev) says:

    Fear-based Israelis, wanting to drag us into their paranoia. And tonight, in both NBC coverage and even the “News Hour” on PBS. Wondering how Israel feels about Obama reaching out to the President of Iran, at the UN, in New York, tomorrow. O, O, O, O, O. We surely don’t want to do anything that would offend against our friends there in I/P, who see everything about Iran as the ENEMY, not to be trusted, etc, etc. I’m sick of it.

    Shame on Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). President Rouhani has NEVER bragged about wanting to “complete their nuclear weapons program”. He has insisted Iran has never and will never build nuclear weapons with which to terrorize their neighbors.

    Of course we can’t just take his word for it, but to read out and out lies from the Israelis backers is just too much. If we can’t believe the Iranians, we SURELY can’t believe the Israelis, who are in denial about abuses to their Palestinian neighbors, the OCCUPATION, and the noticeable shift in International opinion about the Zionist enterprise.

    More and more Americans are and will continue to disbelieve Chicken Little in her cries, “The sky in falling; the sky in falling”.
    Yes to diplomacy. NO to missile strikes!

  6. chris wheeler says:

    Mr. Kleinheksel,

    As I stated before, it isn’t just the Israelis who are “fear-based”:

    Are the those regional fears warranted, given Iran’s military support of Assad and shia militants like Hezbollah, as well as threats against Israel and years ignoring the UNSC and IAEA? What makes you think another in a long series of failed talks is going to produce a different outcome this time? Someone once said insanity is making the same mistake over and over again.

  7. Russell O. Siler says:

    Chris Wheeler,
    Last time I checked, the pre-state Zionists accepted only the parts of the UN decision which fit with their plans. First, they did not stop their conquest until they controlled far more territory than the UN had allotted. Second, they absolutely ignored the provision of the UN agreement which made a “corpus separatum” a separate body of land under international control, of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It seems as if, rather than accepting the UN plan as you suggest, the pre-state Zionists simply used the plan as convenient cover for doing what they wished instead. Telling half truths does no one a service in the long run.

    Russ Siler

  8. Chris Wheeler says:

    Russel O. Silver,

    There were no “parts” to the UN Partition Plan, so you are incorrect. You either accepted the “plan” or you rejected it. The Israelis indeed accepted the plan even though it proposed a lot LESS land then the British Mandate orginally promised. However, the jewish leadership begrudgingly decided to accept something in order to prevent war.

    For the arabs, there was no real Palestinian government which spoke for the Palestinians, and the surrounding arab states spoke for them (as they always have): they rejcted it.

    As you probably know, if you reject any negotiated plan, it doesn’t later become law and doesn’t become legally binding. So not only did the arabs reject the plan, they invaded Israel with the purpose of defeating her. And Israel’s “non-occupation” borders after the ’48 war still didn’t bring peace! It took subsequent wars and losses for the arabs to see Israel was just going to fly away. Sorry for the history lesson; it seems this website could use it.

    There was nothing preventing the arab states from accepting this partition plan and making peace with Israel. Since then, Egypt and Jordan have made peace, and it is working well for those that signed it. Lebanon and Syria remain at war with Israel, however, they seem to be preoccupied by “resisting” their own arab brethren.

  9. Sam says:

    Pro-israel comments above are intended to deceive. The UN partition plan was only a recommendation, i.e. not binding. The majority of the Inhabitants of Palestine, i.e. the Palestinians, rejected it. It is not surprising that the aliens accepted it and have since shown their true expansionist colors. With regard to israel’s nuclear arsenal, this is not intended for use in its neighborhood. The state of israel was/is intended as a safe haven for the thieving banksters. The unwitting zionists are mere pawns holding the fort. All wars are banksters wars (as explained in a well researched presentation at

  10. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    This is primarily addressed to the person who regurgitated very old Zionist falsehoods and deserves an answer right away.

    When in 1917, the British Colonials “promised” Palestine as a Jewish Homeland, Britain did not designate it as a “state”. The Zionists turned it around at a later stage.

    And who is Britain to act like “God’ and give someone else’s territory to yet another people? If they were sincere, then they would have granted them lands in Britain and in the lands of the horrendous criminals responsible for the Jewish Holocaust.

    Palestine was “Palestine” for over 2,000 years and it was Canaan for thousands of years before Hebrews ever set foot in it for the first time, when they first arrived from Ur, in Babylon, their original homeland.
    Perhaps this is why centuries later, the Babylonians transferred most Jews back to Babylon.

    Cyrus later on spread the Persian Empire over the Middle East and he allowed Jews to go to Palestine, if they wished. But the vast majority had found places of haven in the various parts of Babylon, Turkey and the ancient world.

    It was “Palestine” under the British Mandate that was supposed to grant independence to “Palestine”, not “Israel. There was no Israel under the British Mandate. Our currency was Palestinian and our population was 90% of Palestine Mandate. Overwhelming numbers of European Jewish immigrants reduced the Arab majority from 90% to 65% by 1947. These immigrants declared their slogan, “We want to make Palestine as Jewish as Britain is British”. I’d like to see how Americans would like to hear our immigrants in the US declare such outrageous objectives.

    The “Arab” forces only “attacked” the Zionist controlled areas of Palestine after the Zionists “unilaterally” declared areas they occupied as, the state of “Israel” (May 15, 1948).
    The Zionists actually occupied 78% of Palestine, contrary to the UN Partition Resolution of 1947, which – thanks to British-US arm-twisting at the UN allocated to them 55% of the area of Palestine. Even though, at the time, they only represented 35% of the population, versus 65% Arab Palestinians.

    One other thing the Zionist “Spinners of facts” forget to mention that Zionist terrorist militias (Irgun, Leumi, Haganah, etc.) had begun destruction of Palestinian villages, towns, and hamlets in 1947 and continued in 1948. The objective was ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and making it impossible for them to return to their villages. That was a primary reason for Arab armies to intervene. (Most were armies of countries ruled by Britain, which did not allow genuine intervention – another Zionist hackers of facts).

    The Zionist Plan from Day One was to ethnically cleanse Palestine from the Sea to the River. They manipulated Britain and the US , as well as the USSR. They are well on their way into achieving their objective. Today, the Zionists occupy the entirety of Palestine and Israel is the only power in the Middle East-North Africa region that possesses a nuclear arsenal of 200 – 400 nuclear bombs.

  11. chris wheeler says:

    There is no deception as I never said the ’47 partition plan was binding. It was a last ditch effort to avert war. Jews are not “aliens” or sub-human or foreign to Palestine. If the arabs at the time knew in advance Israel would prosper to her present borders, they would have agreed to the Partition Plan in a heartbeat. The arabs have already proposed the ’48 borders mist recently. So it seems the parties are not that far apart today.

    I’m always amused at some the posters on these anti-Israel and anti-semitic websters. “A safe haven for thieving banksters”? I didn’t know the subject was Switzerland;-)

    The arabs are more accepting of Israel today than hthe average anti-semite.

  12. chris wheeler says:


    It is no longer 1917. It is 2013. My suggestion is to deal with the present. The biggest abusers of arabs have always been other arabs. It’s time to face the 21st century.


  13. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    yes, you are right, it is no longer 1917. We are in 2013.

    Do you know of anyone who told the Zionists back in 1917, that the Jewish community in Palestine was ended by Titus, the Roman leader, back in 72 A.D. ?

    As the saying goes, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander”.

    We accept to live in a bi-national state, but not in a “Bantustants” the borders of which are determined by Israel and its side-kick. The only acceptable solution is a Palestine State based on the pre-June, 1967 borders. But, Israel want neither.
    And THAT is the problem that the US is afraid to face.


  14. Samia Khoury says:

    After reading the quotation of congress woman Ileana Ros-Lehtein I could not help but think that “master of deceit” actually applies so much to the Israeli Prime Minister, for nobody could beat him in stalling for time. As he addressed the American Congress and the UN with his perfect English he so much pretended to be making very hard concessions for peace while using the negotiations as a means to pursue the building and development of settlements.
    What is it going to take for the US, Europe, and the UN to say enough is enough to Israel. Of course it will continue to grab more land and to create more new realities on the ground as long as it can get away with it. With the onslaught on El-Haram El-Sharif in Jerusalem this week, as well as the eviction of the Beduins of Khirbet El-Makhoul, where a French diplomat Marion Fesnaue-Castaing was assaulted as she tried to provide humanitarian aid to the area, it seems that the sky is the limit. With such silence no wonder Israel feels shielded from accountability and above international law. Yet ironically the Palestinian negotiators are still hanging on that Ferris wheel, chasing a futile process. And of course Mr. Obama’s address at the UN was mere rhetoric as far as the rights of the Palestinians are concerned. We have heard it before but we have not seen any resolve to put an end to the Israeli occupation.

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