Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran is the most sought after leader in Davos, Switzerland. Whether it be the top world leaders, the top international diplomats or the top media personalities, all of them want to meet Rouhani. The personality has a large part to play in this race, but what really makes him the focus of attention is his position. To some a bigoted cleric; to others a statesman of the highest order, while to still others a wolf in a sheep’s garb. Paradoxically still, the most welcome guest in Davos and a persona-non-grata in Geneva.
At Davos Rouhani is attending the World Economic Summit, while he was initially invited to attend the Geneva II Syria Peace Talks by the United Nations,as well, this invitation was later rescinded upon the insistence of United States. So, because the opposition Syrian National Coalition refused to be a part of any peace talks with the Assad’s regime at which Iran was an invitee.
He is welcome at Davos because according to him, Iran is going to honor the interim six months Joint Action Plan agreed to at Geneva on Nov., 24 last year. According to the terms of this accord reached at Geneva, Iran is to stop it nuclear program in exchange America and its allies would ease the crippling international sanctions imposed on Iran. According to the officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has shown positive willingness and to date complete transparency in limiting and in certain cases completely stopping its nuclear program. The terms of the accord Iran is to bring down its uranium enrichment capacity from 20 percent to 5 percent, that is enough in carrying out its nuclear technology for peaceful R&D purposes, specifically for developing medical isotopes.
Inspite of the assurances given by Iran, the American Congress and Senate are threatening to clamp down even tougher sanctions than those that are already in place, in order to ensure that Iran does not violate the terms of the Geneva accord. Majority of the lawmakers are of the confirmed view that it was due to the effects of these sanctions that Iran agreed to come to the negotiation table and even tougher sanctions would ensure that it does not dare to violate the agreed upon terms. President Obama, on the other hand wants the Congress and the Senate to show some restraint, so that a comprehensive deal concerning Iran’s nuclear program can be reached. He has even signaled to both the Houses that he will veto any bill that endorses further sanctions on Iran.
Speaking to the international media, Rouhani, the most sought after leader at Davos said,”These sanctions translate into the weakening of the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons), the weakening of international laws and regulations. No other country can decide for another country.” Furthermore, he said.”We are not afraid of threats…And the language of threats is ineffective when it comes to Iran. The language they need to choose should be a legal one, a respectful tone of voice when addressing the Iranian people. … It benefits our region and the interests of other countries.”
The Joint Action Plan agreed to by Iran promises to stop enriching uranium, halting any further improvements in its nuclear infra-structure, and significantly downgrading its heavy water reactors, especially, the one at Arak. In addition to prove that Iran is sincere in fulfilling the commitments it made to the international community Iran must destroy 15,000 of its estimated 20,000 centrifuges. It is after taking all these steps that Iran would be able to convince the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Israel is a vociferous critic of the interim accord and Benjamin Netanyahu has also hinted at a strategic military strike against Iranian nuclear installations. On this point Rouhani is vehement, “Israel knows very well what the response would be. Israel knows well our regional capability…When it comes to practice, the Israelis cannot do that. If they do such a crazy thing, our response will make them rue the day.”
Rouhani who is the focus of international attention at Davos is, perhaps, the most despicable man in Geneva– the venue of Syria Peace Talks. The first ever face to face meeting between Assad’s regime and the opposition Syrian National Coalition. The opposition views Iran as an enemy which by money, weapons and fighters is helping Assad prolong his oppressive rule, therefore, they don’t want Iran to be a party in the peace talks. Iran, according to their representatives is behind the systematic torture and even the use of chemical weapons against them in the worn-torn city of Aleppo, last year.
Rouhani’s stance as far as the Syrian Peace Talks are concerned is,”All of us should … work together to bring about appropriate conditions inside Syria and help with elections. Everyone should respect the vote of the Syrians. Whatever the Syrians say, that should be enough. If outside countries want to decide for Syria, they are wrong. It’s impractical. It’s illegal.” It is an open secret that Iran is backing Assad’s regime in Syria with battle hardened fighters of Quds Force and the Lebanese based terrorist group, Hezbollah. Still Rouhani stressed, in front of the knowledgeable international media, that,”Millions of innocent people have been killed, injured and made homeless as refugees,…In this cold winter, this only adds to the misery. It is a miserable situation and very sad.” A blatant lie as it is his administration that is fueling this civil war in Syria. As far as the elections are concerned again Iran has a major part in changing Assad’s original position, not to stand for office for which now he poses himself a powerful candidate. In Rouhani’s words,”prudent moderation,” should prevail in resolving this burning issue. Prudent, of course, but moderation, is a word that seems alien coming out of his tongue
It is a situation similar to the centuries old adage, that some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. According to some analysts, Rouhani by sheer hard work, political sagacity and pure statesmanship has reached this pinnacle. The critics, however, seem to disagree, as to them it is not the man but the circumstances that make a man with little vision or wisdom, great. Whatever the reality, at the present moment, Rouhani, is the most sought after leader at Davos, Switzerland.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada
The Washington Post