John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, challenged President Hassan Rouhani of Iran to demonstrate his country’s apparently peaceful intentions with regard to the use of nuclear energy. As part of his address to the World Economic Forum, Mr. Kerry responded to President Rouhani’s assurance that Iran did not and would not look to develop nuclear weapons, by pushing the nation to accept a broad agreement that would effectively prevent Iran from producing plutonium the fissile element that is necessary to create such weapons.
The U.S. Secretary of State is at Davos with a clear agenda to let the world know that the United States intended to continue its engagement in the Middle East. Mr. Kerry sought to dispel what he termed “this myth that America is pulling back, or giving up or standing down”; although, Mr. Kerry admitted that the United States’ approach was “defined first and foremost by force” he looked forward to using diplomatic measures to prove to the world that America’s involvement in the Middle East is “as broad and as deep as at any time in history.” Mr. Kerry spoke of his country’s continued involvement in the Israel-Palestine dialogue, the Syrian crisis and contribution to peace in the Middle East.
The United States is making drastic cuts to its military presence in the Middle East after more than a decade of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, the U.S. response to Iran seems to indicate that President Obama wishes to make good on his intention to use diplomatic measures to diffuse the global uneasiness over Iran’s apparent refusal to make full disclosure about the details of its growing nuclear program. Mr. Kerry’s recent challenge to Iran to show the world its intention about nuclear energy seems less like a threat. It appears to be the precursor of what could be a meaningful dialogue between two nations that have been at odds for several decades. A significant part of this engagement will be to work with America’s allies to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is never given the capability to produce weapons. Aside from the positive messages at Davos, both nations have significant work to do before they reach a point of mutually beneficial discussions.
Iran’s contribution of arms to Syria and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, despite U.S. calls for his ouster, is just one of the many gridlocked situations that Obama, Kerry and Rouhani will need to navigate through in order to ensure lasting peace in a region that has been ravaged by war and poverty. Despite the open skepticism by the Israeli delegation over Rouhani’s claims, the U.S. Secretary of State also spent a considerable amount of time attempting to focus on Israel’s own problems with the militant Hezbollah and continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the meetings behind them, John Kerry’s challenge to Iran regarding the use of nuclear energy moves into a phase where actions will need to speak louder than words if peace is to be restored in the troubled Middle East.
Editorial By Grace Stephen