WASHINGTON — President Obama carefully calibrated his Tuesday remarks at the United Nations to leave room for a long-sought compromise with Iran on its disputed nuclear program, analysts told Global Security Newswire.
He delivered his speech to the U.N. General Assembly as previously skeptical Western observers were growing increasingly optimistic about improving ties with Iran. Their sentiments wert sparked by overtures from President Hassan Rouhani, who took office last month pledging to win his country relief from harsh sanctions imposed on it because of its atomic effort. Iran insists the program is peaceful, but Washington and its allies worry it could help Tehran obtain a nuclear-arms capacity.
Recent statements by Tehran and Washington “should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement,” the president said at the U.N. General Assembly. He noted that the top diplomats from Iran and the United States are expected to attend a Thursday meeting to address the nuclear issue.
Analysts said Obama’s remarks hinted at a significant desire for a deal on the nuclear standoff.
John Tirman, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies, said it’s “to be expected” that Obama maximized his position by pressing Iran to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions that call in part for Iran to fully suspend uranium enrichment, even though Tehran has consistently demanded acknowledgement of its legal right to refine the substance for peaceful use.
Any nuclear compromise, though, would ultimately permit “some enrichment,” he said.
Tirman said any agreement would most likely also call for “control or disposal” of Iran’s most bomb-usable uranium, as well as would be “full-scope” international audits to ensure Tehran is not tapping its atomic assets for military ends.
None of the president’s comments on Iran was “actually new,” but their “context matters,” Brookings Institution Iran expert Suzanne Maloney said in a tweet. She noted that Obama established a “positive linkage” between the nuclear dispute and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Obama’s address marked “the most serious public outreach to resolve disputes with Iran since the 1979 revolution” that overthrew the U.S.-backed government in Tehran, Robin Wright, a senior fellow with the U.S. Institute of Peace, told GSN in an e-mail.
“Obama clearly sought balance,” she said. “His overture acknowledged past American attempts to manipulate Iranian politics, notably the CIA-orchestrated coup against a democratically elected government in 1953.”
“Now, she said, Washington is not out to change the regime in Tehran. But Obama also pointed out the many transgressions by the revolutionary regime, including seizing the American embassy in 1979 and backing extremist movements that have targeted many Americans.”
Israel has voiced open skepticism of Iran’s gestures toward rapprochement. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressed for Tehran to relinquish all its enriched uranium and halt all production of the material.
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