Iran’s leaders signal effort at new thaw

The New York Times reports: A series of good-will gestures and hints of new diplomatic flexibility from Iran’s ruling establishment was capped on Wednesday by the highest-level statement yet that the country’s new leaders are pushing for a compromise in negotiations over their disputed nuclear program.

In a near staccato burst of pronouncements, statements and speeches by the new president, Hassan Rouhani; his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif; and even the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leadership has sent Rosh Hashana greetings to Jews worldwide via Twitter, released political prisoners, exchanged letters with President Obama, praised “flexibility” in negotiations and transferred responsibility for nuclear negotiations from the conservatives in the military to the Foreign Ministry.

“They’re putting stuff out faster than the naysayers can keep up,” said Gary Sick, an Iran expert with Columbia University. “They dominate the airwaves.”

Mr. Rouhani, preparing for a trip to New York next week for the annual gathering of the United Nations, kept up the dizzying pace on Wednesday in an interview with NBC News in which he declared that Iran would never “seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons” and that he had “full power and complete authority” to make a nuclear deal with the West.

There is plenty of skepticism in the West over the new tone emanating from Tehran, and Iran veterans have seen previous thaws in the diplomatic climate disappear seemingly overnight. Mr. Obama has spoken of testing Mr. Rouhani’s seriousness.

But Iran experts, citing the apparent end to Iran’s ideological taboo against direct talks with the United States as well as the apparent concurrence of the supreme leader, say that this new moderation seems different. [Continue reading…]

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