Yesterday, Ann Curry, former reporter for the Today Show, sat down with new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani for his first interview with the American press since his election. The interview aired on NBC Nightly News last night, and other portions aired on the TODAY show this morning.
Curry had several bold questions to ask President Rouhani, especially since tensions between Iran and the US have only increased in recent years. Perhaps the most important question of the night had to deal with Iran's nuclear weapons program. Since the events of 9/11, the United States has increased the pressure on Iran to divulge all information pertaining to its nuclear program. In an interview with Ann Curry in 2011, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly stated that Iran was only using its nuclear program for energy and that it had more than cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO). Ahmadinejad also proclaimed that Iran saw no use in nuclear weapons; Ahmadinejad stated that nuclear weapons had only brought harm to the countries that had them, and that Iran was a a country seeking peace, not war.
Yesterday, newly elected president Hassan Rouhani had the same message for the American people. When asked "Can you say that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon under any circumstances whatsoever?", Rouhani responded: "The answer to this question is quite obvious. We have time and against said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever... We solely are looking for peaceful nuclear technology."
Why American journalists ask the same questions over and over and expect different responses is still befuddling (they easily fit the definition of insanity as posited by Einstein). Curry did, however, ask a couple of more pertinent questions (They were not necessarily better questions, however.) When asked "Can you assure the world that President Assad will give up all of his chemical weapons?", Rouhani stated that "We are not the government of Syria. We are one of the countries of this region which is asking peace and stability and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction in the entire region." - once again reiterating the idea that Iran is against nuclear weapons and for peace.
Curry followed up this question about Syria with one concerning Obama's actions surrounding the Syrian situation: "Do you believe the United States, President Obama looked weak in backing off an air strike on Syria?" To which Rouhani responded: "We consider war a weakness. Any government or administration who decides in order to wage a war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace we look on it with respect to peace."
Perhaps that is why Rouhani plans to visit the United Nations in New York next week. Thus far, Rouhani has not ruled out a meeting with President Obama. There is much speculation surrounding why Rouhani has chosen to visit the UN. Most guesses point to the fact that Iran is still under severe economic sanctions due to their suspected nuclear weapons program and development. Since sanctions were handed down in 2011, Iran's oil production has dropped from 2.4 million barrels per day to less than 1 million today. During this time, the people of Iran have also pushed for more rights and freedoms.
With still heightening tensions in the Middle East and the ever-present danger of getting involved in another foreign conflict, this would seem to be the prime-time for Obama and the UN to reach an agreement with Iran and how it should handle its nuclear energy program. Iran has seemingly cooperated with all the sanctions and directions from the IAEO, so it is hard to imagine what else the US could want. However, now would be the time to put this issue to a rest and potentially strengthen US relations with Iran in the Middle East.
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