In what might be the nearest that the West has come to forging peace with Iran after decades of hostilities, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday said at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) he was “encouraged” by the commitment of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani government to a “more moderate course,” underscoring that the path of diplomacy “must be tested,” in negotiations.
Mr. Obama also strongly reiterated the U.S.’ view on the role of the Assad regime in Syria in the chemical weapons attack that occurred in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21, saying, “When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly.”
On chemical weapons
He touched upon the worldwide consensus against the use of chemical weapons and said it had been “strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocated in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; and Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands”.
The U.S. President’s address comes close on the heels of pre-UNGA comments by Mr. Rouhani to the effect that Teheran had never sought and would never seek to build nuclear weapons and that he viewed the declaration of war by another nation as “weakness.”
To pursue peace
Mr. Obama appeared to reciprocate the desire for a genuine peace with Iran when he said in New York on Tuesday, “I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.”
He added that while persisting with the status quo might deepen Iran’s isolation, Teheran’s “genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world.”
The international community was closely watching whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani, who is also speaking to the world body later on Tuesday, would shake hands publicly but that did not appear to be on the cards after Mr. Obama’s speech.