Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Obama says Iran can learn from Syria chemical crisis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

US President Barack Obama (R) meets with his national security staff to discuss the situation in Syria in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington, in this file handout photo taken August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Pete Souza/White House/Handout via Reuters/Files

US president Barack Obama (R) meets with his national security staff to discuss the situation in Syria in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington in this file handout photo taken on August 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Pete Souza/White House/Handout via Reuters/Files)

Washington and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—US president Barack Obama has revealed that he has exchanged letters with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in what could be a first step towards an improvement in relations between the two countries.

Obama, however, warned his Iranian counterpart that Washington’s delay of a strike on Syria did not mean that the US would drop the threats to use of force to stop Iran manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Obama made the revelation in an interview with the American ABC television network on Sunday, when he answered a question on whether he had talked to Rouhani. He said: “I have, and and he’s reached out to me. We haven’t spoken directly.”

Obama was eager to differentiate between the United States’ handling of the Syrian chemical weapons issue and the Iran’s nuclear issue. He said: “I think the Iranians understand that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue,” adding that “the threat . . . against Israel that a nuclear Iran poses is much closer to our core interests,” and that “a nuclear arms race in the region is something that would be profoundly destabilizing.”

Obama added: “My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they shouldn’t . . . think we won’t strike Iran” because there has not yet been a US military strike on Syria. He said the lesson from the Syrian chemical weapons crisis should be that “there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically.”

Obama rejected Russian president Vladimir Putin’s allegations that the opposition were responsible for the lethal chemical attack in Damascus on August 21, which the US maintains was the work of the Syrian government. He added, however, that he welcomed Putin’s diplomatic efforts in this crisis and the role he played in reaching agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Obama again welcomed the progress achieved in the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, saying, “It sounds to me like we did something right.” He added that he aimed to ensure that neither the Assad regime nor Al-Qaeda-linked parts of the opposition would never again possess chemical weapons.

The American president said that the fact that Putin was protecting Assad and that the Russian president did not share the same values as the United States on the Syrian issue. However, Obama added that this did not mean a confrontation between the US and Russia, because “this is not the Cold War.”

Washington had repeatedly refused to rule out military action against Iran if negotiations over it nuclear program fail. Iran maintains that its program is entirely peaceful, and that it does not intend to develop nuclear weapons.

In Tehran, international affairs expert Murtadha Fairouzi said: “The exchange of letters between Rouhani and Obama is not surprising and was expected from Rouhani’s pledges.”

Fairouzi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian crisis was a very good reason to start this dialogue, and diplomacy will continue because Rouhani is looking for a policy that would achieve a breakthrough, even if actual normalization is not possible at this time.”

He pointed out that the time was suitable for the American administration and the new Iranian president to improve relations, because Obama was in his second and final presidential term and is hoping to make a breakthrough, and because the Iranian people have voted for Rouhani in order to improve international relations and end the crises facing Iran.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More Posts

Follow Me:
FacebookGoogle PlusYouTube