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Tehran Takes Manhattan: Takeaways From A Historic Week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) are seated during a meeting of the foreign ministers

The inaugural U.S. visit of Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, to attend the United Nations General Assembly is winding to close at this writing. It has been a banner week full of headlines, controversy, spectacle and schmoozing, and rather than recap the headlines or repeat the same analysis you've read els

What Matters Most

It's the nuclear talks, folks. Everything else was atmospherics, which is not to say insignificant, but ultimately the speech, the translation controversy, the interviews and the entertaining are all profoundly ancillary to the fact that Rouhani's NYC visit formally reset the long-stalled nuclear talks. The unprecedented ministerial meeting yesterday concluded with the announcement of an ambitious one-year goal for resolving the protracted crisis, along with the first meeting of an Iranian foreign ministers with his American counterpart in almost 34 years. (Note: it's not a precise parallel but the last similar meeting was that of then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski with Ibrahim Yazdi, then foreign minister of Iran's provisional government, as well as Iran's prime minister Mehdi Bazargan. That meeting helped spark the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the hostage crisis and the formal rupture of bilateral relations that remains radical Iranian students to storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran,

The Week's Least Appreciated Outcome

Most eyes (and headlines) focused on the unrThe re-establishment of a bilateral channel between Tehran

banner week full of headlines, controversy, spectacle and schmoozing, and rather than recap the headlines or repeat the same analysis

The Week's Second Least Appreciated Outcome

I think it's fair to say that Rouhani succeeded in largely squelching at least one of the two main areas of skepticism surrounding his election, his presidency and his bid to reorient Iran's approach to the world. In the run-up to the visit, the questions I received most frequently were: is this real? and does Rouhani have the authority to make good on his rhetoric?

 

What Matters Most

It's the nuclear talks, folks. Everything else was atmospherics, which is not to say insignificant, but ultimately the speech, the translation controversy, the interviews and the entertaining are all profoundly ancillary to the fact that Rouhani's NYC visit formally reset the long-stalled nuclear talks. The unprecedented ministerial meeting yesterday concluded with the announcement of an ambitious one-year goal for resolving the protracted crisis, along with the first meeting of an Iranian foreign ministers with his American counterpart in almost 34 years. (Note: it's not a precise parallel but the last similar meeting was that of then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski with Sadeq Qotbzadeh, then foreign minister of Iran's provisional government

 

The Speeches: A Stumble And A Recovery

Rouhani's debut speech at the UN General Assembly was widely panned, and deservedly so. Perhaps his meandering sequel seemed to do better; September 26th speech on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement

Rouhani On The Holocaust: Did He Or Didn't He? 

Slate

Transcript on Rouhani website 

Fars News report

Flooding The Battlefield

The Iranian team implemented a mostly masterful media strategy that began with the Twitter diplomacy, amplified with dueling opeds by Rouhani and former president Mohammad Khatami in US and UK newspapers, and culminated in what seemed like total domination of broadcast media, including high-profile interviews on NBC, CNN, and PBS (Charlie Rose.)

CNN interview video and transcript

Charlie Rose interview

CFR: read the transcript or watch the audio 

Best Commentary On The Week's News?

Who else, but Jon Stewart, with a brilliant riff on "I'm not a historian" and "Persiastroika."