Call him the anti-Ahmadinejad.
In preparation for his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday (the same day as President Obama), the new Iranian president, Hasan Rouhani, conducted a diplomatic offensive of astonishing proportions, including an exchange of letters with Obama, network interviews, tweets and a commentary in the Washington Post.
Rouhani’s message: Iran is a responsible international actor with no intention of seeking a nuclear bomb. Subtext: No more bombastic denunciations of America and the West or Holocaust denials at the U.N. podium or other forums.
Skeptics will argue that Rouhani offers a change of style, not substance. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” However, while a dose of skepticism is healthy, there’s growing evidence that Rouhani is offering more than cosmetic changes.
Here are six reasons why this diplomatic push may have legs:
That said, it’s uncertain if Iran will do what’s necessary to convince the world it isn’t bent on building a bomb-making capacity, or that Rouhani will be willing to wait for sanctions relief until Iran proves its good intent.
Still, it’s clear that Rouhani is a leader to be taken seriously.