As the U.S. and Iran inch a bit closer to actually talking to each other at next week's UN General Assembly, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has jumped on board the trend of heads of government writing op-eds in American papers. Writing in the Washington Post, Rouhani tells readers that "we must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart." Rouhani also offers to help mediate talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition. The president's account tweeted out a series of quotes from his piece.
This is a message the newly elected leader, who answers to Supreme Leader and head of state Sayyed Ali Khamenei, has repeated to the U.S. in recent days. In his first television interview with an American outlet on Wednesday, Rouhani told NBC that his country would "never" pursue a nuclear weapon, and that he was open to talks with the U.S. that would include the possibility of allowing Iran to keep a verifiably peaceful nuclear program. That's an idea the U.S. is open to discussing, too. Spokesperson Jay Carney said on Wednesday that "the window of opportunity for resolving this diplomatically is open, but it will not remain open indefinitely." Going into his first General Assembly in New York, the new Iranian president is clearly going all-out with visibility to the American public: he's also promised an interview to CNN while he's in New York next week. On that trip, Rouhani be accompanied by the country's only Jewish member of Parliament, Siamak Moreh Sedgh.
In his op-ed, Rouhani sought to explain the intent of his country's nuclear program once more:
To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world. Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.
He also addressed the conflict in Syria, which should read as a touchier issue for his American audience here. Iran has been a firm supporter of the Syrian government through the years-long conflict in the country. In the current conflict, Iran has sent Syria weapons, and Iranian forces have travelled to Syria to fight on Assad's side. While Rouhani has acknowledged the use of chemical weapons in the conflict, he's declined to place blame. Here's what he had to say in the op-ed:
We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.
President Obama is open to meeting with Rouhani under certain conditions while he's in New York next week, though plans to actually do so are far from a done deal.