Coalition of Unwilling Cannot Deliver

Coalition of Unwilling  Cannot Deliver
Coalition of Unwilling  Cannot Deliver

Airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants are a “psychological operation,” not a military one, President Hassan Rouhani told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired on Friday.

“It is a common threat for all of us,” he said. “And this requires a unison effort from all of us.”

“We need a vast campaign of operations ... the aerial bombardment campaign is mostly, I would say, a form of theater, rather than a serious battle against terrorism.”

Iran and the United States have found their foreign policies surprisingly aligned in the past several months, as both try to beat back the advance of the IS extremist group that have gained a foothold in Iraq and Syria.

While the United States has limited itself thus far to airstrikes in those two countries, Iran has sent military advisors to Iraq to help government forces in their fight against IS. Five Persian Gulf countries joined with the United States in a coalition to strike IS in Syria.

However, Rouhani said he would like to distance himself “from the word ‘coalition’ because some countries have not come together under the umbrella of this coalition.”

  Question of Syria

Asked about the Syria crisis, Rouhani said, “The army of that country was carrying out a battle against the terrorists.”

“(The countries seeking the ouster of the Syrian government) kept saying that these are opposition members and we will keep asking who are these opposition members who have preferred to take up arms so swiftly and so savagely and violent, reasons rather than resorting to talks and negotiations?”

“If the army of the Syrian people, the Syrian government, had not stood up and fought against terrorism,” Rouhani said, “who do you think would have been the victor today? Let’s assume no one would have rendered assistance. The victor would have been the same people that everyone is recognizing as terrorists today.”

  Nuclear Talks

Iran and the six major powers (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) clinched a landmark interim deal last November but failed to meet a July 20 target date to build on the interim accord to reach a long-term deal to resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program and extended the talks on the final deal until November 24. Iran’s main objective in the talks is to secure the lifting of sanctions.

That interim deal, Rouhani said, is “concrete proof that talks and negotiations succeed.” We must all accept that there is only one way and that’s the way of dialogue and talks and negotiations,” he told Amanpour. “This means that sanctions are an inappropriate tool. That means that threats are the wrong path.” Both Iran and its negotiating partners are discussing the issues with the “utmost seriousness,” he said.

“There are still differences of opinion. Some of these differences of opinion can be quite significant. But at the end of the day, we must all strive to find a solution and resolve this.” Even if a deal is agreed upon, various legislative bodies -- most importantly the US Congress -- would still have to approve the lifting of sanctions. Amanpour asked whether it had been fully made clear to him how difficult that process could be.

“That’s their own business, quite frankly,” the president said. “I do think that if the agreement is reached, it can immediately cease and melt away these sanctions.”