Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The recently-elected President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is starting to sound like a mediator. Today Rouhani published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, in which he said the following: 

The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities. . . . 

In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives. In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable.

Perhaps the diplomatic breakthrough achieved this past week on removing chemical weapons from Syria is only the prelude to an even bigger breakthrough: moving toward improved relations with Iran. If so, this olive branch from Iran should be given at least as much attention as the posturing op-ed piece from Russia’s President Putin in last week’s New York Times. (see my prior post) We know that President Obama, while tightening sanctions on Iran and making clear that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, has also been interested in opening a dialogue with Iran at least since he expressed a willingness to do so in the 2008 campaign. Finally he may have a receptive negotiating partner.

Crisis and opportunity, indeed.