Iranian parliament backs Rouhani’s push for dialogue, Israel remains wary

October 2, 2013

Rouhani gets thumbs up from parliament, Obama cuts short Asia trip, and Nigeria’s economy is in danger ahead of presidential elections. Today is Wednesday, October 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Stamp of approval. The Iranian Parliament supported President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic push for open dialogue with the U.S. over his country’s disputed nuclear program during the U.N. General Assembly talks in New York. Of 290 parliamentarians, 230 signed a statement of support for the leader, lauding Rouhani’s portrayal of a “powerful and peace-seeking Iran which seeks talks and interaction for the settlement of regional and international issues”:

The backing from the assembly, controlled by political factions deeply loyal to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a further sign that Rouhani has the support of the Iranian establishment, though there are some rumblings from hardliners. Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, has yet to publicly comment on Rouhani’s trip… Inside Iran, even as conservatives fall in line behind Rouhani who secured a landslide election win in June with promises of moderation in foreign policy, there were signs that some feared the president was going too fast, too soon.

Last week, Presidents Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone in a historic instance of direct communication. On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency met with Iran over their nuclear plan. Though both sides said the talks were constructive, diplomats reported no real progress in resolving the standoff. The U.S. and Israel fear that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear arms, a charge Iran strongly denies. During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated concerns over Rouhani’s sincerity:

“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” Netanyahu said, referring to Rouhani’s hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose annual U.N. addresses were stridently anti-Western and anti-Israel. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said.

The U.S. Senate it likely won’t impose new sanctions on Iran until after another round of nuclear talks in mid-October.

U.S. President Barack Obama finishes a statement to the media about the government shutdown in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Pivot pullback. President Obama will truncate a scheduled trip to Asia in light of the U.S. government shutdown, cutting meetings with the presidents of Malaysia and the Philippines and calling into question visits to Indonesia and Brunei:

“We will continue to evaluate those trips based on how events develop throughout the course of the week,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. Obama was originally due to leave the United States on Saturday and return a week later. Not only must the president deal with the budget impasse and its effects, but he faces an even bigger crunch in Congress, which will put the United States at risk of defaulting on its debts if it does not raise the U.S. public debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the United States will exhaust its borrowing authority no later than October 17.

The Asia trip was designed to signal Washington’s continuing commitment to the region. Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned  that the shutdown, which started early on Tuesday and remains in effect, could harm U.S. credibility abroad.

A sign advertising the sale of a house is pasted on a wall in the Victoria Island district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Economy on the line. As campaigning heats up ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections, the country anticipates an economic hit:

Nigerian elections always cost the country billions of dollars and, often, many hundreds of lives, especially when they ignite ethnic rivalries or regional tensions between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south. This cycle could be especially costly, in terms of blood and treasure. A feud is bubbling between President Goodluck Jonathan and rivals in his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over his assumed intention to run for another term, which is distracting from vital economic reforms. A bill to reform the oil industry, which feeds 80 percent of government revenue, is stuck in parliament and unlikely to pass before the elections. Thanks largely to the feud, unofficial campaigning has begun almost two years early, so politicians will need to sustain spending on patronage for longer.

Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said he suspects an increase in dollar demand means politicians are money laundering to cover financial trails ahead of what looks to be an intense race.

Nota Bene: Russian authorities charge Greenpeace activists with piracy.


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