Zarif Editorial in New York Times

The New York Times continues to be the newspaper of record for the international community, and I think its readers were shocked this morning to see a letter from Mohammad Zarif, the chief Iranian negotiator, in the op-ed page. The letter takes the form of a plea as well as a defense of the Iranian position.

Zarif writes about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program and calls the situation a “manufactured” crisis. By doing so, he tries to absolve Iran of any complicity in its push for nuclear weapons, made evident by the use of a greater number and sophistication of centrifuges than ever needed for a power plant.

Zarif tries to frame the negotiations as a choice between “agreement and coercion” and addresses the turmoil afflicting the entire Persian Gulf region. His proposal for a United Nations summit to deal with the conflicts belies the number of troops inserted by Iran in other nations, most notably Iraq and Yemen. Zarif tries to frame the negotiations as a choice between “agreement and coercion.”

Zarif tries to frame the negotiations as a choice between “agreement and coercion” …

So what are we to make of this missive in The New York Times? How much does Zarif really believe what he writes?

It’s easy to dismiss these types of letters as propaganda, but I think some valid Iranian beliefs do peek through. It’s always a useful enterprise to try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and one does see an Iranian concern for security amid the affliction of sanctions. And a desire to re-enter the international community.

One hopes U.S. policymakers will read between the lines of this editorial and find useful leverage to conclude an agreement.