When he takes the podium at the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow, President Obama will be addressing a world that has profoundly shifted in just two weeks. Through the years of the war on terror, the annual East River convocation has been a cockpit of snarls, full of bluster and threat. But this week, the United Nations unexpectedly opens its 68th session with diplomacy ascendant, and the world body itself with startling new relevance.
Russia and the United States are pursuing an unprecedented partnership on Syria. China is looking to join in, as the UN Security Council finds itself the wheelhouse of crisis. Syria has gone from denying any chemical weapons to agreeing to catalogue its arsenal. On another front, Tehran has signaled a readiness to back away from nuclear weaponization, and, as a gesture of good will, has recently released high-level political prisoners. When Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, follows Obama to the podium tomorrow, he will likely show the world a new face of moderation. Rouhani and Obama may even meet, if only “accidentally” — a follow-on to their recent exchange of letters. Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators reportedly met again recently. Despite ongoing acrimony, the very existence of these talks resuscitates the possibility, long left for dead, of a two-state solution.