Monday, September 30, 2013

Iranian diplomatic charm is offensive

Is the current attempt by the new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, to charm his western critics truly offensive and false, or is there really something to it? Therein lies the question of the moment.

There is no doubt that from the point of view of rhetoric and public relations, Rouhani is a vast improvement over the former President Ahmedinejad. But, is this purely superficial, is Rouhani just covering the real Iranian intentions of developing a nuclear weapon and destroying Israel with a smoother rhetoric designed to lull the West into a sense of false security. After 10 years of fruitless negotiations with the EU and the IAEA over its nuclear programs and the application of severe international sanctions against Iran, that are finally having an effect on its economy, is Iran now working to reduce the sanctions without actually changing its policies or programs, or is there really a new intention by Rouhani towards moderation?

As far as I can judge from his speech at the UN and most of what is being said and written about the new situation, it actually is not new in any real way. First, we should acknowledge that Rouhani does not have the final say in these matters, he is merely the messenger of the true Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamanei. It seems that Khamanei had a falling out with Ahmedinejad because he was too caustic and extreme in his views towards the West. Now Khamanei has a more moderate-sounding and presentable representative. Second, we know that Iran uses dissimulation and lies to further its policies and there is no doubt that Rouhani's current smoother rhetoric cannot be relied upon. Even the US spokesmen have emphasised that they will wait to see the results of Iranian actions rather than depend on Rouhani's rhetoric.

In his UN speech not only did Rouhani criticize Israel's existence, but he also placed the onus on Israel to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and destroy its nuclear arsenal (what chutzpah). Yet there was none of the extreme rhetoric of Ahmedinejad, no public denial of the Holocaust, no call for the destruction of Israel, and no anti-Semitic barbs. PM Netanyahu will have a harder time this time at the UN painting Iran as the enemy of western civilization, he will have to tone down his own rhetoric to remain believable following Rouhani's slick performance. After they did not meet at the UN there was a 15 min courtesy phone-call between Pres. Obama and Rouhani, of which Netanyahu was informed in advance. Whether this presages a new and improved situation in the world or is merely a blip on the screen remains to be seen.


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