Monday, September 23, 2013

Rouhani Launches His ‘Charm Offensive’

by P. David Hornik


It doesn’t take a genius to game the West. The West—and particularly its elite people who make or influence policy—wants to be gamed, to be convinced that there is never a need for military operations and one’s easy, luxurious life can continue undisturbed.

So the Rouhani charm offensive has begun. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president since August 3, on the way to address the UN General Assembly in a few days, coos to the West and, especially, President Barack Obama:
We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever….
This government enters with full power and has complete authority. I have given the nuclear negotiations portfolio to the Foreign Ministry. The problem won’t be from our side. We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem….
We do not seek war with any country. We seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region….
And his recent exchange of letters with Obama, says Rouhani, was “positive and constructive….It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future….”

The charm offensive comes at a time when Iran is hurting economically from the West’s sanctions, its monthly revenues from oil sales having dropped 58 percent while the rial plummets and inflation and unemployment soar. Could the charm offensive have something to do with a desire to ease the sanctions while making creaky promises to the West that it would be all too eager to accept?

No, it couldn’t be that. It must be that—after investing well over $100 billion in a nuclear program that provides less than 2 percent of its energy needs, voluminously proclaiming its intention to destroy Israel, sponsoring worldwide terrorism at a level unseen in decades according to the U.S. State Department, and installing at least 7000 new centrifuges since Rouhani was elected—Iran has changed!

To believe that it has changed one has to, of course, tune out some less pleasing notes than those Rouhani has been singing. For instance, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—who, as anyone with minimal Iran knowledge knows, is in charge of things no matter what nonsense Rouhani speaks about “complete authority”—told members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday:
Heroic flexibility is very useful and necessary sometimes but with adherence to one main condition…. A wrestler sometimes shows flexibility for technical reasons. But he does not forget about his opponent nor about his main objective.
For those who say Iran is gaming the West and hasn’t changed, those words about an “opponent” and a “main objective” appear to be a smoking gun—that is, unless one is determined to ignore the odor of gun smoke. And there were also these words from the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Ali Jafari:
the arrogant enemy [America] suffered defeat in Syria in all things related to military intervention as well as with the rest of its plans. They did not succeed with anything concerning Syria. We have nothing to fear from them here in Iran….
Not much charm there either, and again, it seems to bear out those who say Obama’s acquiescence to a transparently flawed deal on Syria’s chemical weapons has only boosted Tehran’s confidence and contempt for the West.

Unless, of course, one is determined that the words of those who say such things will not be borne out no matter what.

For that matter, to be sweet-talked by Rouhani one has to ignore some things about him, too.

Such as his being a dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong follower of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini;  the fact that he chaired Iran’s National Security Council during the years of the Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires and the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia; the fact that he boasts of having already gamed the West as Iran’s nuclear negotiator in 2003; and the fact that Iran’s June presidential elections were transparently manipulated by the regime to give Rouhani—the faux “reformer”—the win.

Obama, for his part, says:
There are indications that Rouhani, the new president, is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States, in a way that we haven’t seen in the past. And so we should test it.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, too, will be addressing the UN on Iran, and on September 30 will be meeting with Obama in Washington. On the Iranian issue Netanyahu has acted as Obama’s better angel, trying to apprise him of the reality of a deeply ideological, anti-Western regime that is working hard to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S.

It is, though, no secret that Israeli officialdom’s belief—or hopes—in Obama were hardly encouraged by his bungling of the Syrian issue. Situated where it is, Israel lacks the West’s latitude for being beguiled by Tehran. As Israeli Middle East expert Martin Kramer told the Wall Street Journal: “The chance that Israel may need to act first against Iran has gone up.”

P. David Hornik


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