by Joseph Klein
Three days after being snubbed at the United Nations by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, President Obama made a hurriedly arranged telephone call to Rouhani last Friday as the Iranian president was heading to the airport to return to Tehran. This followed what Secretary of State John Kerry had described as his own “constructive” meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif the previous day.
Obama couldn’t wait to tell reporters after his call with Rouhani how optimistic he was at the prospect of new talks with Iran over its nuclear program. He looked forward to resolving this issue, which “could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
A twitter account in Rouhani’s name also expressed optimism, stating, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The message added that “We’re hopeful about what we will see in coming weeks and months.” Alas, the original message text on Rouhani’s Twitter account was deleted. It was most likely too hopeful for the hardliners back home to stomach.
President Obama congratulated Rouhani on his election and praised the supposedly constructive statements Rouhani made while in New York for his address to the UN General Assembly. Obama also reaffirmed to Rouhani his respect for Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but noted that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons was unacceptable. In his comments to reporters after the call, Obama said that “we’ve got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy, and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran.” However, he added that only “meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions” regarding Iran’s nuclear program could lead to a decision to ease the economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran.
Obama’s problem is that there is no real new leadership in Tehran, only a new figurehead. The real leader remains Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. He isn’t called Iran’s “supreme leader” for nothing. He is the ultimate decision-maker on the future of Iran’s nuclear program and on any rapprochement with the United States.
Rouhani is Khamenei’s errand boy to find a way to lure the West into pretend negotiations that will buy Iran more time to complete its development of a nuclear bomb and that will provide just enough bait to persuade at least some U.S. allies, if not the Obama administration itself, to lighten up on the sanctions that have been hurting Iran’s economy. Rouhani is an old hand at using negotiations as a cloak behind which the Iranian regime moved forward with its nuclear arms development program. As Congressman Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pointed out, Rouhani dragged out negotiations with the Europeans a decade ago as Iran’s chief nuclear point man. The Iranian regime used the time to get more advanced centrifuges spinning away:
“That’s been his past policy. What we need to do is make it very clear that we’re wise to that. We know he’s playing the same playbook that North Korea used to get nuclear weapons, to get out from under the sanctions.”
Rouhani himself has boasted about his successful tactics in using negotiations and temporary suspension of activities that the Iranians had already mastered technically as a smokescreen:
While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Esfahan, but we still had a long way to go to complete the project. In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Esfahan. Today, we can convert yellowcake into UF4 and UF6, and this is a very important matter. In fact, UF6 is what the centrifuges feed on; it is the feed material for centrifuges. Therefore, it was important for us to conclude that process… When we wanted to negotiate with the Europeans last year, we had something like 150 centrifuges, but today we have about 500 centrifuges that are ready and operational. We could increase that number to 1,000. We would not have any problems, should we decide to do so. We have made good progress in this area.(Hassan Rouhani, Beyond the Challenges Facing Iran and the IAEA Concerning the Nuclear Dossier, from text of speech delivered to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council in the fall of 2004 while Rouhani was still serving as chief nuclear negotiator with a number of European Union countries)
Iran’s secrecy about its nuclear program included its years of hiding the construction of an underground nuclear enrichment facility, a cluster of 3,000 connected centrifuges, until its hand was forced in 2009 by Western intelligence’s discovery of the site. And Iran’s secrecy continues, including regarding its Arak heavy-water production plant for weapons-grade plutonium as an alternative means of building a nuclear bomb.
Rouhani used his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 24th to try and set a moderate tone. Indeed, he used the words “moderate” and “moderation” throughout his speech. He even called for a new UN project entitled “the World Against Violence and Extremism.”
Rouhani repeated Iran’s long-standing position that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes and said that his country was prepared to prove its good intentions to the world through “time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” But he also repeated Iran’s demand that its right to enrich inside Iran “and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights” be fully respected. Iran’s “nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale,” he said. It would be “an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”
Such “illegitimate pressures” include the economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran, which Rouhani described in his speech as “unjust,” a “manifestation of structural violence,” “intrinsically inhumane,” and “against peace.” He also complained that “Propagandistic and unfounded faith phobic, Islamo-phobic, Shia-phobic, and Iran-phobic discourses do indeed represent serious threats against world peace and human security.”
Iran, on the other hand, is a peace-loving nation that eschews violence and intolerance, according to Rouhani. “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” Rouhani tried to assure the General Assembly in one of his more deceitful declarations.
To the contrary, aside from Iran’s potential nuclear threat, it is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with its tentacles spread around the world directly or through proxies such as Hezbollah. It is providing funding, weapons, training, and sanctuary to numerous terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a principal arm that the Iranian regime uses to support terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as well as to intervene in Syria on behalf of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Iranian clerical rulers’ entire theocratic ideology is built around Shiite fundamentalist extremism and violence. They believe that chaos is necessary to bring about the early return of the 12th Imam, the latest in the succession of imams believed by some Islamic Shiite fundamentalists to be the direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad and the carriers of his message on earth.
According to such believers, the 12th Imam will return just before the end of the world, preceded by several years of horrendous world chaos. Before there can be peace and justice under sharia law, there must first be war and chaos. The Imam will force people to convert to Islam or be beheaded, ruling over the Arabs and world for 7 years before finally bringing harmony and total peace under one world religion, Islam.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly issued a fatwah demanding that he be obeyed as the earthly “deputy” of both the Prophet Muhammad and the 12th Imam. In July 2010, this supreme leader is said to have claimed that he actually met with the 12th Imam.
Khamenei wants to see Israel, the “Little Satan” which he hates, destroyed as part of the process to prepare for the 12th Imam’s arrival. Last year he declared that “From now on, in any place, if any nation or any group confronts the Zionist regime, we will endorse and we will help. We have no fear expressing this. The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut, God Willing.”
Ayatollah Khamenei linked Israel and the United States, the Great Satan, together as the mortal enemies of the 12th Imam and declared through a spokesman in August 2009:
“We have to train honest forces that can stop the obstacles that may hinder the coming of the Mahdi like the United States and Israel.”
In February, 2011, Khamenei proclaimed: “We will never forget who the main enemy is. We continue to shout passionately: Death to America, death to Israel.”
So much for President Rouhani’s pledge of peace and moderation, given that Khamenei is the real power behind the throne. But his lies to the General Assembly did not stop there. He boasted of the Iranian government’s “reliance on the ballot box as the basis of power.” The 2009 “re-election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran’s president was a complete fraud, leading to massive demonstrations in the streets that the government brutally suppressed. The 2013 presidential election, which Rouhani won, was peaceful but hardly demonstrative of an honest “reliance on the ballot box as the basis of power.” The Guardian Council screened 680 registered candidates, approving only eight to run in the election. The eight approved candidates were conservatives not expected to challenge the absolute supremacy of Ayatollah Khamenei on all important policy decisions. Reformist candidates, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were barred from running.
Last week, while Rouhani was still in New York City, protesters gathered near the UN denouncing Rouhani as the “murderous moderate.” They pointed, for example, to his choice of Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi as Minister of Justice, who as deputy in the Ministry of Intelligence for years participated in the death committees responsible for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. Rouhani’s choice of defense minister, Hossein Dehghan, is also a hard-liner. He served as a commander in the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps and in its air force, and reportedly was one of the radical students who took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
If President Obama were truly interested in actions and not words, he would look at the real record of the sham “moderate” who is lulling him into months more of fruitless negotiations and of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to whom Rouhani is beholden.
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