Rachel Martin: After 34 years of open hostility, the United States and Iran appear to be on the verge of a historic thaw. Iran’s new reform-minded president Hassan Rouhani wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week that he wants to move “beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program, or its relations with the United States.”
Martin then introduces Trita Parsi of the Iranian-American council, who says that the Iranian PR campaign is “sincere” and that “reform-minded” Rouhani is “capable of delivering.” Parsi argues that Rouhani has been granted “flexibility” by the real power in Iran, the Supreme Leader Khameinei, and if he can “prove” that his softer approach will be successful in advancing Iranian interests, like removing sanctions, then we have a historic opportunity for rapprochement. In 2003, Parsi says, Rouhani and others made overtures to the US, which didn’t respond. Now we have another chance.
No one else is interviewed for this story, and Parsi is asked no probing questions.
On the face of it, Parsi’s argument is simply a non-sequitur. There is no evidence that the ‘softer’ approach is anything other than a PR device. There is no evidence that Rouhani’s ‘flexibility’ extends to a willingness to give up the development of nuclear weapons. Listen to what Barry Rubin wrote about this very subject today:
Rouhani is a veteran national security official. He was backed by the regime. The voters would not be allowed a choice of a reformer so they could only vote for a phony one.
Now what then happened?
“President Rouhani says Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.” But that is what Iranian leaders have always claimed!
The Los Angeles Times applauded that ten dissidents were released. But they weren’t even though the newaspaper said, “It’s Rouhani’s strongest signal yet that he aims to keep a pledge to improve ties with the West.” But he didn’t do it!
Rouhani said, “I have full authority to make a deal with the West.” But that’s what they said too!
They also had a phony New Year’s greeting to the Jews. Rouhani added a Jew to the UN delegation of Iran, no doubt to tell how well they were treated. So Rouhani loves the Jews and wants to make peace.
But note that Rouhani does not have a moderate record and meanwhile Iran now has troops in Syria. What suckers Americans are. They’ll still [be] talking about Iranian nukes on the day they get them and probably about Syria giving up chemical weapons, too.
Rouhani may speak more pleasantly than Ahmadinejad, but the scale of the Iranian nuclear program indicates that it is a major policy goal of the regime. It is hard to imagine that it would have gotten to the point it has, while defying international pressure and suffering (although not as much as one would like) from economic sanctions, just to dismantle the program as success is around the corner.
The Obama administration is jumping on the bandwagon for the ‘moderate’ Iranian president. Barack Obama loves the idea of solving problems diplomatically, without recourse to force. That is what he wants to happen in Syria, and now with Iran. The problem is that the Iranian regime, as well as Bashar al-Assad, have interests too, and they won’t give them up unless they get something that they think is at least of comparative value. What can the US offer Iran that would be as valuable to them as nuclear power status? The end of sanctions? Please.
A credible threat of force changes the equation. Suddenly, the nuclear path to regional domination doesn’t look so inviting. You might not get there at all, and you might lose other important assets along with your enrichment facilities, like for example your air defense system, missiles and launchers, etc.
But everyone can see that the US will not use force, that the calculation has been made that US interests will better be served by allowing Iran to build its weapons than to take the risks inherent in trying to stop it. So the US cannot make such a threat.
Iran’s charm offensive has made it possible for the administration to delay or even avoid the embarrassment of admitting this.
Israel’s calculation has had a different outcome. Although Israel does not have the capabilities of the US, it probably can put a big dent in Iran’s program — and in other stuff that the regime does not want to lose. Israel will suffer in the process, but its leadership believes that if Iran does get the bomb, the chances that it will use it are too great to ignore.
The problem is that the US strongly opposes an Israeli attack. Iran has threatened that it would retaliate against US interests if Israel strikes, which is one reason. Another is that it would mess up the carefully nurtured impression that the administration’s foreign policy is actually succeeding in the Mideast.
Israel is therefore in the uncomfortable position that it must act against Iran, and do it against the will of the US, which has already vetoed a planned Israeli attack.
Talk about “daylight” between the US and Israel!