Last month, Iran’s new president took center stage at the U.N. General Assembly.
Hassan Rouhani arrived in New York armed with a charm offensive -- waving to excited fans with one hand, while waving off skeptics with the other.
Unlike his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose hateful rhetoric made him easy to dismiss, the new Iranian president hides his dangerous views beneath a veneer of charm. Rouhani is like the emperor with his new clothes – cloaking himself as a moderate when in fact Iranian radicalism remains clear to the naked eye.
And yet behind the smiles, Rouhani is pursuing the same strategy he successfully employed for years -- making promises that he has no intention of keeping.
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Earlier this month, Iran and six world powers met in Geneva to discuss Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
The talks have been described as promising and many people are optimistic that this may be the dawn of a more peaceful and less provocative Iran.
We have been down this road before. While serving as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani earned the nickname “diplomat sheikh” for successfully running down the clock in negotiations as Tehran’s nuclear program expanded.
He even went so far as to boast, “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear conversion] facility in Isfahan.”
Rouhani is once again walking a tricky tightrope -- promising nuclear weapons at home and pledging diplomatic concessions abroad.
The international community has made it clear that Iran must cease all nuclear enrichment; remove its stockpiles of enriched uranium; dismantle its underground facilities; and, stop all work on its plutonium-producing heavy water reactor.
Rather than complying, Rouhani is providing diplomatic cover. Since the June election, Iran has installed thousands of new centrifuges and just last month, the new president declared that Iran will not give up “one iota” of its nuclear rights.
One has to wonder why Iran needs nuclear civilian energy when it has enough oil and gas to last for generations.
Allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons will alter the balance of power in the Middle East.
The region is like an active volcano with Iran behind many of the clashes erupting in the Arab world. Allowing the regime to acquire nuclear weapons would tip the balance and be akin to offering Iran the keys to regional hegemony.
And yet Rouhani has had the audacity to lament that people all over the world are tired of violence and that, “Terrorism is a violent scourge and knows no country or national borders.”
He would know. Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of terror and is responsible for murdering thousands of innocent civilians from Buenos Aires to Bangkok.
Duplicity may well be the trademark of this new president. He has described events in Syria as heartbreaking and offered to facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.
This would be comical if it were not tragically hypocritical.
Since fighting broke out in Syria over two years ago, Iran has provided financial, political and logistical support to Assad, while sending Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah militia to assist Syrian government forces.
Before a PR team set to work refashioning his image, Rouhani declared that Iran’s support for Assad is unbreakable and, “will not be shaken by any force in the world.”
If Rouhani meant it when he declared to the General Assembly, “Say yes to peace,” he’d be saying yes to ceasing all nuclear enrichment. And if he meant it when he declared, “Say no to war,” he’d be ending Iran’s support for the brutal regime in Syria.
Tired slogans without meaningful action should not be enough to gain the international community’s trust. Rouhani is intent on selling the world on Iran’s innocence; don’t buy the charm offensive.
Ron Prosor is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.