The Iranian election of Hassan Rouhani is the ushering in of a new era of peace and transformation for the Islamic Republic, at least to hear the world press tell it, and the Obama administration is right on board. Unfortunately, it turns out that the politics of empty rhetoric is the same in the Middle East as it is in the West, and while Rouhani may appear softer and gentler, there’s nothing new coming out of Iran.
You could hardly blame Obama for jumping on the Rouhani bandwagon, what with the Iranian’s campaign slogan of “change and prudence.” It’s almost as if Rouhani attended a liberal buzzword training course in Foggy Bottom, not to mention looking oddly similar to Santa.
The State Department, for its part, is all too eager to believe their policies of engagement with the world’s most tyrannical actually works, especially after the catastrophe in Syria.
Those who keep their eyes on such things may remember the State Department’s new policy in 2010, after the blackout of “engagement” under Bush, to send an ambassador to Damascus. This was despite Syria’s refusal to cooperate with the IAEA. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “we’re putting an ambassador in Damascus so we can have the kind of direct conversation and engagement that we think is necessary in the region in the 21st century.” But that didn’t really work out so well.
But if the Obama knows anything, it’s that when you find yourself in a hole, keep digging. Now’s the time for the same sort of “engagement” with Tehran’s new president. Of course, the idea that anything has changed in Iran ignores the fact that there’s been no change in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, or in the Guardian Council which pre-approves presidential candidates before they go before the voters. But, in diplomacy, ignorance is bliss, and there may be no one more ignorant than Rouhani.
Take his UN speech, in which he referred to Iran as an anchor of peace in the ocean of instability that is the Middle East. Never mind Iran arming and training Hezbollah, and arming and training Hamas, and arming Iraqi insurgents to kill Americans, and arming Afghani insurgents to kill Americans, and the execution of political dissidents… Never mind these things, Rouhani assures us that Iran’s nuclear program won’t develop weapons, which would “contradict [their] religious convictions.” Exactly why this form of indiscriminate killing would contradict Iranian religious convictions, no one’s quite sure, but it sure does sound good on the world stage!
The West would be well served to greet the new boss the same as the old boss. Empty rhetoric aside, Iran has demonstrated none of the long-held conditions for engagement, but has promised their centrifuges will continue to spin. Iran gets that much closer to her nuclear weapon, and the West only ends up with radioactive egg on her face.
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