Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is about to launch a charm offensive aimed at calming Western fears over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and hopes to “laugh all the way to the bomb,” Yuval Steinitz, the international relations, intelligence and strategic affairs minister, said on Sunday.
Speaking at the Institute for Counter-terrorism’s 13th annual international conference, Steinitz said, “If I read Rouhani correctly, I predict that in [the] near future, maybe at the start of [the] UN General Assembly session next week, we’ll see an offensive of friendliness and moderation toward the West, to influence Western media, public opinion and leadership in Europe and the US and to calm fears over a nuclear Iran.”
Describing Rouhani as “more sophisticated and smarter than his predecessor [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad,” Steinitz warned that the Iranian president plans to deceive the international community to buy his country more time to develop its military nuclear program.
“The centrifuges continue to spin. The heavy water facility [at Arak] continues to work. Make no mistake; Iran must be judged on its actions, not on its words,” Steinitz stated.
Despite the storm of instability rocking the Middle East, and the importance of other regional issues, Iran remains Israel’s biggest concern, he said.
“A nuclear Iran means a total undermining of the world order. It creates a new and dangerous world order, not now or next year, but for the next generations. This is a global game changer. Iran is closely examining the conduct of the West, the free world and the US, and it is planning its next maneuvers for the near future,” Steinitz said.
Turning his attention to regional instability, the minister said he believes Egypt will succeed in gaining stability and making a recovery in both economic and security terms.
He said he could not comment on the situation in Syria, in line with the government’s policy to lower Israel’s profile.
“But of course, if we are attacked or if there is a direct threat against us, then we will respond with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm,” Steinitz said.
The minister said that from Israel’s perspective, the US remains the uncontested leader of the free world.
“This is how it has been for the past 100 years and how it will be in the foreseeable future. The conclusion is that we must continue to tighten strategic cooperation between Israel and our friend, the United States. We must tighten economic, defense and intelligence cooperation. In all these areas, cooperation has never been closer,” Steinitz said.