My Word: The charm and the offensive

Consider what is more likely in the near future: World peace or Iran becoming a nuclear power?

By
October 3, 2013 22:50
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani . (photo credit: Reuters)

You’ve probably heard of the Truman Doctrine and the Eisenhower Doctrine. But there’s a reason the term “Obama Doctrine” does not sound familiar.

The current US president doesn’t have a doctrine. He doesn’t even have a strategy. At best, Barack Obama has tactics – policies determined by popularity polls, that lead him to zigzag from one side to the other, possibly endangering entire populations but keeping his Nobel Peace Prize safe. He got the award, after all, for simply being himself.

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At this rate, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could also find himself a candidate for the once-meaningful prize. He smiles a lot, at least on camera, and he knows how to give a good interview. To cap it all, Rouhani has opened Facebook and Twitter accounts, thus proving, apparently, that he is a modern-thinking, reasonable man of the world.

I’m not convinced. I won’t be convinced, in fact, until, for a start, ordinary Iranians are allowed to openly have Facebook, Twitter and other social media and not just the country’s leaders. That’s a very tiny step in the right direction. The direction of freedom and democracy.

I also didn’t find Rouhani’s now famous interview with Christiane Amanpour as encouraging as some of my friends. Rouhani, who was speaking in Farsi, was quoted by CNN as saying: “Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews we condemn.”

True, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani’s predecessor, couldn’t even bring himself to admit that the Holocaust had taken place, but Iranian leaders since the fall of the shah have traditionally at least pretended to offer full rights for their Jewish citizens while threatening to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

And permit me to smirk at Rouhani’s oh-so-reasonable-sounding: “The taking of human life is contemptible.

It makes no difference if that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim. For us it is the same.”

It might ring more true if Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas didn’t frequently carry out acts of terrorism and missile attacks – with the full blessing and financial backing of the Islamic Republic leaders in Tehran.

No wonder Rouhani, unlike Obama, did a lot of smiling this week. I almost laughed out loud – at the absurdity.

While the American president had to deal with a financial shutdown, his Iranian counterpart was basically assured of an easing of economic sanctions without any sign of changing his country’s race to gain nuclear weapons.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Obama’s predicament. I understand that he is tired of being “the world’s policeman.” But that doesn’t mean he should act the global village idiot.

For Obama has just strengthened Rouhani’s hand – a hand covered with blood. If you don’t believe me, ask the leaders of the Gulf states, if you can get them while they’re still on speaking terms with the West.

Given Obama’s flip-flop on Syria (where gassing children and other innocent citizens apparently no longer counts as a crime against humanity) and his move toward Rouhani, it’s no wonder that Arab countries under immediate threat from the Shi’ite regime in Tehran are considering their options. And they might find Russia’s Vladimir Putin a better bet for their purposes than the American president, who seems to have been so dazzled by Rouhani’s smile that he wanted to keep in touch by phone.

LIKE OBAMA, I, too, prefer compromise to fighting. But compromise and diplomatic solutions should not be confused with appeasement.

Rouhani’s ruse involves a great deal of passive aggression, a trait I always find sinister. I hate arguments. When other people walk away from vendors in a market as part of a bargaining ploy, I walk away to avoid the fight. But I’ll take a good, honest row to clear the air anytime in preference to backstabbing and meanness.

Many Israelis feel they have been cast in the role of party poopers. The world wanted to believe Iran is reforming and Iran wanted the world to believe it has changed. So everybody was happy – except those of us who realize what terror and destruction Tehran has already wrought around the globe and what more it could achieve if it adds nuclear arms to its arsenal.

The dots – splotches of blood – lead back to Tehran from all over the map.

And the world is not in good shape.

Rioting over fuel prices in Sudan at least saved us from a sight possibly more disturbing than Rouhani’s charm offensive.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir canceled his visit to New York. Bashir, wanted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, had intended attending the UN General Assembly. Leading up to his planned visit, there was some debate over whether the US should grant him an entry visa. There was not nearly enough debate on why the UN saw fit to invite him in the first place, although evidently he would have been in good company.

Iran is not alone. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. It is also a state in a precarious position, edging ever closer to civil war. Terror attacks are common.

Last month, while most of the world wasn’t watching, at least 78 people were killed in a suicide attack as they were leaving Sunday services at the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar.

And you can pretend, if you want, that the attack in the shopping mall in Kenya’s capital – in which more than 60 people lost their lives – had nothing to do with jihadi terrorists.

Just don’t ask why the perpetrators spared the Muslim patrons while shooting down the “infidels.”

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Islamist separatists killed scores last month in several attacks, most notably in a shooting spree on dozens of students sleeping in a dormitory of a university that – contrary to the Boko Haram separatists’ liking – has a Western academic curriculum. Elsewhere in Nigeria, a pastor was gunned down and his church torched.

At a meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Obama reportedly described Boko Haram as one of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world and reiterated his commitment to fight terrorism.

The Nigerian leader might want to prepare a contingency plan, however, just in case the US president changes his mind.

Forgive me the cynicism. And forgive me for finding Rouhani more offensive than charming.

It was clear to me what Rouhani was trying to achieve by baring his white teeth in a smile – and he succeeded.

Both Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fell prey to his charms, the former enchanted, the latter more isolated.

Netanyahu gave a polished speech – the sort he excels at – to a UN that was no longer listening. Unlike the American leader, he has a consistent strategy – aimed at preventing Iran from terrorizing the whole world – but he made some tactical errors.

Firstly, Netanyahu should not have ordered the Israeli delegation to boycott Rouhani’s speech. Secondly, he should have called his bluff.

Israel indeed longs for the good old days of friendship and trade with Persia.

It’s a much better option for all than war. Even now, the prime minister could reach out and invite Iran to talk. That would in itself involve recognizing Israel, as a sovereign country rather than a target.

Meanwhile, Rouhani has good reason to be happy – for him, the UN was an enriching experience.

Consider what is more likely in the near future: World peace or Iran becoming a nuclear power?

The answer should wipe the smile from the face of all but hard-core supporters of the Islamist Republic of Iran.

The writer is the editor of The International Jerusalem Post.

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