The Region: The ‘Iran is now moderate’ joke

I have never understood why anyone expected any US action on Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian Sejil 2 missile 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian Sejil 2 missile 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I have never understood why anyone expected any US action on Iran’s nuclear program. Basically, there was never any chance the US would undertake any military action or allow Israel to do so, even if Barack Obama had never been elected president.
Here’s what was always going to happen: The US would impose economic sanctions that never had a chance of fully succeeding; too much cheating, among others by China, Russia and Turkey. Negotiations would fail because Iran would stall, play games and resort to trickery. Iran would eventually get nuclear weapons. The US would then adopt a policy of containment.
Yet that’s not what happened – Hassan Rouhani won the Iranian presidential elections.
Let’s review. Rouhani is a veteran national security official.
He was backed by the regime. The voters were not allowed to choose a real reformer, only a phony one.
And what happened then? “President Rouhani says Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.”
(But wait a minute, isn’t that what Iranian leaders have been claiming all along?) The Los Angeles Times applauded the release of 10 dissidents, saying “It’s Rouhani’s strongest signal yet that he aims to keep a pledge to improve ties with the West” – except he didn’t actually do it.
The story then circulated that Iran had renounced Holocaust denial. That turned out to be another lie.
Then there was Rouhani’s phony New Year’s greeting to the Jews. Rouhani also added a Jew to Iran’s UN delegation.
The message? Rouhani loves the Jews and wants to make peace.
Obama swallowed the bait, eagerly.
But note that Rouhani does not have a moderate record, and that meanwhile Iran now has troops in Syria. What suckers Americans are.
But no, it is Israel that wants to plunge the world into war. The New York Times writes: “Netanyahu Scoffs at Iranian Overtures, Setting Stage for Showdown With US.” It is Israel that is setting up a US-Israel “showdown” because America would understandably rather have a nice peace than a nasty war with Iran. Yet there is no indication in the article that experience has shown that Israel is likely to be right on this issue.
The Times writes: “Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, moved quickly to block even tentative steps by Iran and the United States to ease tensions and move toward negotiations to end the nuclear crisis, signaling what is likely to be a sustained campaign by Israel to head off any deal.”
This is a lie. Netanyahu cannot “block” an initiative and if Obama wants talks he will have them. And it is simply assumed that the initiative will move “toward negotiations to end the nuclear crisis.” Peace in our time.
Yet there is one more bit of poison. The reader is warned that there will be “a sustained campaign by Israel to head off any deal.” Israel will frantically try to head off an attempt to make peace! Bad Israel! In fact, it is obvious that several actors have good reason to claim a deal is certain and that Iran wants one.
Like [Russian President] Vladimir Putin on the Syria deal, it is Rouhani that gets an op-ed, in The Washington Post instead of the Times, to make his claim and be cheered.
Already there has been a payoff for Iran in a series of European Union court decisions which recommended the removal of unilateral sanctions against dozens of Iranian firms, including crucial shipping lines. The European states are eager to drop sanctions; there’s money to be made.
Rami G. Khouri writes: “The positive possibilities that could emanate from the escalating signs of a direct Iranian- American engagement are dazzling in their intensity and historic in their scope. Rarely in modern history has the Middle East region experienced such a hopeful moment as this, when one major diplomatic shift towards productive American-Iranian relations could positively impact half a dozen conflicts in the region.”
On what evidence? “Will Iran trade al-Assad?,” asks al-Ahram, at the same time as it appears Iran is actually escalating the Syrian civil war. “Syria deal holds a lesson for Barack Obama – talk to Iran,” says an op-ed in The Financial Times.
Reuters calls the regime a “centrist government.”
The Guardian tells us: “After years of seeing their personal freedoms and political demands quashed, young Iranians hope the efforts of the new government led by President Hassan Rouhani will open up Iranian society and restore the country’s standing on the world stage.”
On what evidence? About the only article reminding us that Tehran is a sworn ideological enemy of America that actively seeks to deceive it was Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert who has worked at the National Security Council. Speaking of an article in an Iranian newspaper, he said: “The article stressed that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s confrontational policies and reckless rhetoric had caused the international community to perceive Iran as threatening and dangerous. In that context, Iran’s quest for nuclear empowerment was bound to be resisted by the great powers. And cleverly manipulated by the United States and Israel, the United Nations censured Iran and imposed debilitating sanctions on its fledgling economy.
“The editorial went on to say that to escape this predicament, Iran had to change its image. A state that is considered ‘trustworthy’ and ‘accountable’ is bound to be provided with some leeway. Iran can best achieve its nuclear aspirations not by making systematic concessions on the scope of its program but by altering the overall impression of its reliability as a state.”
Iran no longer regards America as the Great Satan, but as the Great Sucker.
Beware of Iranians bearing gifts, and even more of Iranians that aren’t.
The author is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center ( His forthcoming book is Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale University Press).