Beware Persians Bearing Gifts
Americans are an honest and a trusting people. Our word is our word, and we place a high premium on integrity.
We are psychologically removed from the byzantine ways of the Persian bazaar. A friend of mine once purchased a rug there, and the merchant was upset when he bought it at face value. After the deal was made, the salesman actually tried to negotiate it for more.
That's why I am so worried about the charm offensive that newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is currently embarked on. His timing is brilliant, as he is about to address the opening of the General Assembly tomorrow.
This Thursday, Mr. Rouhani wrote seductive words in the Washington Post. Among them: "Gone are the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead into turning threats into opportunities."
It would be so tempting to believe, if at this very moment Iran weren't sending over 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops into Syria to support Bashir Assad's brutal government, to help mercilessly butcher the opposition. Iran has also supplied Mr. Assad with military equipment and supports Hizb'allah which has been heavily involved in the Syrian fighting.
Mr. Rouhani also writes that "much of foreign policy is controlled by domestic policy." This brings to mind Andrei Sakharov's famous adage that "One can predict a nation's foreign policy by examining the way it treats its own dissidents."
As I write this, the Islamic Republic just sent out a press release that, as Mr. Rouhani flew to New York, he (coincidentally) released eighty prisoners. This sudden display of compassion eluded him for the several months he had been in office. Several hundred other political prisoners remain in the notorious Erin prison, and the Iranian candidates in the rigged presidential elections of 2009, Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, remain under house arrest.
When Mr. Rouhani writes that "we must address the broader, overarching injustices and rivalries that fuel violence and tensions", we know that he is using the old, tired canard of the centrality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the region, which has clearly been disproven by the recent implosion and internecine rivalries within the Muslim world. With the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which constitutes the largest voting bloc and dominates the United Nations, we know that will win applause.
But the most frightening aspect of all this is that Mr. Rouhani intends to seduce us into believing that his nuclear program, which he calls "central to our identity" is indeed, "peaceful." Mr. Rouhani will be arguing that it is insulting to one's national identity to give up the nuclear program. If the Iranian assessment of the American people is correct, and it likely is, many of us will be suckered into believing this outrageous claim.
As Ambassador John Bolton had said at an EMET seminar on August 28th, in the years between 2003 and 2005, Mr. Rouhani was in charge of the Iran's nuclear negotiations, he offered the Europeans a diplomatic opening, and has subsequently boasted on how he played them:
Hassan Rouhani says, in his own words, "The day that we invited the three European ministers [to the talks], only 10 centrifuges were spinning at [the Iranian nuclear facility of] Natanz... We could not produce one gram of U4 or U6 [uranium hexafluoride]... We did not have the heavy-water production. We could not produce yellow cake. Our total production of centrifuges inside the country was 150."
Rouhani continues: "We wanted to complete all of these -- we needed time." He actually called the Europeans "human shields" against American efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear program. He then boasted that after he took responsibility for negotiations, the nuclear project grew to 1700 centrifuges, and that "We did not stop (negotiations), until we completed the project."
Leopards do not change their spots. Mr. Rouhani had been a strong confidant and devotee of Ayatollah Khomeini, and true believer of the Iranian revolution. He is using the old ruse of playing the West over our desire to negotiate, which he has developed into an advanced art form.
As the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
The greatest shame, however, will be for all of us who will have to live under a much scarier world, dominated by a nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C.