The search, now 30 years old, for Iranian “moderates” goes on. Amid the enthusiasm of the latest sighting, it’s worth remembering that the highlight of the Iran-contra arms-for-hostages debacle was the secret trip to Tehran taken by Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s former national-security adviser. He brought a key-shaped cake symbolizing the new relations he was opening with the “moderates.”
We know how that ended.
Three decades later, the mirage reappears in the form of Hassan Rouhani. Strange résumé for a moderate: 35 years of unswervingly loyal service to the Islamic Republic as a close aide to Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei. Moreover, Rouhani was one of only six presidential candidates, another 678 having been disqualified by the regime as ideologically unsound. That puts him in the 99th percentile for fealty.
Rouhani is Khamenei’s agent but, with a smile and style, he’s now hailed as the face of Iranian moderation. Why? Because Rouhani wants better relations with the West.
Well, what leader would not want relief from Western sanctions that have sunk Iran’s economy, devalued its currency, and caused widespread hardship? The test of moderation is not what you want but what you’re willing to give. After all, sanctions were not slapped on Iran for amusement. It was to enforce multiple Security Council resolutions demanding a halt to uranium enrichment.
Yet in his lovey-dovey Washington Post op-ed, his U.N. speech, and various interviews, Rouhani gives not an inch on uranium enrichment. Indeed, he has repeatedly denied that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons at all. Or ever has been. Such a transparent falsehood — what country swimming in oil would sacrifice its economy just to produce nuclear electricity that advanced countries like Germany are already abandoning? — is hardly the basis for a successful negotiation.
But successful negotiation is not what the mullahs are seeking. They want sanctions relief. And more than anything, they want to buy time.
It takes about 250 kilograms of 20 percent–enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in August that Iran already has 186 kilograms. That leaves the Iranians on the threshold of going nuclear. They are adding 3,000 new high-speed centrifuges. They need just a bit more talking, stalling, smiling, and stringing along a gullible West.