The new President of Iran, the cleric Mr. Rowhani, accompanied Ayatollah Khomeini into exile in France in 1978, while they were finalizing the overthrow of the Shah. It’s all that needs to be known about Mr. Rowhani. He was then, and has been ever since, a front-line defender of the Islamic Republic. For front-line read hard-line. The positions he has held on the various governing councils compromise him fully. He has been recorded making death threats, boasting that Iran cheats the West with its nuclear program and will get away with it. His election as president is anyhow a political conjuring trick. Iran is a dictatorship. Power is in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and he vetted the candidates who stood for the office of president — whose function anyhow is only to implement the Supreme Leader’s policies. The voice is Mr. Rowhani’s but the thought is the Ayatollah’s.
Lo and behold! Mr. Rowhani’s qualification is that he replaces Mr. Ahmadinejad. He talks more courteously, and some of his words may be interpreted as soothing. Useful idiots in Britain like former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw fantasize that everything will now be all right if only we make sure to give the Iranians whatever they ask for. The New York Times of course greets Mr. Rowhani as a moderate.
Time was when Stalin had to be helped because his enemies might dislodge him. The Foreign Office did not want to upset Hitler for fear of letting Goebbels take over. Andropov had butchered the Hungarian revolution but drank whisky and so had to be forgiven. Mr. Rowhani, it is amazing to read, is another Gorbachev, oh yes, a reformer.
The fact is that these dictators wish us ill. Propitiating them, the swarms of useful idiots are trying to postpone the day when we have to defend ourselves. The Iranians know this, and they play on it with a brilliance that we are unable to match. There is not the slightest chance that Iran will compromise its nuclear program or allow Syria to slip away. How pleased they must be in Tehran to be thought of as moderates, but how comic they must find it.