Here’s how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s U.N. speech struck five Foundation for Defense of Democracy scholars:
While a world away from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s primitive rhetoric, President Hassan Rouhani’s speech never managed to reach the American audience. Unlike Mohammad Khatami, Iranian president from 1997 to 2005, whose UN speeches engaged the American people and the US government, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhan alienated both by repeating perceived “crimes” of the United States while exonerating the Islamic Republic of any mistakes.
This shows that Rouhani was not attempting to find common ground with Americans but that he rather aimed to please developing nations, rising powers, and hardliners at home in Tehran. This is how Rouhani reciprocated Obama’s invitation to positive engagement between the two countries.
On one point however, Khatami and Rouhani are similar: Both are insignificant when it comes to strategic decision-making in Iran.
Obama came to the U.N. to preemptively concede that regime change is not our policy in Iran — punctuated by his conspicuous failure to utter one word of concern for the freedom and human rights of the Iranian people.
Rouhani came to NY to lure the leader of the free world into the humiliating position of chasing after him for a meeting — only to summarily diss the offer when it was eagerly tendered. And then he gave a defiant speech to boot that surrendered not an inch to U.S. demands.
Score it: Rouhani 1; Obama 0.
President Rouhani is a poster child of his clerical-fascist regime. For evidence, look no further than this speech. Short of the apocalyptic and often offensive rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani offered no real novelty. Iran’s elected president remains beholden to the third-worldist rhetoric of his regime. He showed no propensity to bank on the good will that Western nations expressed toward him and he rebuffed President Obama for trying to be conciliatory.
There will be no change in Iran’s posture, either on nuclear issues or on regional issues. President Rouhani’s speech should disabuse us of the notion that we can find an understanding with him on the strength of his supposed moderation. There is no moderation – and the sooner Western leaders acknowledge that, the better.
Reuel Marc Gerecht:
All in all, a typical — and for President Obama disappointing — speech from Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani played to his third-world Islamic revolutionary roots while trying, only occasionally, to borrow the language of Mohammad Khatami, without any of the former president’s intellectual and emotional sincerity. An easy victory awaited Rouhani in New York: just a little confession about past nuclear deception, just a bit of give on Iran’s “industrial-scale” enrichment. But no give at all.
Rouhani was with Rafsanjani when the latter established Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Iranian nuclear-science defectors gave the U.S. a good rundown on exactly what the regime intended. Rouhani — and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei behind him — have made it hard for President Obama to punt this down the road, to de facto surrender to the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic. Rouhani has refused Obama’s meeting because to an extend a hand to an American president, even one so forgiving as Barack Obama, was anathema. It would have most probably troubled him personally, and greatly troubled the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guards. So, it will be difficult for President Obama to turn this performance into an opening and a long postponement of Judgment Day. All in all, I’d give Rowhani a C-.
Rouhani is a master of nuclear deception and Iranian historical revisionism whose strategy is to get sanctions lifted while achieving the nuclear weapons goal to which he, Khamenei, and the rest of Iran’s Revolutionary elite have been committed to for decades. To do that, he will offer enough in the way of nuclear concessions to stretch out nuclear negotiations into next year while insisting on the right to enrichment.
By mid 2014, Iran’s nuclear program will reach the point of critical capability where Tehran will have enough operational centrifuges to break out or sneak out to a bomb in an undetectable way. As Rouhani approaches that point, he will let it be known that Iran doesn’t want a nuclear weapon, the Supreme Leader has a fatwa against such a weapon, and Iran will only develop a weapon if it’s threatened with continued sanctions and backed into a corner.
Rouhani will demand massive sanctions relief, which he will receive from an anxious administration desperate to keep Iran from a nuke. Then when the Iranian economy is stabilized and the oil starts flowing, Khamenei will give into his irresistible urge to break out to a weapon and test.
At that point, Khamenei and Rouhani will have achieved their objective of a nuclear armed Iran with a stable economy and regional dominance. The key to this success of strategy is to insist on the right of enrichment as nonnegotiable. Of course it has to be nonnegotiable for Iran: They can’t build a nuclear weapon without it.