Last week Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to dispel the growing perception of moderation for Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, recently elected as Iran’s seventh president began to gain in popularity after being interviewed on television by NBC’s Ann Curry. In that interview he appeared to be far more accommodating than his predecessor, Mahmud Ahmadenijad. The interview was well orchestrated by Rouhani and his handlers. Gone was the vitriol in which the United States was described as satanic, in which there were no threats to wipe Israel off the map, and in which there was a full denial of Iranian efforts to build weapons of mass destruction. Sadly, Rouhani was evasive when asked if he would reverse Iran’s policy of Holocaust denial. It was apparent moderation to which Netanyahu referred when he called Rouhani a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It is hoped that Netanyahu is wrong. After all, Ahmadenijad dressed in Western clothing but was a megalomaniac. Actions speak far louder than words. Rouhani may be the moderate he presents to the public. Rouhani is a Muslim cleric who dresses in the traditional garb of his country. He rose to power largely because of close affiliation with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini. Even if he is charismatic and easy going can the new president overcome the pressure of Iran’s theocracy that truly control the country’s direction?
President Obama, after speaking to Rouhani by phone, described their conversation as meaningful. Is Rouhani truly ready to make his country’s nuclear program transparent? Is his country truly not to explore developing weapons of mass destruction with which in the past they have threatened Israel, the Middle East and the world?
Rouhani claims to be interested in restoring peace. Will he ably end sponsorship of Hezbollah and Hamas, which the entire world recognizes as Iranian sponsored? In the last days a little girl was shot by terrorists in Psagot, Israel and was in critical condition as this column was written. Her town’s population has been temporarily expelled from homes as Israeli security forces conduct a home to home search for those responsible. Will Rouhani be able to relegate such tactics to the past?
Actions speak louder than words. Under the late Shan of Iran, Israel and Iran shared mutual benefits, engaged in extensive trade, and even enjoyed direct flights between countries. Will Rouhani be able to restore such peace?
Will Rouhani be able to stop the funding of Shiites in Iraq that contribute to the fledgling democracy’s instability?
If Netanyahu is right, Rouhani won’t even try. Hopefully Netanyahu is wrong.
It is not coincidental that in the Torah reading read this last Sabbath that the world Jewish community read about the Tower of Babel. That mythic tower is in Iran’s neck of the woods. Before judging the tower builders God went down to check out the tower. Only when God saw that there was no stopping them did God confuse their language and disperse them around the globe.
If that was good for God, we should be as determined in watching the new power broker in the region. God-willing, Rouhani will be the new kind of Iranian leader that he claims to be.