The new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani seems to have softened his tone towards Israel and, for the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the president of the United States has had direct communication with the leader of Iran. Does this signal a real change for the better? Can we really trust Iran? I seriously doubt it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having none of it, telling reporters on his way to America (and with reference to his speech to the UN), “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk and onslaught of smiles.”
Is this then just a smiling façade, an Islamic ruse to pacify America and the international community while Iran continues to develop its nuclear capabilities?
On the one hand, Rouhani shocked the world with his Jewish New Year tweet on September 4th, wishing “all Jews” a happy Rosh Hashanah. Who saw this coming?
Then, after initially sidestepping an interviewer’s question as to whether he denied the Holocaust, as his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad infamously did, he replied on a subsequent interview on CNN, “I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime the Nazis created toward the Jews, is reprehensible and condemnable. Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn.” (It’s important to note, though, that he reiterated that he was not a historian and therefore could not comment on the extent of the Holocaust, which means he could still hold to revisionist views.)
These are certainly extraordinary gestures by an Iranian leader, but there are still strong reasons for deep skepticism, including:
1) Although Rouhani is the president of Iran, he answers to the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and there is not the slightest hint that Khamenei has moderated his anti-Israel, anti-Western views. In fact, shortly after Rouhani’s CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, the hardline Iranian news agency claimed that, “American news channel CNN fabricated the remarks made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in response to the network's question about the Holocaust.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.