When President Obama announced in late November that a deal between the United States and Iran had been struck that would effectively halt Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, supporters of the current administration hailed the success of diplomacy. “Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure, a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” Mr. Obama declared.
Many at the time offered a different assessment of the president’s nuclear deal with Iran. It was deemed naive, short-sighted, and consistent with Mr. Obama’s penchant for seeing potential in the empty rhetoric of less-than-trustworthy adversaries. Time, and the Iranian government itself, is validating that criticism.
Following a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the intransigence of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani caused even the CNN host himself to characterize the Iranian nuclear deal as a “train wreck.”
In the interview, following a question posed by Zakaria concerning the dismantling of existing centrifuges, Rouhani emphatically stated that no such dismantling would occur “under any circumstances.”
The disconnect between what Obama administration officials have declared the Iranian nuclear deal to mean and what the Iranians themselves have articulated the agreement to mean, is both stark and disturbing.
It should really come as no surprise, however. Be it Afghanistan, troop withdrawals in Iraq, or the Iranian nuclear deal, the Obama administration appears as much enamored with pursuing popular agreements for the sake of having “achieved” them as it does with actually realizing the long-term national security objectives of the United States.
President Rouhani ascended to office having departed from the inflammatory rhetoric that defined his predecessor, Mahmoud Admadinejad. At the United Nations last year, Rouhani stated that, “Commensurate with the political will of the leadership in the United States and hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interest of warmongering pressure groups, we can arrive at a framework to manage our differences.”
He also promised that “peace is within reach.”
But Rouhani’s diplomatic verbiage notwithstanding, any clear-headed assessment of Rouhani’s actual willingness to work with the United States, in any way other than that which was in the best interest of Iran, could have been gleaned from a perfunctory analysis of his previous statements related to the United States.
One decade prior to having reached the nuclear deal with the United States, Rouhani, while acting as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, wrote in an article that, “The fundamental principle in Iran's relations with America -- our entire focus -- is national strength. Strength in politics, culture, economics, and defense -- especially in the field of advanced technology -- is the basis for the preservation and overall development of the System, and will force the enemy to surrender.”
Note that Rouhani did not refer to the United States as an international partner or even as an adversary. Rather, he underscored his belief that the Untied States should be seen as an enemy of the Islamic Republic and that any relations with the United States should serve to strengthen Iran’s geopolitical position, not undermine it.
Not to be viewed as a singular occurrence, or the proverbial slip of the tongue, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) compiled a list of Rouhani’s most inflammatory beliefs and comments, an understanding of which suggest a worldview unqualified to merit the faith being placed in it by the Obama administration.
Among WINEP’s findings was that Rouhani blamed the events of September 11 on the “wrongs and mistakes of American policies.” He also suggested that Flight 93, which crashed into an open field in rural Pennsylvania following the heroic efforts of passengers onboard, was actually “shot down by the U.S. Air Force.”
Additionally, Rouhani had previously conveyed support for Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the siege and takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and the belief that the United State’s relationship with Israel rendered a middle east arms race a near certainty.
Rouhani’s image as a reformer, hailed by the media and loosely based upon rhetoric belied by his past, should not have served as the basis upon which the Obama administration sought to ease sanctions upon Iran in the hope of gaining complicity in the pursuit of a diminished nuclear threat.
Rather, Rouhani’s past should have served as a cautionary warning sign that the Obama administration place less faith in empty rhetoric and more faith in hardened reality.