Yet, like the phantom moderate Assad, there is no evidence to support Obama's assertion before the U.N. that, "We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course." There was no free election in Iran. Rouhani has a hardliner background and once enjoyed close ties to the Ayatollah Khomeini. He has bragged about deceiving the Europeans over Iran's nuclear enrichment program, and was instrumental in hiding it.
Dear American People
Last month, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin wrote a letter to the American people that was published in the New York Times. It was full of sugarcoated half-truths, charming fantasies, and bald historical distortions -- and largely worked in portraying both Russia and Syria as voices of moderation and subject to unfair Western bullying.
Not long after, Rouhani copied that ruse by writing an op-ed for the Washington Post. His piece hit every American therapeutic chord imaginable -- from the sappy "identity," "win-win outcomes" and "for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations" to the overdramatic "Cold War mentality," "zero sum game" and "cultural encroachment." Rouhani sounded part local T-ball coach, part campus diversity czar and part peace-studies facilitator.
If it once seemed impossible that Iran could have sanctions weakened, avoid a Western pre-emptory strike on its nuclear facilities and obtain WMD, after Syria it suddenly seems likely. The model is now Assad staring down a blinking U.S.
For the Iranians, getting the bomb is now well worth the risk.
The upside was always undeniable. The West -- as in the case of its treatment of North Korea and Pakistan -- usually gives more financial aid to rogue proliferators than to nations that play by the rules. Without nukes, Islamabad and Pyongyang are hardly newsworthy. Neither would earn attention and deference from countries like China, India, Japan and the United States.
Even better for Iran, its nuclear Sword of Damocles will make life miserable for both its hated enemies the Israelis and its Arab Sunni rivals. The more a nuclear Iranian theocracy sounds unhinged with its accustomed apocalyptic and messianic rantings, the better it can protect its terrorist franchises.
It is old news that for Iran, the long-term advantages of obtaining a nuclear bomb have always outweighed the temporary downside of economic sanctions.
But what is new is the Syrian model that has excited the Iranians as never before.
"Game changer" threats are now seen as empty. Posturing as a "moderate" works. Sugary op-eds in American papers beguile the public. And Vladimir Putin is always ready to come to the rescue.
No wonder that Iran believes it can finally have its WMD and woo us, too.