Divided American Perspectives on Iran threat

An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal added on Monday that the Iranian regime, including Hassan Rouhani, have responded to Obama’s soft diplomacy by declaring that Iran plans to make the rules for all negotiations. The article highlights a portion of Rouhani’s speech at the UN General Assembly which said, “The people of Iran cannot place trust in any security cooperation between their government and those who have imposed sanctions.”

These and similar statements imply that the regime expects still further concessions from the US even though it has already lowered its nuclear demands repeatedly. The Wall Street Journal quotes Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as saying that all of these diplomatic overtures are just giving Iran time to work on less advanced and less closely scrutinized elements of its nuclear program.

Persons like Cruz and Dubowitz are notably skeptical about the more friendly comments that Rouhani is well known for. But others, arguably including President Obama himself, are eager to take Rouhani’s charm offensive at face value. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper provides an example of this in the form of Saeed Khan, a Michigan University educator who was in attendance at a dinner reception alongside Hassan Rouhani before his speech at the UN.

Khan draws a number of positive conclusions about Rouhani’s leadership and the prospects for relations between Iran and the United States. But these are supported entirely by reference to things that Rouhani said in that setting, while trying to convince Western audiences of his honorable intentions. But unfriendly remarks could just as easily be gleaned from speeches that he has made to other Iranian officials. Disparate perceptions of Rouhani help to illustrate that it is important to draw conclusions based on more than his own comments.

For instance, in an interview on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, Rouhani stated plainly that Iran is against terrorism including that of the Islamic State and would welcome any action that helped to eliminate terrorist groups. But these statements are belied by the fact that Iran is still recognized by the US State Department as a leading state sponsor of terrorism, and is known to have cooperated with Al Qaeda offshoots and Iraqi insurgents, as well as helping to found and support Lebanon’s Hezbollah.