The prevailing narrative in the Western media regarding the new president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is reminiscent of the optimistic assessment of Ayatollah Khomeini by the Jimmy Carter administration. President Carter's ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, said that Khomeini will eventually be hailed as a saint; President Carter's ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, observed that Khomeini was a Gandhi-like figure. Khomeini was seen by the administration at that time as a man of impeccable integrity and honesty. Today, of course, the gravity of this historic mistake and its consequences are self-evident.
Yet, we again are bearing witness to a similar self-deception as President Rouhani is presented to Western publics as a moderate leader possessing charm and humility; a man of vision for a new, free Iran who wishes to pursue a constructive dialogue with the West. This is another historic mistake in the making, the consequences of which -- a nuclear-armed Iran -- will be catastrophic not only for the Iranian people but for the region and the international community.
Tehran has done its best to reinforce the view that Rouhani represents a major shift in the strategic direction in the Islamic Republic. In a seemingly humanitarian effort, for example, political prisoners close to the so-called reformist faction of the Islamic Republic were released only days before Rouhani's arrival in New York for the annual UN General Assembly. Even Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently displayed an unprecedented tolerance of the United States. Aware of the West's deep mistrust of him and his role in the current stalemate over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, Khamenei announced that it was time for what he described as "heroic leniency" with respect to direct talks with the United States. Rouhani himself is quoted as saying that in its nuclear program, this government enters with full power and has complete authority.
The White House announced that President Obama is willing to meet with President Rouhani. President Obama noted in an interview with Telemundo that there are indications that President Rouhani is somebody who is looking to open a dialogue with the West and with the United States in a way that we haven't seen in the past. And therefore President Obama believes that the United States should test it.
Many in the Western media have convinced themselves that there is a genuine opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue with the arrival of Hassan Rouhani. Few, apparently, are willing to review Rouhani's statements, especially those made during his recent presidential campaign, which reveal the strategy of the Islamic Republic in dealing with the international community on its nuclear program. During the last presidential election, the so-called hardliners were critical of Rouhani's candidacy and accused him of being too soft on the West when he was serving as the Islamic Republic's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. The sharpest criticisms were aimed at his agreement to suspend all enrichment activities in what was called the Saadabad agreement.
In an interview on Iranian state television on May 27, 2013, Hassan Rouhani refuted the allegations that he had overseen the curtailment of uranium enrichment activities and in so doing outlined the strategy the Tehran regime had pursued, its results and the major tasks that he believes lie ahead.
Rouhani began by observing that the basic principle for the regime is to turn a threat into an opportunity. He pointed out that the policy during his tenure, under the supervision of the Supreme Leader, when he was the representative of the Supreme Leader (Khamenei) in the Supreme National Security Council, was to thwart the threats and counter the conspiracies of the United States. According to Rouhani, the United States wanted for Iran what he claimed the U.S. had done to Libya. He insisted that while the U.S. wanted the regime's knowledge in the nuclear field to remain incomplete and for the regime to surrender all that technical knowledge, the regime was looking for an opportunity to complete this nuclear technology.
Rouhani was quite specific in saying that the day the regime invited the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany to Tehran only ten centrifuges were spinning in Natanz. He specifically stated that, "We could not produce even one gram of UF4 (uranium tetrafluoride) or UF6 (uranium hexafluoride). We did not have heavy water. We could not produce yellowcake. Our production of centrifuges in the entire country totaled 150. We needed time."
Rouhani asserted that there were no agreements in Saadabad or in the Tehran negotiations. What resulted was called the Tehran Declaration. In the Tehran Declaration, the resolution was that everything should be halted. But Rouhani emphasized that "We did not allow it. We only halted productivity of those ten centrifuges in Natanz."