President Barack Obama disavowed President George W. Bush’s designation of Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” and tried hard to find accommodation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2009, soon after inauguration, he offered direct talks with Iran but was spurned and ridiculed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his minions, including Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2013, Iranian oil exports dropped from 2.4 million barrels a day (bpd) to 800,000, costing the regime $70 billion, bringing Iran’s economy to the brink of disaster. As a result, Khamenei allowed a “moderate” Hassan Rouhani to become President.
On April 6, 2015, President Obama gave an interview to the New York Times. He opined that Rouhani is credible as an interlocutor. “What we’ve seen over the last several years, I think, is the opportunity for those forces within Iran that want to break out of the rigid framework . . . to move in a different direction. It’s not a radical break, but it’s one that I think offers us the chance for a different type of relationship, and this nuclear deal, I think, is a potential expression of that.”
On the very day the U.S., along with Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia signed the nuclear deal with Iran, an Iranian official, Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of the Iranian ground forces, was quoted by the Iranian Fars News Agency as saying, “The U.S. might arrive at some agreements with us within the framework of the Group 5+1, but we should never hold a positive view over the enemy. Our enmity with them is over the principles and is rooted because we are after the truth and our nation’s freedom.”
In the Islamic Republic’s dictatorship, it is doubtful that a military official would independently utter such "fighting words" without consent from the government of President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It simply means that the Iranian regime is signaling to its core supporters in the establishment that Iran has signed a deal with the “devil” (U.S.) on its own terms. It does not intend to establish a state of amity and friendship with the Obama administration, nor end it pursuit of hegemony in the region at the expense of the U.S., or abandon its nuclear ambitions.
For the Iranian regime, the July 14, 2015 signing of the nuclear deal with the P5+1, has accomplished what it set out to do with the “devil,” namely, end the sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy and in the long run threatened the viability of the mullah regime. Iran received acceptance from the U.S. and the international community, albeit, perhaps delayed by a decade, to become a nuclear power. It received an additional $150 billion dollar bonanza. Iran isn’t restricted from building Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or purchasing lethal conventional arms beyond eight and five years respectively, which the ayatollahs do not intend to comply with anyway.
Fox-TV reported on August 6, 2015, that Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani visited Moscow, meeting Russian leaders in defiance of sanctions, despite a travel ban and U.N. Security Council resolutions barring him from leaving Iran. Soleimani’s Quds Force is responsible for killing over 500 Americans. His visit to Moscow was clearly not for rest and relaxation; it was for the purpose of negotiating an arms deal. Yet, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2015, that “under the United States’ initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions.” That testimony, it seems, is not quite credible as are other Obama administration promises regarding Iran.
The Obama administration dubbed Hassan Rouhani as “moderate.” American administrations, it seems, obsessively divide Iranian figures as “moderates” and “hard-liners.” Yet, time and again, the so-called “moderate” Iranian presidents proved to be smooth-tongued outwardly, while inside Iran they permitted murders, assassinations, and imprisonment of regime opponents. At the same time they sanctioned international terrorism.
President Rouhani’s election in June, 2013, just like the election in June 1997 of President Mohammad Khatami, was influenced by the impact of Western sanctions on Iran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved a candidate that could “soften” the West to end the sanctions against Iran. Rouhani, like Khatami, was hailed as a “moderate,” who smiled pleasantly to Western cameras. Khatami’s gimmick was the “dialogue of civilizations,” which greatly impressed the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration, much like the Obama administration's eagerness to deal with Rouhani, sought dialogue with Khatami’s Iran. Some sanctions were lifted, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright extended an official apology to Iran for the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that deposed Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq.
While Western policymakers were gushing over Khatami, brutal assaults on dissidents and opposition leaders took place in Iran. A dozen writers and political leaders were murdered between 1997 and 1999, but that did not end the love affair between the Clinton administration and the “moderate” president Khatami. In 2002, during Khatami’s presidency, dissidents belonging to the national Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) exposed Iran’s secret uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz and the heavy water facility in Arak.
In a Jerusalem Post article titled Rouhani Is No Moderate When It Comes to Human Rights (5/19/2014), Irwin Cutler, former Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General wrote: “A number of human rights abuses in Iran have continued unabated – or even intensified under Rouhani’s 'moderate' presidency.” Cutler recalled that when the U.S. negotiated an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, it did not turn a blind eye on the USSR’s human right abuses. He stated, “The systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed – if not sanitized – by the (P5+1) preemptive international focus on the nuclear issue.”
Addressing the UN General Assembly on October 1, 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: “Presidents of Iran have come and gone. Some presidents were considered moderates, others, hard-liners. But they have all served that same unforgiving creed, that same unforgiving regime, that creed that is espoused and enforced by the real power in Iran, the dictator known as the supreme leader, first Ayatollah Khomeini, and now Ayatollah Khamenei.”
Netanyahu went on to say, “Rouhani was, moreover, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. As such, he masterminded the strategy that enabled Iran to advance its nuclear program behind the smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.” Netanyahu pointed out that what made Rouhani acceptable by Ayatollah Khamenei over 700 other candidates was his role as head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (1989-2003). During that time the regime gunned down opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant, murdered 85 in the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, and killed 19 American soldiers by blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. During his recent election campaign, Rouhani reminded the “hard-liners” in Iran’s ruling class that as the national Security advisor, he increased Iran’s centrifuges from 300 to 1,500.
The Obama administration must not be guided by such false notions as “moderates” and “hard-liners.” Whether it is the “hard-liner" Ahmadinejad, or the “moderate” Rouhani, both are poised to advance Iran’s policy goals. These include “death to America” not only as chants in regime-organized rallies, but as policies that seek to destroy America’s interests and influence in the Middle East, while pursuing hegemony in the region. The nuclear deal is a “victory for Iran” as President Rouhani put it. For the future American generations, however, the nuclear deal with the “moderate” Rouhani is likely to turn into a nightmare.