Iran’s Moderate Talk May Not Lead To A Moderate Walk

Many analysts have welcomed Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani as a voice of moderation and reform. Even the Obama administration has expressed an “eagerness” to resume talks about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Speaking on CBS News’ Face The Nation over the weekend, President Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said he saw it Rouhani’s victory as a “potentially hopeful sign”

“I think the question for us now is: If he is interested in, as he has said in his campaign events, mending his relations — Iran’s relations with the rest of the world — there’s an opportunity to do that,” said McDonough.

Actions, Not Words
McDonough’s cautious optimism may have merely been a diplomatic tactic or an honest belief that change has occurred. The conciliatory words offered by the newly-elected president are no indication that they reflect a real change in policy, others argue.

“But hard evidence pointing to a meaningful shift in Iranian policy is nonexistent. Rouhani has stressed that Iran will not halt its uranium enrichment programs, but he has not specified whether it will enrich above 20 percent, whether the quantity of enriched uranium will be restricted or how he intends to reassure the West about his country’s nuclear ambitions,” reports Haaretz news.

International sanctions imposed on the regime as a consequence of its pursuit of nuclear weapons have had some impact on the nation’s economy, but have yet to weaken Iran’s resolve to build its nuclear capability.

UN Report Documents Iran’s Strategy To Evade Sanctions
One reason might be the success Iran has had in evading those sanctions, thus limiting the negative impact on its economy. According to a report by the UN Security Council (published by Turtle Bay), finds Iran employing a variety of tricks to evade those sanctions.

Some of the tactics employed have been to change supply routes, create front companies, and scour the farther reaches of the globe for “lower grade parts not explicitly prohibited by the U.N. Security Council,” reports Foreign Policy magazine.

Michael Hirsh posits that Rouhani’s moderate talk – a contrast to the belligerent rhetoric predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – may actually serve to divide the West, thereby protecting Iran’s nuclear program from additional scrutiny.

Writing in National Journal, Hirsh argues that Rouhani, who previously served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, “has proved skilled in the past at buying time by appearing reasonable and conciliatory, even as he, like others, has committed himself to moving ahead with uranium enrichment.”

Rouhani also led a mid-2003 interagency review of the program and served as the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator from October 2003 to August 2005.

[Note: There are numerous spellings of the name of Iran’s newly-elected president, including Rowhani and Rohani.]

On Syria, It Is The G7 Against Russia
In Ireland, Vladimir Putin must have felt like the elephant in the room – at least on the issue of Syria.

Russia remained firm in its commitment to seek a solution through the “political process,” while the seven other nations back supporting the rebels in a more concrete fashion, including providing arms and weighing the option of a no-fly zone. On Monday, Putin did agree to call on Bashar al-Assad to join the process, but still opposes any move to demand Assad leave office.

White House announced plans to increase by $300 million humanitarian aid to Syria, thus bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for the Syria crisis to nearly $815 million since the crisis began.

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