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August 22, 2013 12:30 pm

US Jewish Leaders Warn Against Speculating on Views of Iran’s New President Rouhani, Call for Focus on Nuclear Program

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

American Jewish leaders said on Wednesday that incessant speculation about the potential political views of Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani was distracting from the real issue of ending progress of the country’s nuclear weapons program.

In a statement, Robert Sugarman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Chairman and Executive Vice Chairman, respectively, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called on world leaders to focus their attention on Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and his close associates, as the true power-players in Iran, and not to be fooled by Rouhani’s “delay tactics.”

“We must continue to focus on the substantive facts regarding Iran’s accelerating nuclear weapons program and not the unproductive debate regarding the views of recently elected president, Rouhani,” Sugarman and Hoenlein said.

“Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, is the decision maker and only his views will dictate the future course of events. What should guide us are the words of one of the Supreme Leader’s closest aids, Ali Velayati, who said this week that Iran will never abandon its nuclear program.  This echoes statements by others in leadership positions whose statements belie the attempts to portray the new Iranian government as significantly different than its predecessors,” they said.

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Pointing to the latest developments in Iran, the Conference heads continued: “President Rouhani’s own record is instructive. As a negotiator he practiced the same obfuscation and delay tactics as he acknowledged in his book about his activities. The recent announcements indicating a new ballistic missile launching site, further development of the plutonium enrichment plant, reports of new facilities, and the installation of thousands of centrifuges in just the past months, underscore the need to continue resolute action as was the case with the 400-20 vote in the House of Representatives on additional Iran sanctions. We have seen attempts in the past to divert the discussion which failed once they were exposed.”

“We urge the leaders of all the countries involved to assure that we keep our eyes on the real ball which is the unabated drive by Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capacity,” Sugarman and Hoenlein said.

The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern. The views expressed by the Conference echo statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month to a pro-Israel congressional delegation visiting Jerusalem led by United States Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Netanyahu said that newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could not be trusted, despite the fact that he is perceived by some to be more receptive to negotiations over the country’s nuclear program than his predecessor.

“I know that some place their hopes on Iran’s new president. He knows how to exploit this, and yesterday he called for more talks. Of course he wants more talks.  He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium,” Netanyahu said.

Rouhani, labeled a relative moderate by some commentators when compared to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insists that he is determined to resolve Iran’s confrontation with the West over its nuclear program. Netanyahu, however, has made it clear he does not believe that Rouhani, who assumed the position of president recently after the eight-year tenure of Ahmadinejad concluded, is serious.

“[Rouhani] says, ‘I talk and I smile and I enrich uranium.’ This is unfortunately going on as we speak. Iran’s work and quest towards the achievement of atomic weapons not only continues, it continues unabated – it’s actually accelerated,” Netanyahu told the delegation.

Iran’s critics say that it has used previous nuclear negotiations as a delaying tactic while continuing to develop nuclear weapons-related technology. Netanyahu, perhaps the most vocal among them, agreed, telling the delegation, “Iran is determined to get the bomb and we must be even more determined to prevent them from getting it.”

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