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September 23, 2013 12:51 am

President Obama Doesn’t Understand Rouhani

avatar by Anne Bayefsky

President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Iranian government.

As President Obama would have it, Hassan Rouhani, the new president of Iran, is a moderate. The president is leading Americans to believe that, to borrow Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s description of butcher Saddam Hussein, here is a man “with whom we can do business.”

Rouhani told NBC’s Ann Curry on September 18 that President Obama had written to congratulate him on his election victory. Rouhani was “elected” in June — in one of those “elections” where 686 candidates tried to register, eight were allowed to run, and every woman was disqualified.

The Iranian president will be coming to New York shortly. He will deliver his maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 24, 2013. Two days later he will give a major address at the General Assembly’s “high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament.” That’s where all the nuclear proliferators will get together to declare that they know nothing about nuclear weapons and wouldn’t dream of pursuing them.

Rouhani presaged just such a speech when he spoke to NBC. He told Curry with a straight face: “Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.”

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His predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had a good run of it in New York during his eight-year stint as president. Year after year he was handed a global megaphone by the U.N. to say that there was no Holocaust, 9/11 was an inside job, and a Jewish state must be disappeared. The Canadians and Israelis would stay away. The Americans would eventually decide to walk out. The Europeans would think hard about how much antisemitism they should tolerate publicly, and some would leave. The General Assembly president would give him a big hug, and the majority of U.N. members, who remained in their seats, would give him a round of applause.

While in town, Columbia University would find it valuable for their students to listen carefully to a man who told them there were no homosexuals in Iran.

Nevertheless, the person who really runs Iran — Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — has decided a new tone is in order. President Obama is clearly desperate for any lifeline. Why not toss him a “moderate” Iranian that the American president can use to avoid doing anything serious about preventing an Iranian nuke.

In light of Obama’s extreme reluctance to use “unbelievably small” force — as Secretary of State John Kerry described Obama’s Syria plan — manufacturing Rouhani’s moderate credentials is proving to be a piece of cake.

President Obama is even providing the prompts. He is withholding from the American people the congratulatory letter he sent to Rouhani, even though it is the vehicle by which the Iranian is donning a cloak of reasonableness. Rouhani described Obama’s letter to NBC this way: “The tone of the letter was positive and constructive.”

The new tone was accompanied by Iran’s staged release of eleven political prisoners. According to the Guardian, that leaves 800 or more to go, journalists, lawyers, human-rights activists, bloggers, feminists, Christians, Bahais — and Americans, such as Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Bob Levinson.

Israel’s nuclear chief Shaul Chorev rightly described the change as modifying the “diplomatic vocabulary.” Even chief maniacal terrorist Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has joined the fun, announcing on September 17, 2013, that “nuclear weapons, we definitely do not pursue.” The Obama administration’s response has been almost giddy, with Kerry using language such as “very positive.”

The major glitch in the diplomatic whirlwind so far — other than the fact that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is as plain as day — came in the context of those inconvenient Jews. It turns out that you can take the Iranian president out of the country but you can’t take the antisemitism out of the Iranian president.

NBC’s Curry asked Rouhani whether he believed that the Holocaust was “a myth.” “I’m not a historian,” Rouhani replied. “I’m a politician.” Such a politician, in fact, that on cue he gave the Iranian leadership’s stock answer. Time and again, Ahmadinejad also insisted that more historical study was required to determine whether there was a Holocaust.

As for ridding the world of Israel, Curry asked whether it was true that “Iran wanted to wipe Israel off the map.” To which Rouhani replied: “What we wish for in this country is rule by the will of the people. We believe in the ballot box.” Ahmadinejad himself couldn’t have said it better. The former president repeatedly said that millions of Palestinians should all “return” to the Zionist entity, outnumber the Jews, and hold another one-off Arab election. Bye-bye Jewish state and any nonsense about a two-state solution.

Moderate Rouhani also talked about “pressure groups” (nudge, nudge, wink, wink: those Jews) influencing countries like America.

In theory, the antisemitism shouldn’t fit too well with all the lectures about values to which Americans have been treated over the past month by the Obama administration. Connecting the dots between refusing to acknowledge the Holocaust and using nukes against the Jewish remnants of the Holocaust, however, seems to be beyond the imagination of this White House.

Rouhani was also asked about freedom of information in Iran and answered that “the people must have full access to all information worldwide” — but with a small caveat. Access “should be based on protection of our morals.” What morals might those be? Perhaps the criminal-code provision allowing women to be buried up to their waist and then stoned to death for alleged adultery? Or, maybe, hanging homosexuals from cranes and leaving their bodies dangling in public places?

But never mind all that. The Obama administration appears positively breathless in anticipation of the New York rollout of “moderate” Rouhani.

So this week President Obama reduced his demand on Iran to a fraction of what is actually required to prevent an Iranian nuke. On September 17 he told Telemundo that Iran would have to demonstrate “that it’s not trying to weaponize nuclear power.”

Allowing Iran to move within a trigger finger of such weaponization gives the United States no capacity to stop it before it happens. We don’t even have the capacity to verify whether they have weaponized, once we allow them to get too close to it.

Israelis are charitably saying, publicly, that Iran is stalling for time. The truth is, President Obama is stalling for time.

Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her @AnneBayefsky.

This article was originally published by National Review Online.

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