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November 18, 2013 4:35 pm

Jewish Agency’s Sharansky Asks if Iran’s Rouhani is the New Gorbachev

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Former Israeli minister and political prisoner, Natan Sharansky. Photo: Wiki Commons.

For Natan Sharansky, former Israeli politician, Soviet dissident, and current Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s global outreach feels all too familiar.

“Where have I seen this play before?” he asks in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that compares the new Iranian leader with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev.

“Suddenly a new leader arises. He looks different from his predecessors: warmer, more human. He speaks and acts differently… he elicits warmth in Western capitals, especially Washington. We mustn’t forfeit this opportunity, politicians and pundits declare…” and, Sharansky adds, those whose opinions differ are declared “shortsighted enemies of peace.”

“They remind me of the voices I heard—that we all heard—in the first years of Mikhail Gorbachev’s tenure in the 1980s as the new leader of the ailing Soviet Union,” writes Sharansky.

Much like Reagan, who “had long understood that lifting sanctions without any concrete evidence of Soviet reform was precisely the wrong way to proceed,” Sharansky advises that the best way to confront Iran’s newly softer toned leadership is to further tighten the grip on its economy, a tactic employed by U.S officials, despite moderate appeals, that ultimately helped precipitate the downfall of the communist regime.

“Yet here we are again,” Sharansky continues.  “Today, the Iranian economy is on the verge of bankruptcy. Today Iranian dissidents are rotting in prison by the hundreds or thousands, while a restive populace continues to writhe under the tyrannous yoke of a regime that has abandoned none of its aggressive aims, none of its terrorist machinations, none of its genocidal intentions.”

But, of course, Sharansky’s question is rhetorical. As an Israeli he is familiar with the Iranian regime intimately and holds little hope it will truly reform.

“Can Rouhani be the new Gorbachev? Hardly. But if it will happen, it can only happen if we help him as we helped Mr. Gorbachev—if, by fidelity to our principles and by steady, determined statesmanship, we help him to eliminate himself, his regime, and the evil they have visited upon their people and set loose in the world around them.”

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