Last week, world political leaders and pundits expressed much optimism after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered what seemed to be a conciliatory speech at the United Nations.
During the speech, Rouhani said that Iran has no intention of building a nuclear weapon and was ready for new negotiations with the West.
As Iran works to polish its image and warm ties with the United States in an effort to ease tough sanctions by the UN, the US and others, Israel has remained skeptical of Iran’s intentions.
Yesterday, at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the international community that although Rouhani sounded sincere, he was not to be trusted.
He called him a “loyal servant” of an “unforgiving regime,” a regime that has repeatedly threatened the existence of Israel.
While Rouhani headed Iran’s Supreme National Security Council between 1989 and 2003, he said, that regime killed opposition leaders in Berlin, murdered 85 people in a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and killed 19 American soldiers in Saudi Arabia.
Between 2003 and 2005, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, “He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smoke screen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric,” Netanyahu said.
He emphasized that Rouhani was a wolf in sheep’s clothing “who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.”
Although Rouhani praised Iran’s democracy last week, there is a “brazen contrast” between Iran’s words and actions, Netanyahu said.
He reminded the General Assembly that Iran continues to execute political dissidents by the hundreds and jail them by the thousands.
“Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric,” he said.
And although Rouhani assured the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, Netanyahu said it was only a “charm offensive” designed “to get the sanctions lifted.”
“Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?” he asked.
The political response to Rouhani’s speech before the UN General Assembly was swift last week.
Following it, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
In a short discussion with Secretary Kerry, Zarif said Iran is developing nuclear technology for “peaceful” proposes. (CNN)
It was the first meeting between high ranking officials of the two countries since 1979.
Then, on Friday, US President Obama spoke with Rouhani for 15 minutes by phone.
“I have made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations,” Obama said. “So the test will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.” (Washington Post)
Israel’s response last week was also swift.
Netanyahu said, “Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb. Like North Korea before it, Iran will try to remove sanctions by offering cosmetic concessions, while preserving its ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing.”
“Israel would welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons. But we will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons. And the world should not be fooled either,” he said. (Israel HaYom)
Israel’s Former Deputy Foreign Minister and ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon agreed, saying: “Rouhani tried to present Iran as a peace-loving nation and a human rights defender. We should not be deceived by the beautiful words that try to cover up the reign of terror in Tehran which tramples human rights, murders its opponents, carries out international terrorism, and tirelessly continues with its nuclear program that poses a danger to world peace and stability.” (Arutz 7)
Israel’s Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz compared Iran’s bid to the children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes: “We are the kid who shouts that the emperor has no clothes,” he said. (HaAretz)