The new sounds coming out of Tehran are being well received in the West. Hassan Rouhani, the new president of the Islamic Republic, has been accepted as a "moderate."
According to Rouhani, his nation has never sought nuclear weapons, and has always been ready to talk over the nuclear crisis. To the Jews, Rouhani sent a Rosh Hashanah (New Year) greeting via Twitter, a stark contrast to the behavior of his predecessor, the Jew-hater Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Unsurprisingly, the Western media has been enthusiastically eating up these gestures. In Israel, however, there are loud warnings of a "wolf in sheep's clothing."
"Let us not be fooled by the misleading words of the Iranian president," stressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office noted that while Rouhani was engaging in a media frenzy, Iran's centrifuges continued to enrich dangerous amounts of uranium. At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words, said Netanyahu.
His Rosh Hashanah greeting notwithstanding, Rouhani has also marked himself as an opponent of the Jewish state. In a recent interview with NBC News, the Iranian head of state described Israel as "occupiers who brought with their warmongering instability to the Middle East." Asked whether he, like his predecessor, viewed the Holocaust as a myth, Rouhani gave a dodgy answer: "I am not a historian. I'm a politician."
It is important to point out that Rouhani does not act independently, and, like all Iranian presidents, is very much the puppet of the ruling clerics in Tehran. In an interview with Israel Today, Dr. Soli Shahvar, a leading expert on Iran and director of the Institute for Iran and Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa, highlighted this.
Shahvar, who was born in Iran, is convinced the mullahs were fully in control in Rouhani's election as president. "They put forward four very conservative candidates against only one who was considered a reformer. Had they wanted a conservative president, they could have nominated only one candidate. This setup encouraged voting for Rouhani, considering the wider context of growing international pressure and a failing domestic marketplace. They knew the election of a moderate candidate would lessen these pressures."
Rather than take the bait and reduce pressure on Iran, Shahvar is adamant the West must do exactly the opposite: "If you continue the sanctions and even expand them, that could mean the collapse of the so-called Axis of Evil in the Middle East."