The Iranian President

With the Islamic Republic possibly months from an atomic bomb, they offer olive branches to the West.


By R James Towe
The United States was gleeful Monday that Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, made conciliatory gestures regarding the country's nuclear program (Link). The Iranian presidency serves at the pleasure of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and evidently, Mr Rouhani was echoing the wishes of the ayatollah. 

But at this late stage in Iran's nuclear development, continuing diplomatic maneuvers should be taken lightly.

The world has expressed grave concern over the intentions of the Iranian nuclear program for the good part of a decade. There has been plenty of time to reach an understanding, if one were likely.

Crippling sanctions have been in place for some time without results. This leads one to believe that yet another diplomatic effort may simply delay military action, allowing Iran to cross the nuclear finish line. When that day arrives, there is no going back. Iran will be a nuclear power.

The Iranians may sense through their own intelligence sources that a military strike is imminent, if not from the United States, then certainly Israel. The Israelis have secured use of air bases in Azerbaijan (Link), most certainly to make an attack on Iranian facilities not only realistic, but likely.

Iran has repeatedly insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, namely generating electricity for rural areas where service is unreliable or simply doesn't exist. The international community has offered solutions to storing centrifuges through Russian auspices. The Islamic Republic has long deflected such suggestions.  

The problem with Iran's public statements have been the contradictions. Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly denounced Israel and its right to exist. Translations have been debated as to whether he actually called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" (Link). Liberal scholars say it's all a misunderstanding and that Iran has no intention of actually carrying out an attack on the Jewish state.

Regardless of nuances in translation from Persian to English, all would agree that the relationship between Iran and the West is dangerously tense. If the U.S. believes, as do most of Iran's Arab neighbors, that the Islamic Republic with a nuclear weapon is unacceptable, then time is short for action. Unfortunately, it seems the time for diplomacy was yesterday. If Iran is allowed to complete its nuclear development, the region can look forward to a permanent war footing on par with the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War.