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With Putin’s Iran visit on the horizon, nuclear game proceeds apace

Click photo to download. Caption: The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. With Russian President Vladimir Putin's Iran visit on the horizon, Iran's nuclear game proceeds apace, writes Ben Cohen. Credit: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

By Ben Cohen/

The victory of Hassan
Rouhani in June’s Iranian presidential election has once again thrust the word
“moderate” into the center of the agonized debate over western policy towards
Tehran’s nuclear program—a debate whose latest iteration centers on the
implications of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Iran next
month. But what “moderate” actually means in this context remains unclear.

Click photo to download. Caption: The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Iran visit on the horizon, Iran’s nuclear game proceeds apace, writes Ben Cohen. Credit: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

If the various western
pundits and politicians who have embraced Rouhani are to be believed, this wise
successor to the hyperbolic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offers the best chance for a
political deal over the nuclear program in years. Sure, Rouhani recently
dismissed Israel as a “miserable regional country,” but relative to
Ahmadinejad’s frequent expressions of Holocaust denial and threats to wipe the
Jewish state off the map, that sounds rather, well, moderate. As Seyed Hossein
Mousavian, a former Iranian official now engaged as a Princeton University
research scholar, recently wrote, Iranian diplomacy under Rouhani can be
expected to adopt a “professionalize[d] tone,” which the U.S. should respond to
with a “series of practical positive

Rouhani is smart enough to realize that
winning the confidence of the outside world simply by sounding like more of a
statesman than Ahmadinejad is a darn good deal. And that is where the danger

For while Rouhani is certainly amenable
to talking, he is far less reliable when it comes to the outcome—a final,
transparent solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions—desired by the U.S. and its
partners. As with the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, western policy
towards Iran now places more emphasis on process—the simple act of sitting
around a table ­– than it does upon the actual results of such parleys.

What that approach ignores, frankly, is
the entrenched belief of Rouhani and his fellow mullahs that a negotiated
solution to the nukes crisis is not in the interest of the regime. In strategic
terms, Iran looks much stronger now than it did one year ago. Its policy of
actively backing its monstrous regional ally, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in
Syria, is now paying dividends, insofar as the brutal civil war there is
turning in Assad’s favor. Additionally, the crisis that has enveloped ruling
Sunni Islamists in countries like Egypt and Turkey has not been replicated in
Iran, where mass, sustained anti-regime protests have been largely absent since
2010. Most importantly, talks with the U.S. are not the only option available
to Tehran.

The last time Iran that took part in
talks about its nuclear program, in Kazakhstan back in February, did not,
unsurprisingly, yield any concrete results. During those negotiations, Iran
received a proposal that would essentially involve a suspension of its uranium
enrichment activities and greater openness towards inspection teams dispatched
by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA,) a body that has consistently
warned against the dangers of Iranian duplicity. In the interim, while western
negotiators have anxiously awaited a response that, so far, has not been
forthcoming, the Russians have gotten in on the act with a separate initiative.

The declared aim of Putin’s Iran …read more

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Posted by on July 29, 2013. Filed under Breaking News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.