Thursday, June 01, 2023

We are all familiar with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. One of the central parts of the tale is when the wicked stepmother, in a fit of jealousy, decides that Snow White must be eliminated. She disguises herself as a pleasant old woman and puts a poisoned apple in her basket. Despite Snow White’s reluctance to open the door, the evil stepmother convinces Snow White to do exactly that. Snow White’s hesitation did not deter the evil stepmother, and she was successful in using her words, insincere as they were, to convince Snow White to take the apple. According to the story, when Snow White took a bite of the poisonous apple, she immediately collapsed to the floor.

After watching the latest developments involving Iran and the United States, I immediately thought of how the evil stepmother had duped Snow White with pleasantries and disingenuous platitudes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani certainly made headlines during his first trip to the United Nations General Assembly. Even before departing Tehran for New York he laid the groundwork for his moment in the spotlight on the world stage by expressing his willingness to enter into a dialogue with the U.S. about his nation’s controversial nuclear program. The world reacted with cautious optimism and expressed surprise at the sudden outreach from the international pariah that is Iran.

President Obama responded to Rouhani’s overtures by making the Iranian situation a focal point of his UN address. After saying that the U.S. “will confront external aggression against our allies and our partners,” “dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people,” “will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction,” and “reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the [Middle East] region,” the President reversed course and talked about how the U.S. is committed to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. Referring to the interaction that he envisions the U.S. having with Iran, President Obama talked about a relationship “based on mutual interests and respect.” The President’s decision to follow up his tough talk about terrorism and nuclear weapons with an open embrace of the Iranian regime was quite curious in light of the divergent nature of the two themes.

The “love fest” continued when Rouhani stated in his address that Iran would never pursue nuclear weapons and expressed hope that Iran and the U.S. could end their decades-long dispute.

A “relationship based on mutual interests and respect?”  Have we forgotten who we are talking about?

Iran has long been a thorn in the side of the United States and Israel. Iran’s immediate past president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, regularly called for Israel’s destruction and openly mocked the U.S. His outlandish and racist diatribes were legendary and he was widely viewed as a dictator who could not be trusted.

There are those who maintain that the Ahmadinejad era is over and that with a “moderate leader” now at the helm, perhaps the time is ripe for diplomacy.

The problem is that although Ahmadinejad and Rouhani are different personalities with different styles, they are inextricably linked with one another. Each of these leaders have the implicit support and backing of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei’s hard line approach to the Western world is no secret and has been on display for years.

With the power that he exerts over Iran and its government, it is reasonable to conclude that Ahmadinejad’s hate-filled and vitriolic tirades were sanctioned by Khamenei. Iran would not have embarked on its journey to develop nuclear weapons without Khamenei’s approval. Are we now to believe that Khamenei has had a sudden change of heart? Are we now supposed to believe that Khamenei is suddenly willing to abandon his nuclear pursuit via his new agent Hassan Rouhani?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier this week took to the lectern at the UN to call Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” had a swift and sharp response to Rouhani’s U.N. address. Calling it “a cynical speech that was full of hypocrisy,” Netanyahu noted that the speech lacked any practical proposal to end Iran’s military nuclear program. “This is exactly Iran’s strategy – to talk and play for time in order to advance its ability to achieve nuclear weapons.”

We cannot question Netanyahu’s reluctance to trust Rouhani and Iran. After repeated Iranian pledges to annihilate Israel, Netanyahu’s mistrust is well-founded. Iran has supported terrorism in countries around the world and sponsored the terrorist group Hezbollah. It has brazenly attempted to attain nuclear weapons in order to put it in a superior military position relative to Israel.

What is particularly troubling about Iran’s recent preaching about tolerance and understanding is the fact that it is empty rhetoric. It is one thing for Iran to say that it has had a change of heart. It is another thing for Iran to prove that it has had a change of heart.

Although Rouhani asserted that Iran would not seek to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities, he maintained that Iran would continue enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.

President Obama and President Rouhani may have had a historic telephone conversation that was meant to convince the world that diplomatic progress is being made in the stalemate between the two nations, but absent a show of good faith and a genuine commitment from Iran, how can the U.S. trust anything Rouhani says? Perhaps this whole turn of events is a shameless attempt by Rouhani to convince the U.S. to ease the sanctions that have crippled his nation?

In his inaugural U.N. address, President Rouhani stated that “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region.”

Forgive me for being skeptical, but until Iran stops enriching and stockpiling uranium that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, it will continue to pose a grave threat to the world.

Rouhani reminds me of the evil stepmother from Snow White. He is doing everything he can to sweet talk the U.S. and the world with the hope that they will eat his poisonous apple. Let us hope that the world is smart enough not to take a bite.

N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at www.PaulReverePR.com or at www.JewishWorldPR.com or follow him on Twitter: _troodler

By: N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.

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