Under-reported if not missing from coverage of the U.S.-led negotiations with Iran over its presumed nuclear weapons programs has been the nature of the Iranian regime itself. Instead, wishful thinking and myth making frequently displace journalistic—and perhaps therefore policy-making—skepticism.
For example, journalists too often refer to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “moderate.” This overlooks his career as a long-time regime insider and defender of its Islamic government.
As the Washington Institute for Near East policy notes, Rouhani endorsed the development and use of chemical weapons during the 1980’s and has expressed support for other violations of international law. These include the 1979 U.S. embassy seizure, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s 1989 fatwa or religious decree calling for the murder of British author Salman Rushdie and the importance of transnational terrorist groups to achieve Iranian aims.
Shortly before becoming Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator early in the last decade, Rouhani declared that United Flight 93 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks were “shot down by the United States Air Force.”
Focusing on a “moderate” Rouhani also overlooks the role of Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to Iran’s 1989 constitution Khamenei has the final say as “Supreme Leader.”
Ayatollah Khamenei—like Rouhani a student of Khomenei—has a long history of calling for “death to America,” which he regards as “the Great Satan.” For him Israel, also to be destroyed, is “Little Satan” and both nations should perish. Khamenei repeated these calls as recently as March—in the midst of the nuclear negotiations.
In a statement of regime priorities, Tehran’s funding for terrorist groups and propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad persists despite its faltering economy. The lengths—all the way to the Western hemisphere—that Iran is willing to go to achieve its ideological objectives were apparent in its involvement in the 1992 Israel embassy and 1994 Jewish community center bombings in Argentina, murdering 104 and injuring hundreds. The national security adviser and first secretary of the Supreme National Security Council during these atrocities? Hassan Rouhani.
Former Defense Intelligence Agency head Lt. General Michael Flynn noted in his June 10 testimony to the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees not only that “Iran’s stated desire to destroy Israel is very real” but also “Iran possesses a substantial inventory of theater ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as parts of southeastern Europe. Tehran is developing increasingly sophisticated missiles and improving the range and accuracy of its other missile systems.”
That is, first “Little Satan,” then the others.
How important is the Islamic Republic’s anti-Zionism and antisemitism? Like Hitler’s Third Reich, its leaders believe that a massive Jewish conspiracy underlies most wars. By such logic the Jewish state must be “annihilated.” Khamenei claims, “Zionism is a danger for all of humanity” and even in the United States “the Zionist regime is controlling everything.” By their psychosis we should know them.
Perhaps the best indicator of how Iran has and will deal with other countries can be discerned from the treatment of its own citizens. The mullahs regularly imprison, torture, and execute those who oppose their theocracy, or those it even suspects. The regime’s brutal crackdown on mass protests over the stolen 2009 election exemplifies its fear of reform.
In this too, can one weigh the worth of the regime’s word. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, claimed on U.S. television that Iran doesn’t jail people “for their opinions.” This while Amnesty International and other organizations have noted a spike in imprisoning journalists and citizens who dare speak out, and in executions.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocracy with imperialistic aims and a messianic, end-of-days-worldview. Even more important than news about the negotiations and the nature of any agreement is recognition of just whom the deal is supposed to be made with.
Durns is media assistant in the Washington, D.C. office of CAMERA, the 65,000 member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.