Is Iran serious? That is the question everybody has been asking for the last 24 hours since the new Iranian President went to the UN in New York and gave an interview to CNN.
A colossal outbreak of wilful optimism has followed from policy makers, ex-policy makers and media. This has been based largely on the fact that an Iranian President may have just acknowledged that the Holocaust of European Jewry occurred. Well huzzah.
For what it’s worth, President Rouhani didn’t quite say that. In the CNN interview he said that it was the job of historians to look at such things. And to the extent that he acknowledged that a ‘crime’ had occurred, Rouhani did so in order to put the Holocaust on an even pegging with the creation of the state of Israel. The official Iranian news agency is already insisting that CNN made up the bit about Rouhani acknowledging, let alone condemning, the Holocaust.
But the fact that this has been portrayed as some kind of breakthrough is a demonstration that certain people wish deeply to be fooled. Yesterday I found myself on the radio with one such fool, a Liberal Democrat peer who also happens to be chairman of something called the ‘Iranian British Chamber of Commerce’.
There was an example of something similar recently, when there was overwhelming excitement on the Twitter-sphere because it was said that the new Iranian President had used his private Twitter account to wish all Jews a happy New Year. He had not. Indeed it transpired that Rouhani does not run a private Twitter account. But there is something in this that is so typical of our age.
Once everything virtual is regarded as important, those things that actually are important start to seem virtual. Tweets and CNN interviews are mistaken for matters of the greatest import, and this allows everybody to ignore realities. Such as the fact that for 34 years Rouhani has been at the centre of an illegitimate revolutionary regime which carries out terrorism around the world and brutalises and represses its own people at home. Or the fact that the country’s nuclear programme is in violation of six UN Security Council resolutions (five of them unanimous) ordering Iran to cease enrichment activities. It ignores the fact that under Rouhani himself — among others — the Iranians have played a decades-long and consummate game of deception over their nuclear programme. In Farsi Rouhani has spent years preaching hatred of the West as well as boasting of his own ability to pull the wool over the eyes of Western nuclear inspectors. During his recent election campaign he boasted that during his period as Iran’s nuclear negotiator he did not suspend the programme but, rather, ‘completed it.’
But because this doesn’t often intrude on peoples’ social media consciousness they can happily ignore the whirring of the centrifuges, the hidden facilities, the internal repression and everything else that actually matters. Why think, let alone worry, about any such stuff when there’s a cute smiley clip of President Rouhani to be downloaded telling us what we want to hear?
Over the last 24 hours the question really seems to be the wrong one: not whether Iran is serious, but whether we are.Tags: Hassan Rouhani, Holocaust, Iran, Israel, Media, Nuclear weapons