Israeili Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters/Abir Sultan)
It remains to be seen whether or not the United States, along with the rest of the P5+1, can reach an agreement with Iran. Already, though, the prospect of an accord has struck terror into the hearts of Israel’s leadership, various US hawks and neoconservatives, and not a few right-wing commentators, members of Congress and editorial boards.
Most rabid—shockingly so, really—is the commentary in Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard by Lee Smith. Smith, an editor at The Weekly Standard and a visiting fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute, calls Iran’s leaders a “gang of obscurantist thugs, anti-Semites, rapists, torturers, and murderers,” and then goes on to wish fondly that the United States had people like that. “If only,” writes Smith, “we had such hardliners as our moderates fear, hardliners intent on protecting and defending the United States from the depredations of moderates such as Iran’s.” According to Smith, the problem with Iran is that a vast conspiracy of ‘Western elites” is seeking deliberately to obscure the fact that Iran is run by extremists and fanatics, and he suggests that what he calls “Rouhani Fever”—that is, the belief that the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, might actually be a moderate who wants a deal with the United States—is part of “an informal campaign managed by a cadre of Western elites who, because they have anointed themselves stewards of peace, [are lying] to their own societies.”
But Smith is just reflecting the views expressed in the UN General Assembly speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who spend nearly the entirety of his address warning that Rouhani is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whose moderation is part of a dangerous deception.
Ilan Berman, writing in the extreme-right National Review, echoes Smith in another commentary, comparing Rouhani—“Iran’s new, ostensibly moderate president,” he says—to Lucy in the Peanuts comic, who every year yanks the football away from Charlie Brown, who goes tumbling. And he adds:
But for all those keeping score at home, last week’s events should be a useful reminder that, just like Lucy with the football, Iran’s regime can be expected to pull the rug out from under our feet when the opportunity arises. The only question is: Why do we, like Charlie Brown, perennially take the bait?
Never mind that nearly everyone who’s observed Rouhani, or talked to him—including President Obama—seem to believe that the new president reflects a political consensus inside Iran that a deal can be struck, especially if the United States is willing to accept Iran’s basic right to enrich uranium, on its own soil, under appropriate international supervision. For the hawks, including Netanyahu, that’s not good enough, since they’re demanding the complete dismantling of Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure, the handing over of all of its enriched uranium—none of which is anywhere close to the level of enrichment needed to make a bomb—and the closing of all of Iran’s research facilities.