The media remains excited over Iran’s softening rhetoric. Understandable. Still, facts remain more important than warm fuzzies.
Representative of the current sentiment, Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen recently tweeted that “most gestures coming from Iran” (in response to the CIA’s admission to involvement in the 1953 coup there – a particularly sensitive issue in Tehran’s view of Washington).
The softer tone from Tehran is intriguing, but this change cannot be equated with the substance of what’s being said. Certainly not when Iran’s new senior officials are very publicly bending over backwards to emphasize that the hoped-for change will be no more than one of style. More importantly, that they expect hard currency payment from the West in return for this.
For evidence, let’s begin with Rouhani. Consistent with the message he began conveying during the campaign, he recently tweeted that “nobody in Iran has ever said that we should put aside uranium enrichment. Enrichment will of our people.” He also emphasized that Iran would alter tactics, not principles.
Taking his cue from Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked at his confirmation hearing that Tehran “will not withdraw one iota” from its nuclear program. After taking up his new position, he reiterated this stance and added that the onus was now on the US.
Ali Akhbar Velayati back advising Khamenei after a failed presidential bid, also placed the onus on the West in this AP interview (despite the headline assuring readers exactly the opposite, that he “reaches out to West”).
Is the media listening to any of this?
Iran’s softer rhetoric is refreshing, but it is no substitute for compliance. The media should remember that the goal of diplomacy is to stop Tehran’s nuclear program – not improve its manners.