The media continues to obsess over the impressive style changes coming from Rouhani and Zarif. NBC‘s op-ed previewing the Iranian president’s upcoming visit to the UN General Assembly in New York raises some points that warrant discussion in this context.
The gist of the piece is revealed by the headline: “Is Iran coming in from the cold? Hints pile up as new president prepares for NYC trip.” The implied assumption – shared by numerous media outlets – is that Rouhani and his close associates are the new Iran, no need to listen to the others.
Let’s begin with Rouhani’s Jewish new year message: Fars News was quick to doubt its authenticity, quoting a top aide as saying the president had no official Twitter account. But as pointed out by EA World View editor Scott Lucas:
We believe this is pressure from Fars and the Revolutionary Guards to Rouhani’s team to back off from their moderate positions on Israel and especially Syria.
The Syria issue is critical to understanding the multiple layers that are the new Iran. Indeed, Reuters reported last week that Tehran had prepared a terrorist response to a possible US strike on Syria. Furthermore, merely a day after Rouhani’s benign tweet, Khamenei threatened the US – a far cry from his president’s tone.
A Huffington Post analysis by Ali Alfoneh put it all in perspective:
for now, Rafsanjani and Rouhani seem to have lost the battle over Iran’s Syria policy to the likes of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), sworn to support Damascus “to the end.”
The bottom line: while Jewish new year greetings are nice, media declarations of a new Iran should focus on the strategic issues close to the regime’s heart – like Assad’s Syria and the nuclear crisis.