With the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos drawing to a close, it’s a good time to review media coverage of the Iranian delegation to the high-profile conference.
Naturally, much of the reportage was devoted to “pragmatic President” Rouhani. The equation, as Reuters had it, was simple: president of economically battered state seeks to reach a mutually beneficial final-status agreement with the West while still appeasing the hardliners and clerics back home.
But the equation is clearly more complicated than that. If you add another variable – Syria – things get murky: according to the New York Times, both Rouhani and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the Syrian issue at Davos, but offered conflicting accounts showing that Washington and Tehran hardly see eye to eye when it comes to Middle East peace and stability.
In a recent editorial, the New York Times also noted the discrepancy between Rouhani’s “charm offensive” and the “ugly fact” of his alliance with Assad in an editorial saying that Iran’s engagement with the West depends not just on “adherence to the interim nuclear deal,” but also on a substantial contribution to regional stability (including ending the hostility with Israel!).
Add another variable, and it gets even more complicated: in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif appeared to cast doubt even on his country’s intention to adhere to its nuclear commitments under the Geneva agreement.
Bloomberg‘s Jeffrey Goldberg believes that “Rouhani and Zarif are busy trying, with intermittent success, to beguile the West into submission” – adding that “in the course of the latest iteration of their charm offensive, they’ve made some inadvertently hilarious statements.”
We can see his point. So why is the rest of the media still so upbeat on Iran?