At this stage, a few months into the nuclear deal and Iran’s newfound “rapprochement” with the West, it’s more evident than ever that Iran’s image as “moderate,” open to the West, and a stabilizing influence in the Middle East, is little more than a façade.
But as Majid Rafizadeh pointed out recently on both The Huffington Post and Al-Arabiya, these days, Iran hardly feels the need to show discretion – to keep up the façade – when it comes to its regional hegemonic and ideological ambitions; now, it feels secure enough on the world stage to do away with the façade by launching ballistic missiles openly, publicly supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, and “galvanizing” its proxies to war (and, most recently, inaugurating a factory to mass-produce new explosives). These days, it is Iran that sets red lines, Iran that accuses the West of violating agreements and of fomenting regional strife, and Iran that paints itself as a champion of regional stability.
But Iran’s façade of moderation has begun to crack, due not just to its belligerent actions, but also to hawkish statements by Supreme Leader Khamenei that President Hassan Rouhani rushes to counter – and the world is beginning to notice. Accordingly, the media – possibly after treating Iran more leniently throughout the nuclear talks – is more often pointing the glaring incongruity between Iran’s words of “moderation” and its chaos-creating, terror-supporting, destabilizing actions.
Take the case of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent meeting with Arab states in Bahrain. Many English-language news sites covered the event, in which Kerry had to contend with tough questions on Iran and the danger it poses to the region. The coverage reflected the fact that not just the Arab states, but Western leaders and the Western media too are beginning to realize that, to cite David Sanger of The New York Times, while Iran “is observing the nuclear agreement to the letter, its missile launches, arms shipments to Yemen and involvement in Syria have, if anything, accelerated.” Some outlets, such as The Washington Post, have even demanded that Iran “pay a price” for its ballistic missile tests, blasting the Islamic republic for “aggressively” exploiting “loopholes” in the nuclear deal and trying to “create new ones.”
How much longer will Rouhani keep insisting that it is rapprochement and stability that his country seeks?