The Iranian regime’s front man, Hassan Rouhani, was in New York for his annual propaganda address to the United Nations General Assembly session last week. During his New York stop, Rouhani availed himself of the usual media opportunities to pedal some pretty farfetched fantasies about the state of the Middle East and Iranian regime’s role in it.
One of his media stops was on NBC News in which he spun the story to Chuck Todd that the Syrian conflict must be solved politically.
Let’s let that word sink in for a minute. The leader of the Iranian regime, which spent billions of dollars to prop up the brutal Assad regime at the brink of its collapse under protests by the Syrian people, was telling the American people that Syria required a political solution.
This is the same Iranian regime that sent thousands of Hezbollah fighters, led by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders to fight alongside Syrian troops targeting rebel forces.
This is the same Iranian regime that gang pressed thousands of Afghan refugees into becoming mercenaries and sent them to fight in Syria.
This is the same Iranian regime that begged Russia to enter the war and save Assad from toppling as Iran’s forces were being exhausted by the years-long conflict. Russia’s entry included targeting and attacking of civilian locations and rebel military units not affiliated with ISIS or other radicalized Islamic militants.
Let’s also not forget that this is the same Iranian regime that supported Assad after he used chemical weapons to mass kill his own people.
The death toll in Syria is over 500,000 according to human rights groups with more than 11 million people displaced and becoming refugees.
“The rule of the ballot box and the rule of the Syrian people and the will of the Syrian people should be the sole determinant of the future of the country,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani also dismissed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s demand Wednesday that Syria and Russia ground all aircraft in the northern part of the country after the bombing of a humanitarian convoy threatened a precarious ceasefire. The Pentagon has blamed Russia for the attack.
It is an absurd contention by Rouhani since Syrian elections are as about as free as the ones engineered in Iran. Assad has never held a truly free and open election subject to international monitoring, much as Rouhani was elected in similar fashion as thousands of moderate candidates were kicked off election ballots in Iran.
Beyond Rouhani’s fanciful ideas of Syrian democracy, his real goal on this tour was to loosen the purse strings and gain access to US currency exchanges for Iran. These sanctions were put in place as part of the punishments for Iran’s dismal human rights record and sponsorship of terrorism and were not part of the nuclear agreement reached last year.
Rouhani and his boss, top mullah Ali Khamenei, have banged the drum loudly warning of dire consequences if the sanctions are not lifted and are pushing to get relief before the US presidential election takes place and the Obama administration, which has followed a policy of appeasing the regime, leaves office.
Even the New York Times, which has been a sympathetic supporter of the nuclear agreement, recognizes the difficulty Rouhani faces and the consequences the regime faces if these sanctions are not lifted.
“Scared off by penalties imposed by the United States Treasury Department, European banks have not provided credit for large-scale projects in Iran. In fact, because of the American regulations, it remains nearly impossible for ordinary businesses to transfer money to and from Iran — a problem that has been enormously frustrating to Mr. Rouhani, who promoted the nuclear agreement by promising a new economic era,” writes Thomas Erdbrink in the Times.
“Mr. Rouhani faces an election in five months, and his hard-line opponents are sharpening their knives. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has been hinting in speeches that he considers the nuclear deal to be a failure,” he adds.
That threat to walk away from what has proven to be an ineffective agreement anyway has been the pressure point on the Obama administration as it seeks to preserve its landmark foreign policy achievement at all costs; a pressure point that was again pushed by Tehran in getting the administration to approve licenses for the sale of new aircraft to Iran.
The U.S. government has given plane makers Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE the all-clear to deliver jetliners to Iran Air. Iran Air announced in January it planned to buy Airbus planes, but the transaction stalled amid a lack of approvals from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control rules. OFAC had to approve the license because a portion of Airbus planes are made in the U.S.
Iran’s plan to buy western planes has run into opposition in its own country and the U.S. Some U.S. lawmakers are trying to bar the sale of Boeing planes to Iran.
Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R., Ill.), a critic of Iran plane deals, said, “There is a still a long way to go and many more hurdles to overcome before Iran can actually take delivery of these planes—and thankfully Congress is committed to making the process as difficult and expensive as possible.”
The concern over the sale lies in the fact that the Iranian regime has often used its civilian airliners for military purposes in ferrying men, weapons, cash and supplies to it many proxies such as Hezbollah in Syria, Shiite militias in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen.
With this action and others, we can only hope the US and Europe will not be able to finish caving in to the Iranian regime before it’s too late.
By Michael Tomlinson