Charles Krauthammer: The Iranian 'moderate'
Three decades later, the mirage reappears in the form of Hassan Rouhani. Strange resume for a moderate: 35 years of unswervingly loyal service to the Islamic Republic as a close aide to Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei. Moreover, Rouhani was one of only six presidential candidates, another 678 having been disqualified by the regime as ideologically unsound. That puts him in the 99th centile for fealty.
Well, what leader would not want relief from Western sanctions that have sunk Iran's economy, devalued its currency and caused widespread hardship? The test of moderation is not what you want but what you're willing to give. After all, sanctions were not slapped on Iran for amusement. It was to enforce multiple Security Council resolutions demanding a halt to uranium enrichment.
It takes about 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in August that Iran already has 186 kilograms.
Rouhani is the man to do exactly that. As Iran's chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, he boasted in a 2004 speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [uranium conversion] facility in Isfahan . In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan."
And when the President of the world's sole superpower asks for a photo-op handshake with the president of a regime that, in President Obama's own words, kills and kidnaps and terrorizes Americans, the killer-kidnapper does not even deign to accept the homage. Rouhani rebuffed him.
But at least we have to talk, say the enthusiasts. As if we haven't been talking. For a decade. Strung along in negotiations of every manner - the EU3, the P5+1, then the final, very final, last-chance 2012 negotiations held in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow at which the Iranians refused to even consider the nuclear issue, declaring the dossier closed. Plus two more useless rounds this year.
Demand one simple proof of good faith: Honor the U.N. resolutions. Suspend uranium enrichment and we will talk.
And about the Khamenei agent who charms but declares enrichment an inalienable right, who smiles but refuses to shake the President's hand. When asked by NBC News whether the Holocaust was a myth, Rouhani replied: "I'm not a historian. I'm a politician."
And, by the way, do you know who was one of the three Iranian "moderates" the cake-bearing McFarlane dealt with at that fateful arms-for-hostage meeting in Tehran 27 years ago? Hassan Rouhani.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post.