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New State Dep’t envoy said Rouhani is a pragmatist who would not use nukes if Iran had them

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Rouhani meeting yesterday with deputy Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin, from his twitter feed

Rouhani meeting yesterday with deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, from his twitter feed

The newest member of the State Department’s Middle East negotiating team has argued that Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, is a highly-pragmatic leader who would give up obtaining nuclear weapons for the sake of maintaining the Iranian regime and, even if Iran had weapons, could likely be deterred from using them.

David Makovsky was appointed to John Kerry’s Middle East team this week. And though Makovsky has long been a supporter of Israel in Washington, four years ago he extolled Rouhani as the opposite of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and “fanatic” Iranian clerics who are too “apocalyptic” to be deterred– stopped from using nuclear weapons by the threat that the west would use nuclear weapons against Iran if it did so.

Deterrence might work with Rouhani, Makovsky concluded.

In his book Myths, Illusions and Peace (2009), co-authored with (that other friend of Israel) Dennis Ross, Makovsky said that Ahmadinejad and other clerics were devoted to a Shiite savior or messiah called the “Mahdi,” also known as the “Hidden Imam.” This devotion led the clerics to believe that a “divine hand” was guiding Iran to achieving nuclear capability.

So Ahmadinejad would be willing to “roll the dice” on Iran and risk his people for the sake of hitting Israel with a nuclear weapon, Makovsky argued.

Not so the cleric Rouhani.

The cleric Hassan Rouhani, the former nuclear negotiator and ex-secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, has criticized Ahmadinejad’s government for ‘encouraging superstitious practices.’ He has bluntly attacked those who speak of the imminent reappearance of the Mahdi…

Makovsky then quoted Rouhani’s very rational statements– in which he described the claims of the Mahdi’s return as a “circus show” and called Ahmadinejad a “liar.”

Makovsky and Ross wrote:

[T]his is not just a theoretical dispute between Ahmadinejad and Rouhani. It could have relevance for Iran’s behavior–no doubt the very reason Rouhani feels the need to attack [Ahmadinejad’s beliefs]. Indeed, it could have relevance for whether deterrence can really work with a nuclear Iran.

Their conclusion would seem to be that even if Iran had nukes, Rouhani’s not the type to use them. (The containment argument advanced by Kenneth Waltz.)

Makovsky and Ross also characterized Rouhani as a highly rational actor, who might  be willing to negotiate away nuclear capability, in good faith.

Rouhani is part of the Iranian elite that “see unacceptably high costs in being excluded from the international system–and dissuasion might work with them,” they wrote.

For these members of the Iranian elite, survival of the regime is paramount. They seek to preserve the system, and they understand that having a connection to the international financial system and the global economy is essential. And they seem to understand well that confronting the outside world will isolate and not integrate Iran internationally. Consider the words of Hassan Rouhani: ‘Foreign policy does not mean chanting slogans. Foreign policy does not mean using fiery words. Foreign policy does not mean increasing threats against us. We cannot say we want to be developed but, at the same time, we don’t want to interact with the international community.’

Of course, Makovsky and Ross wrote before Rouhani became president.

Since he became president, Rouhani has been demonized by the neoconservatives. And  last month Makovsky and Ross slightly amended their view, to say that the west must question Rouhani’s sincerity before making a deal with him.

But four years ago, they saw him as utterly sincere.

Do you ever feel that when it comes to pro-Israel views of Iran, you’re in a hall of mirrors?

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24 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    November 23, 2013, 1:00 pm

    To my mind it is irrelevant who the President is since the person who makes the final decision is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the one problem for the negotiating teams is to find a form of words to enable Iran to enrich uranium on their own soil [if that is what the US truly want??]with all the safeguards in place and only to 3-5%, and only in the quantity required to feed their reactors, the US may, probably will, overplay their hand [as masters of the universe tend to do] and as the US did in negotiating with North Korea several years ago [Wendy Sherman was also part of that team] Then G W Bush played hardball so that now NK has the bomb and have told the US they will use it [without a peep from the Empire].

    • Justpassingby
      November 23, 2013, 2:13 pm

      Actually you seems to overplay the issue. You should check international law, states are allowed to enrich. Saying Iran cant do X or Z wont bring a deal.

      • HarryLaw
        November 23, 2013, 3:00 pm

        Justpassingby @ “You should check international law, states are allowed to enrich”. I happen to agree with you, but our opinions are of no consequence, if the US say Iran cannot enrich because of their [wrongful interpretation, according to us] of the NPT then they have the power to keep Iran under the Chapter 7 resolution 1696 for ever, if they wanted to [the veto] Of course if the other members of the UNSC thought the US was being unreasonable, no doubt sanctions would fall by the wayside, any US threatened use of force under that resolution would be vetoed by Russia and China, leaving the US to go to war [outside International law again] with it’s willing partners, in my opinion it will not come to that since the US electorate do not want another war, they told Congress in no uncertain terms in September on the Syrian issue, the US have to make a deal.

      • Justpassingby
        November 23, 2013, 5:48 pm

        Correct thats “their view”. No need for anyone of us here to support “their view”.

        Dont get me wrong here but just because US or Israel demand stuff from Iran doesnt mean it is legit nor that we should accept it.

    • Walid
      November 23, 2013, 2:16 pm

      “it is irrelevant who the President is since the person who makes the final decision is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei”

      The relevancy is in the man chosen to be president and the things he says as both of these are a reflection of what the Supreme Ayatollah has on his mind. When Ahmadi Nejad was baiting the West with his rhetoric, he was doing it with the full consent of the big boss. It’s as you said, Rouhani is not saying or doing anything that hasn’t been approved in advance by Ayatollah Khamenei.

      • Justpassingby
        November 23, 2013, 5:49 pm

        “It’s as you said, Rouhani is not saying or doing anything that hasn’t been approved ”

        Good point.

  2. Walid
    November 23, 2013, 2:07 pm

    Negotiations with Iran being definitely on the right track, Makovsky and Ross are about to become yesterday’s news. Even spoiler Fabius is positive that good things are about to happen.

  3. Justpassingby
    November 23, 2013, 2:11 pm

    Of course they wouldn’t use it but we have a Pro Israel guy that are buddy with Dennis Ross so what to expect.

  4. Marco
    November 23, 2013, 4:28 pm

    “Do you ever feel that when it comes to pro-Israel views of Iran, you’re in a hall of mirrors?”

    It’s a classic case of projection. The Israelis under Ben Gurion and his successors used such subterfuge in getting around America’s non-proliferation policy in the 60’s while building the bomb at Dimona that they then project their own past behavior onto the Iranians.

  5. Bumblebye
    November 23, 2013, 9:54 pm

    And the deal is done!

    “Michael Mann, spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief Lady Ashton, tweeted: “We have reached agreement between E3+3 and Iran.”

    “We have reached an agreement,” the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, announced on his Twitter feed.

    The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, also confirmed the deal.”

    • RoHa
      November 23, 2013, 10:18 pm

      “And the deal is done!”

      So the West in general and Israel in particular are doomed!
      Iranian nuclear missiles will rain down upon Berlin! Rabid, slavering, hordes of swarthy, unshaven, wild-eyed, Jew-hating, Iranians will rampage through the streets of Tel-Aviv and Copenhagen. Burqinis will be compulsory for all on the Costa Brava. No more Theakston’s Old Peculier.

      • Bumblebye
        November 23, 2013, 11:03 pm

        I have memories of a couple of pints of Old Peculiar putting one of Americas First Nations sons under the table. HeHe.

  6. ToivoS
    November 23, 2013, 10:56 pm

    The deal is done!

    It has been clear to anyone paying attention that Obama did not want war with Iran for at least two years, that his appointment of Kerry and Hagel were his signals that he was moving towards a peaceful resolution and now, tonight, we may very well have the agreement that he has been seeking.

    This is big. It signals a number of major events. Of course the biggest is that another useless war in the ME has been avoided. The secondary consequences are also of major significance.

    1. Netanyahu is the biggest loser here. He went all in to try to stop this agreement. He has absolutely nothing to show for his efforts. His influence in the world will drop accordingly.

    2. AIPAC decided to follow the Net’s lead and they lobbied, went public in a big way and therefore have lost in an equally big way. The Israel lobby has just suffered a defeat in Washington and there is no way that that will not translate into a loss of influence. That can only be considered good news for the Palestinians.

    3. Saudi Arabia is now isolated in the international community. I would make a little guess — wiser heads in that country will work to remove the fools that pushed SA to go so directly against the US.

    The CNN story begins with the line “this is historic” and indeed it is (even if those writers have cheapened the term “historic” over the years).

    Over the next few days we will see this story dominating the news and commentary throughout the country. Palestine will not get too much attention. But in the end after the weakening of Netanyahu and the Saudis I think the Palestinians will be able to put their case before the world much more easily.

    What is not to like about this. It is a win-win-win situation for all people who are against another war in the ME and who support justice for the Palestinians.

    • Bumblebye
      November 23, 2013, 11:09 pm

      It may be historic in another sense – if the House and Senate try to stymie the deal on Israel’s behalf (via donor demand?) as many talking heads have been suggesting (on radio at least) in the past couple of days.

      • Walid
        November 24, 2013, 12:16 am

        Kerry in his victory speech answering a journalist’s question about the probable Congress hurdle that would stand in the way of the deal, dropped the hint that the President’s veto is there to take care of that eventuality but that he wished it wouldn’t come to that.

      • Shingo
        November 24, 2013, 12:33 am

        If it comes down to the veto, it will be interesting to see what the Democrats in the Senate will do.

  7. Walid
    November 24, 2013, 12:26 am

    Kerry in his speech also mentioned that Rouhani had said that a nuclear bomb was not in Iran’s plan and that the Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against such a weapon. It’s the first time an American official gave some consideration for the fatwa that has been in effect for a while.

    • Shingo
      November 24, 2013, 12:54 am

      Kerry in his speech also mentioned that Rouhani had said that a nuclear bomb was not in Iran’s plan and that the Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against such a weapon.

      The importance of which cannot be overstated. This becomes the official position of the US government, which takes the wind out of the sales of all those right wing hacks in Washington who keep repeating the BS that Iran wants nukes

  8. Walid
    November 24, 2013, 12:37 am

    Listening to CNN’s journalists, especially those in Arab countries, you can tell they are not happy with the agreement. The one in Abu Dhabi said that people in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia are not happy with the deal and feel insecure about it, which of course is all pro-Israel BS; she is of course talking about the leaders of these countries that are on a holy war against Shia Iran as these feelings don’t reflect the feelings of the people that will be happy that an agreement has been reached and the potential of a major war in the region averted. Whenever a war actually breaks out, leaders and elites pack up and leave in a jiffy with family and friends to the comforts of Paris, London and New York to sit it out as we saw with the Kuwaitis in 1990, or with Lebanon’s civil war.

  9. James Canning
    November 24, 2013, 7:24 pm

    I think it is much better for Iran, that Iran not have nukes. And it will be much better for Israel, if Israel gets rid of its nukes.

  10. James Canning
    November 24, 2013, 7:26 pm

    We should be thankful Rouhani lived in the US for decades and thus has a good grasp of American politics, PR campaigns, etc etc.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      November 25, 2013, 3:52 pm

      Rouhani never lived in the US. Other than a brief period as a student in Glasgow, he has spent almost all of his life in Iran. I think you are confusing him with Mohammad Javad Zarif.

      • James Canning
        November 25, 2013, 6:06 pm

        Yes, the man in question is Zarif, not Rouhani. (For living decades in the US) San Francisco State U. etc etc. Thanks.

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