The call for ‘serious and substantive’ talks on Iran’s nuclear programme with the West by its newly elected President Hassan Rouhani has been welcomed by Washington as a prudent move. While Rouhani has been depicted in the U.S. as a moderate and pragmatic figure, his recent actions threaten this positive image. On the day of his swearing in, Rouhani announced his support for the Syrian regime which has been engaged in a bloody conflict that has killed thousands of its citizens. Further, he also recently referred to Israel as a ‘wound that needed to be removed’ while attending the annual al-Quds rally to show Iran’s solidarity with Palestine.
Iranian state media was quick to clarify that the ‘wound’ reference was meant to signify the pain experienced by the Palestinians during ‘occupation’. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not satisified with this clarification. These two statements now raise questions about Rouhani’s ‘moderate and pragmatic’ nature. The optimism witnessed during his election victory is reminiscent of the sentiment of ‘Hope and Change’ that prevailed when U.S. President Barack Obama was first elected to office. In all likelihood, he will bring the same amount of disillusionment in the years to follow.
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