Rouhani Wants Us to Believe in Change
President Rouhani intends to change Iran’s foreign policy – no doubt about that.
In any case, President Rouhani should thank his predecessor for lowering the bar to such an extent so that even a small “baby-step” may be viewed as a “giant leap”.
The Medium is the Message
A microcosm of Rouhani’s ideals for change can be found in his twitter account.
The fact that he chose twitter as a medium is in itself a change that is appealing to his Western audience.
In all the following cases you will notice that Rouhani communicates change whether it be in the content itself or in its tone & style so as to be more appealing to the West.
“Bring Back a Smile”
The following tweet exemplifies Rouhani’s strategy: In it, he states that his goal is to “bring back a smile” and to “protect this #love, #trust and #hope”.
Accepting NPT/IAEA Guidelines
The most pressing issue for Rouhani’s government is obviously the nuclear issue and Rouhani makes it clear to the West in general and to the P5+1 negotiators that Iran’s nuclear program will adhere to NPT and the country’s bilateral agreements with the IAEA – no mention of the Agency’s resolutions, and of course not of Security Council decisions. There also is no mention of a timeline or specific key issues such as the nuclear plants in Arak and Qom and the military base in Parchin.
In an earlier tweet, Rouhani placed the responsibility for nuclear negotiations in the hands of the Foreign Ministry and the “constructive interaction with the world” is definitely meant to project a welcome change to the West.
Rouhani’s “US friends”
Here, Rouhani manages to downgrade an Iranian threat against (US) “action against Syria” to a friendly warning by adding “US friends” – a far cry from the familiar term “Arrogant Power,” not to mention the bellicose statements coming from other officials in Tehran.
Jewish New Year and Holocaust Denial
Last week, Rouhani took everyone by surprise by tweeting his wishes for a “Blessed Rosh Hashanah,” causing the HuffPost to gush that Rouhani’s efforts have reached “unthinkable heights“.
The amount of retweets just goes to show how popular this type of message is.
This tweet was echoed by Foreign Minister Zarif’s own wishes of a “Happy Rosh Hashanah” which was immediately retweeted by Rouhani himself.
Zarif’s wishes took a dramatic turn when he placed the blame of Holocaust denial squarely on Ex-President Ahmadinejad – Rouhani conspicuously did not retweet this message.
“Educated, Capable & Powerful” Women in Iran
By naming a Mrs. Afkham as the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Rouhani reinforced an earlier tweet which expressed that Iranian women are “educated, capable & powerful” and that he wanted to “ensure equal opportunity” in his government. Of course, the fact that there are no women in his cabinet is not mentioned.
Conclusions (For Now)
Rouhani is working very hard to project change on many fronts. Not at the strategic policy level, for sure, but what he is doing in itself represents change from his predecessor.
Here is a man who knows how to talk to the West and who understands that in order for the West to listen to him, he will have to offer “proof” of his sincerity. This “proof” cannot be only skin-deep.
To this end, two significant questions will require an answer: Will he add a timetable and details that will turn his general message of change into a concrete plan? Will the powers that be in Tehran –especially Khamenei and the IRGC – permit him to do so?
They didn’t allow Khatami.