Can Iran fight its nature?



A Scorpion wants to cross a river, but can’t swim. He goes to a frog and asks him for a ride on its back. the frog says: “if I give you a ride you’ll sting me”. The scorpion explains that if he stings the frog, they’ll both drown. The frog accepts this logic, and the two start their journey across the water. Halfway through, the frog feels a burning spear in its back and realizes that the scorpion did sting. As they’re both drowning, the frog asks the scorpion – “why did you do that – now we’ll both die”.

The scorpion tells him: “I can’t help it – it’s in my nature.”

Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq… and Iran?

The last few years prove that it is only “natural” for Iran, with no better way of putting it, to be involved in as many skirmishes as it possibly can. The 3 big ones going on at the moment – The war in Syria, the Gaza Strip contention and the ISIS-IRAQ conflict, are claiming insurmountable amounts of casualties every day.

In addition, Iran is knees deep in all sorts of terror activities.

Referring to the Israel-Palestinian arena – The newspaper Javan, affiliated with the IRGC, stated that Iran “had armed the resistance in Gaza with Fajr 5 missiles and with drones to help fight Israel and gave Iran credit for its success.” And only recently, the Iranian leadership pledged further military assistance to the terrorist organizations in Gaza, while the Supreme Leader Khamenei called for expanding this assistance, stating “We believe that the West Bank should also be armed like Gaza”.

North of there, in the bloodbath that is the Syrian civil war, Iran has earned itself a whole Wikipedia article on its involvement. But we’re discussing terror here: Iran used and is still using Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror organization, to carry out its interests in Syria.

Terror on your doorstep

But in Iraq, the “let’s use a terror group” tactic went a bit off. It is hard, the regime slowly learns, to deal with a terror organization when it’s coming against you.

The Iranian agents in Iraq, numbered at 32,000, both covert and unconcealed, are using any kind of weapon they can, going so far as flying Jets. It seems Iran is genuinely scared of the threat that ISIS poses. This threat has even led Iranians to question whether it was wise spending all the personnel, ammo and supplies in other arenas (like Gaza and Syria). To quote Dina Esfandiary, who wrote earlier this month: “Iranians are terrified. Many question Iran’s involvement in Syria, but they support involvement in Iraq. Syria is an optional war: a crisis where Iran can dial its involvement up or down based on its policy preferences. It is not an existential issue. But ISIS activities in Iraq pose a real threat and a genuine sovereignty concern, something Iran hasn’t seen in a long time.”

It remains to be seen, whether Iran’s quest for Middle East power will lead to its downfall. For Iran’s sake, it must be able to beat its nature.


Red lines and the approaching deadline



Iranians keep saying that they never intended to build a bomb, nor do they intend to do so in the future…ever. Unfortunately, their transgressions and behavior in the past have shown these statements to be suspect. It is certain that Tehran has considered making a bomb in the past and judging from the involvement of the elusive and secretive Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the would-be “father of the Iranian bomb” behind the scenes in the nuclear negotiations, Tehran might still be contemplating making a bomb after all.

As the deadline on the nuclear negotiations gets closer, both sides are trying to figure out what would be a good compromise. All compromises are necessarily imperfect by definition but both sides are looking for a compromise that won’t cross their red lines, even if they are drawn on sand.


Red Lines in the Sand

The negotiations are not on whether Iran will or will not make a bomb but are focused on the time to break-out point. Estimates are currently 6-12 months, depending on who you ask.

Tehran wants to maintain the status quo on its nuclear program meaning that 90% of it will remain unchanged and whatever is changed can be unchanged within a short time. This way, if and when the Supreme Leader decides to make a bomb, it will be doable within up to 6 months.

The P5+1 want to Iran’s nuclear program to downsize by about 40% by decreasing centrifuges, uranium stocks, heavy water facilities etc…and increase transparency in the hope that if Tehran does rush for break-out they will need 12-18 months (hopefully enough time to intervene – whatever that means).

The truth is that no one knows how Tehran’s nuclear program will play out in the future and if the West can effectively block Iran’s rush to break-out if it wanted to.  Negotiations are less about the red lines and more about the immediate benefits, and in this case the short-term benefits are mostly on Iran’s side.


The Overt/Covert-Make/Buy Question

Were Tehran to reach for break-out, it could do so in one of 4 ways: Overtly make, overtly buy, covertly make or covertly buy a bomb. For their article “The Nuclear Maginot Line“, Allison and Setter asked several dozen experts to estimate which path Tehran would take if it decided to make a run for a bomb. The answers were split between “make/covert” and “make/overt” with “buy/covert” in third place.

The same experts were then asked what the focus of the P5+1 is in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the answer was resoundingly the “make/overt” option. This means that the P5+1 team is not focusing on Iran’s ability to covertly make or buy a nuclear weapon.


What Makes a Compromise Good?

For the P5+1, it seems that all most of the compromises being discussed don’t lengthen the break-out point sufficiently. In the opinions of three leading nuclear experts, Albright, Heinonen and Stricker, most of the compromises discussed compromise the ability of the P5+1 to effectively stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In their opinion, the final deal should be set within a framework of 5 basic parameters:

  • Adequate break-out time should be a minimum of 6-12 months if not more.
  • Irreversibility in program cut downs to increase the length of break-out time.
  • Stability through “provisions” that limit the possibility of wild accusations and violations.
  • Transparency that will allow IAEA inspectors the ability to issue warnings and assurances on time.
  • Ability to detect the clandestine acquisition and management of “sensitive nuclear facilities”.

Any deal that strays from these parameters is bound to be temporary and to blow up, literally, in the faces of the P5+1 leaders. The P5+1, and in fact the whole world, better hope that the Supreme Leader will not renege on his word.

60% Enrichment – Here We Go Again


Flashback to 2012

Let’s go back to 2012, and remind you of one of those oh-so-lovely, Ahmadinejad-led Iranian threats: On the 2nd of October, Reuters reported that “Iran would enrich uranium up to 60% purity if negotiations with major powers over its nuclear program fail”.

The reason for this number, according to Mansour Haqiqatpour, deputy head of parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, was for yielding fuel for atomic submarines…not for any peaceful causes, if someone was asking.

Enter Rouhani

Skipping a few months into the future, the Iran election came and went and Hassan Rouhani was elected into the office of President with a great promise of moderation. There were the few rounds of talks, and then the big announcement in November that a “landmark” “nuclear deal” was signed, a deal that magically continues to be both a done deal and a work in progress simultaneously, depending on who’s talking.

But, regardless of who is talking, it’s understood that one of the defining lines of the deal is capping at 20% uranium enrichment (actually, according to the NPT, this should be 5%). Capping on 20% enrichment shows that Iran is not intending in any way to militarize its nuclear program. Everyone believed that this was agreed.

Back to the Future, Again

Well, apparently not everyone.

According to Foreign minister Zarif, not only can “Iran (could) resume enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity in less than a day” but the magic 60% number is back again: the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, is pushing for a bill which would require Iran to enrich its Uranium to 60%.

So while Zarif is righteously shouting out against the US Congress’s wish to renew sanctions and President Obama is actually willing to veto these sanctions, the 20% limit is on its way to being broken and there’s a good chance that Zarif might blame the US for this as well.

So what’s the lesson here? Always learn from history, it has a funny way of repeating…especially in Iran.

Nuclear Deal Terminally Ill

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Smiles & Hugs

Two weeks ago, the white smoke from Geneva foretold a change in the relations of Iran with the world. The smiling faces of the P3+3 leaders and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said it all: the change that President Hassan Rouhani had promised bore fruit in a “nuclear deal” with Iran.

This “first-step” deal was based on the understanding that Tehran would freeze its nuclear program and encourage transparency for six months in return for goodwill and a $7 Billion relief from sanctions.

But then, the dealmakers went their separate ways.

20% Enrichment & Arak

The “fact sheet” immediately issued by the White House and the response from Tehran deeming it a “one-sided interpretation“, “nonsense and “invalid” were the first warning signs.

Key Issues

Washington’s Interpretation

Tehran’s Interpretation

“Break-out point”


“Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium.”

“Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity.”

“There will be no solution to the nuclear issue without the enrichment [program]”

“Iran will decide the level of enrichment according to its needs for different purposes.

“Plutonium Route”


“Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track.”

It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there”.

So much for mutual expectations…


Sanctions & Doubts

Regardless of Zarif’s dismissal of the effectiveness of sanctions, Tehran’s main motive to sign a nuclear deal is to dismantle all sanctions.

So the P5+1 not only handed over the $7 Billion sanction relief, they agreed to no new sanctions for 6 months. All fine and well but the growing contentions between Tehran and Washington about the “Breakout Point” and the “Plutonium Route” have turned the issue of sanctions into a deal-breaker.

While Kerry tried to appease the US Congress into not issuing new sanctions, Zarif warned that the deal was “dead” if new sanctions were approved “even if they do not take effect for six months”.

And while both sides deal with skeptics back home (US & Iran) and details are ironed out, Tehran’s nuclear program ticks on and there still is no “start date” for the six-month freeze.

 It’s time to say it loud and clear for all to hear: There may have been a “nuclear deal” – it existed for a few hours on that smiling podium in Geneva on the 24th. Unfortunately, it seems to have remained there.

Related links:

When Khamenei Says” Jump”…

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Khamenei’s Rules

The headlines on the ongoing talks between Iran and the P5+1 and the resulting walk-outs gave way last week to Reuters’ stunning and extensive exposé on Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. Reuter’s series focus on Khamenei’s economic power but in the end it is not only about money: Khamenei is powerful economically because he is all-powerful period and vice versa.

Because, in Tehran, when Khamenei says “jump”, all simply ask “how high?”. He is a king maker or breaker and his will is Tehran’s future. Unfortunately, he is also very conservative and seems to be the brink of paranoia and megalomania.


Rouhani’s Tightrope Act

Since his election, Rouhani was labeled by himself and the media as a moderate…well, at least a relative moderate. Rouhani’s agenda for change in order to alleviate the sanctions does not sit well with Khamenei but the supreme leader has loosened the leash he held on Rouhani’s predecessor, Ahmadinejad.

Since Tehran’s political system gives the supreme leader the final say in every major political decision , be it a change of policy or negotiations with the west, he remains the one that has to be convinced that peace is a better alternative.

So while Rouhani and Zarif are wheeling and dealing in Geneva, Khamenei is content to stay in Tehran, knowing that without him, there will be no deal. Judging by his aversion of the west, there are serious doubts that a deal can satisfy the P5+1 as well as Khamenei as this  Washington Post article reminds: “Khamenei has been laying the groundwork to walk away from any deal by warning that the West is untrustworthy and will not deliver on its promises — the same reasons he gave for walking away from the earlier nuclear deals”.

Because like all powerful men, Khamenei has to control his basis for power and that means he needs to keep the IRGC on his side. And if anyone was wondering where the IRGC stands on the negotiations, they were the first to praise Zarif for walking away from the negotiation tables.


Deal or No Deal?

The elusive deal with Iran may seem to be in the hands of “moderate” politicians who understand how to communicate with the West but the truth is that without Khamenei, there will not be any deal.

Two key questions remain:

  1. What are Khamenei’s expectations? How much of his pride and power is he willing to relinquish in order to offer the Iranian people a possibility for a normal life? The chances of a deal that will meet Khamenei’s expectations are definitely slim because Khamenei is hawkish enough to lead Iran on a path to martyrdom out of pride.
  2. What are Rouhani’s expectations? Does Rouhani really believe that he can put together a deal that will satisfy Khamenei or does he know that this is a futile exercise and he is just buying time? The second option is the scarier one because if it is true, it would be the biggest scam since Hitler convinced chamberlain to proclaim “peace in our time”.

In any case, the West should be warily optimistic about Iran’s “open arms” and not jump back on ship just yet. In this light, the UK’s diplomatic revival with Iran might be premature.

Rouhani Needs to Clean Iran of Syria


Rouhani – Iran’s New Broom

Since his election, President Rouhani has repeatedly expressed his desire to reinvigorate Iran’s relations with the West in order to defuse the nuclear program impasse and the resulting sanctions.

He just may be on the right track: The latest talks in Geneva have created a level of reserved optimism for the first time in about two decades.

Unfortunately for Rouhani, Tehran’s suspect nuclear program is not viewed independently from other issues that tarnish its credibility – and acceptability – in the West, namely Tehran’s continued support of Syria’s Assad.


Iran Deep in Syrian Quagmire

Tehran supports Assad’s regime on three main levels:

  • Financial: Tehran’s financial support of Assad is estimated at $5 Billion.
  • Military: Apart from managing “tens of thousands” of IRGC/Quds and Hezbollah fighters on the ground, Tehran conducts weekly secret airlifts of equipment and ammunition to Damascus.
  • Diplomacy:  Tehran offered to serve as mediator and pressured Russia/China to stop American intervention.

Furthermore, Syria is a crucial base for Hezbollah training and operations.

Iran’s involvement in Syria is raising tensions not only in the West but closer to home as well: two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia gave up its proposed seat on the UN Security Council because of the UN’s inaction over the Syrian civil war and of arch-rival Iran’s involvement there.


Syria’s No Easy Clean-Up

Rouhani is probably praying at this very moment that the civil war in Syria will end quickly – with Assad continuing to rule from his throne, giving Tehran the luxury of a fait-accompli.

Unfortunately, the reported 115,000 death toll doesn’t seem to have peaked and if Assad loses, Iran will have wasted money, lost face, squandered legitimacy – and weakend its connection to Hezbollah.More

In the meantime, Syria is becoming “Iran’s Vietnam“: a horrifying conflict which is not really its own, but one in which Tehran is “damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t”.

If Rouhani can muster the courage to abandon Assad, he will burn a superfluous historical bridge that could reposition Tehran in line with its longer term interests. Courage is the key,  however, for he might also lose support of the IRGC – and possibly of Khamenei himself.

Latest Report on Human Rights in Iran


Rouhani’s Focus is Mostly Outbound

Since President Rouhani’s election, most of the international media’s attention on Iran has justifiably focused on Tehran’s foreign policy and its nuclear program, since both these issues affect people outside of Iran. These issues seriously affect the Iranian people on a patriotic as well as economic level – the sooner Tehran accepts the guidelines of the UN Security Council, the sooner economic sanctions can be lifted and Iranians can go on with their “normal lives”.

Unfortunately, “normal lives” for Iranians is not just a question of economics – for most, “normal” is a distinct lack of freedom and basic human rights. Even if Rouhani does miraculously manage to defuse the nuclear debacle, his success would be hollow if the abhorrent state of human rights in Iran should remain as it is today.

Apropos: In the latest 20-page report to the UN General Assembly by Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the human rights situation is summed up in the first paragraph:
gender discrimination, as well as systemic and systematic violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, continue to characterize the human rights situation in the country“.


More Violations in Iran

This report is really worth the 20-page read, but for now, here’s a quick glimpse at what we take for granted – and what Iranians cannot:

  • Lack of Digital Freedom: Tehran views the freedom of the internet as a threat and does not hesitate to curtail it – internet cafes are shut down, connection speeds are “throttled”,  millions of websites are blocked (including some 1,500 “anti-religious websites”), and journalists/ bloggers are arrested and serving prison sentences.

journailist wiki internet

  • From Torture to Executions:  On the whole, Iranian prisoners are systematically mistreated, underfed, lack medical treatment and undergo punishments and torture and announced executions – which represent only a fraction of all executions in Iran – are still a travesty (724 in 18 months).This situation has not changed since Rouhani took office, as can be gathered by the execution of 16 Sunni “Insurgents” a few weeks ago.
  • 10,814 Floggings in 8 months (in Mazandaran province alone): Before they are arrested or executed, thousands of “criminals are flogged – or have their limbs amputated – for such crimes as “sedition”, “acts incompatible with chastity”, drinking alcohol, “illicit” relationships and non-penetrative homosexual acts.” Legal action by the “criminals” and their families is seriously impeded and sometimes, simply disregarded.

The list goes on and on and on and includes legal and systematic discriminations abusing the rights of women, of different religious backgrounds and ethnic minorities.


Lack of Transparency, Denials and Accusations (again)

Shaheed’s report also includes a critique on the willingness of the Iranian authorities to cooperate with the relevant UN officials: Just as with its nuclear program, Tehran’s lack of transparency “continues to impede attempts to further ascertain the extent and nature of the country’s human rights situation” through general non-cooperation and specifically by not responding to “3 allegation letters, 9 urgent appeals and a number of questionnaires transmitted to several ministries”.

Tehran’s 56-page response contains the usual sets of denials and accusations that have become the symbols of the regime to any criticism: Not only has “the Islamic Republic of Iran (has) incessantly demonstrated its determination to cooperate” with Shaheed, but his report is “tainted by politicization”, “biased”, “inaccurate”, “unconvincing and lacks credit and does not merit public trust or confidence” and is “unacceptable” being based on “falsified and exaggerated data”.

The way Tehran tells it, human rights have never been better in Iran and anybody who says different is simply lying…either that, or they are lying.

Iran Shirks Responsibility, Exudes Self-Confidence


Lacking concrete details about the Geneva talks, can we draw any conclusions at all?

We think we found at least one in a recent tweet from Foreign Minister Zarif himself: “we just started a process to close an unnecessary crisis and open new horizons.”

From the Iranian perspective, then, for some unknown reason the nuclear crisis was thrust upon Tehran – which is just doing its best to sort it outfor the benefit of all concerned.

Iranian-source reports about Foreign Minister Zarif’s powerpoint presentation seem to corroborate this sense by emphasizing the one-sided nature of Tehran’s demands:

  • Accepting Iran’s nuclear right for developing, investigating, producing and using nuclear energy.
  • Employing truth-finding strategies.
  • International cooperation for fulfillment of Iran’s rights.
  • Halting all the sanctions imposed on Iran.
  • Cooperation in common interests and concerns.

If Iran does not recognize its own responsibility for the current situation the world is in regarding its suspect nuclear program and resulting from years of feet dragging, angry denials and non-transparency,what chances do we have of actually resolving it?

Iran watchers shouldn’t be surprised: more than a hint of this was already included in President Rouhani’s UNGA speech, when he reminded the world that Iran’s “nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of lran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures”.

In other words, Rouhani says, Iran has gone too far to stop now. So why not make one-sided demands if you’re Tehran?

Following this line, a few days before the start of the Geneva talks an Iranian representative at the UN in New York challenged the authority of the Security Council – whose permanent members they were about to meet – to enforce global peace and security, including through sanctions. A coincidence? Not at all: Undermining the UNSC is just another negotiating tactic meant to place the blame on someone else.

Our (preliminary) conclusion: if the P5+1 does not convince Iran to recognize its own responsibility for the nuclear crisis, Tehran will grow increasingly confident about its ability to realize most of its demands with minimum cost. In that scenario the crisis will not be resolved, only contained momentarily – until it explodes in the future.

Update from November 6th: Amitai Etzioni suggests a  “A ‘Syrian’ Approach – to Iran“.

The P5+1 should handle negotiations on  Iran’s nuclear program just as it did with Syria’s chemical weapons program by requesting/ordering Iran to provide (access to) relevant information under a tight schedule:

  1. Iran should provide within a “few weeks” a list of all nuclear sites including details of all activities that could be related to a nuclear program meant to build a bomb: centirfuges, eniriching, stockpiling etc…
  2. Within a few more weeks, a “swarm of IAEA inspectors” should visit all (!) the listed sites to inspect and verify the information provided by Iran.
  3. The inspectors and intelligence organizations should focus on possible “intent” by looking for evidence of nuclear triggering technologies, computer modeling of explosions, test of “implosions” etc…

Honesty Still not the Best Policy for Nuclear Iran


Reading through the transcript of this week’s ABC interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif raises many questions regarding his sincerity (as well as that of his bosses, Khamenei and Rouhani).

On Nuclear Transparency

When asked about any open issues between Iran and the IAEA, he made it sound as if Tehran’s nuclear program was totally transparent and had received the IAEA’s seal of approval.

ZARIF: And the IAEA said that although Iran had not declared these activities, now that we see those activities, none of them had been diverted to military use. So there is no question that Iran never had military intentions.

FACT: The September 2011 IAEA report shows that the “the Agency is increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Add to that further non-transparency activities such as the clean-up in the Parchin military base. “No question that Iran ever had military intentions”? Depends on who’s talking.

To refresh his memory, Mr. Zarif should take some time to read David Albright and Christina Walrond’s ISIS report, “An Appeal to Iran“.

On the Nuclear Fatwa

ZARIF:  Our leader has a religious verdict that the use of nuclear weapons, even possession of nuclear weapons, is contrary to religious doctrine.

The first problem is that this particular fatwa, unlike thousands of others, was never publicly presented by Khamenei – let alone shown or approved by the government and parliament in Tehran.

The second problem is the actual nature of all fatwas: they can be rescinded by Khamenei at any time by simply saying so – that’s the by-law of this law. Or as Rouhani stated in his own thesis: “No laws in Islam are immutable

On Enriching Uranium

ZARIF: … We have not been able to get a single gram of uranium from them for the past 30-some years.

It sounds so simple. Nobody’s selling Tehran 20% enriched uranium, so Tehran fulfills its rights to enrich its own uranium.

Zarif must not be aware of the international community’s repeated offers to supply Iran with uranium all the way back in 2009. Tehran, to date, has refused to take advantage of this offer which would definitely reduce suspicions.


On the “Myth of the Holocaust”

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the Holocaust a myth?

ZARIF: No, the Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody is talking about the myth. It’s a — if it’s said, I haven’t seen it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Says it right there.

ZARIF: If it’s said, it’s a bad translation, and it is translated out of context that they have — they are using it. He was talking about the reaction to somebody talking about the historical incident and requiring research about that historical incident and said, what is it that people are upset that somebody is simply asking that we should do some studies of that? …

Better to listen to Khamenei’s exact words.

Western countries allow no freedom of expression, which they claim to advocate, with regard to the myth of the massacre of Jews known as the holocaust, and nobody in the West enjoys the freedom of expression to deny it or raise doubts about it.”

Mr. Zarif – with all due respect to your position and in regards to the regime in Tehran, Khamenei’s word is law…yours still isn’t.

Bottom line: Rouhani has changed the overall tone of voice, and he should be welcomed for doing so. Too bad the old lyrics still ring true.

Tehran’s Great White Hope

Rouhani Elected to Change

On September 24, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will address the UN General Assembly in New York, and is also expected to attend the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament two days later. His appearances at these events will be closely monitored for concrete indications of winds of change from Tehran.

On the face of it, Iran’s president will have an easy time of it after years of his predecessor’s rhetoric against the West, the UN, gays and Jews. But Rouhani has set the bar – and expectations – much higher than that.

Tips for Rouhani

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For Rouhani to project real change, he should follow these guidelines while in New York:

Don’t ignore Ahmadinejad:  If Rouhani keeps silent about the issues that granted his predecessor near-leper status – especially denial of the Holocaust and the existence of gays in Iran – his visit will amount to a lost opportunity. Rehashing historical wrongs, placing blame on western powers, and emphasizing theological arguments simply won’t cut it.

Aim high and shoot low: Rouhani will succeed only if he projects strategic change – but even then he’ll need to back his assurances with definite timelines and specific tactical objectives. Without these, Rouhani will join a growing list of “Teflon” politicians who talk and talk – but don’t walk their talk.

Guarded Optimism

Rouhani’s oratory style has been a welcome departure from the roughness of his predecessor. However, so far his comments have failed to clarify whether he takes issue fundamentally with the strategic vision held by Iran’s leadership – starting with Supreme Leader Khamenei.

On the eve of his arrival in New York, it would be wrong to turn a blind eye to Rouhani’s opposition to UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions calling for a suspension of Tehran’s nuclear activities – not to mention his support for Iranian allies Syria and Hezbollah.

This is precisely the reason why his UN appearances hold so much promise: there he will hold in his hands the power to signal change.  Stay tuned.