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Don't view Iran's president with rose-colored glasses

By MURIEL TURNER, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Aug. 8, 2013 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

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LONDON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Since the emergence of Hassan Rouhani as the new president of Iran, policymakers have been wondering what the future may hold for nuclear talks with Tehran.

Optimists have argued that Rouhani is a "moderate" and presents an opportunity to finally resolve the long-standing dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Yet, behind all of the hype, the fact remains that the power structure in Iran hasn't changed, nor has its course on the nuclear issue.

Rouhani is simply the latest tactic employed by the regime to buy time for its ultimate goal, which is to possess nuclear weapons.

Winston Churchill once famously said, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." Each administration in the West has looked at short-term solutions to the dilemma posed by the Iranian regime and its nuclear program.

However, the reality is that there are no short-term solutions to the dilemma posed by the Iranian regime's nuclear program.

Whether it was the carrot or the stick, neither policy ever resulted in successful negotiations with Tehran. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and in this case the pudding and everything in it is under the control of the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei.

Regardless of who holds the title of president, Iran's supreme leader has the final say on the nuclear issue and has never changed his position in terms of his ultimate goals.

Throughout the last decade the regime has successfully employed various tactics in order to release pressure and buy time for itself but has never been serious about suspending its nuclear program.

Even if we were to accept that Rouhani is somehow a new voice of moderation, one need only look at his previous record as the nuclear negotiator to see how effective he has been at buying time for the regime without giving away any meaningful concession. In fact, Rouhani boasted of this in the Iranian media prior to his election and has remained resolute in his support of the nuclear program.

It is time to stop feeding the Iranian regime with incentives to come to the negotiating table and stop rewarding its belligerence with chance after chance to cease its nuclear program.

The international community must act with one voice and one stance with regard to the Iranian regime, isolating its government and recognizing the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Iranian people and their resistance.

The charade of nuclear negotiations and meetings has worn out its welcome; for too long, Iranian regime has presented itself as the legitimate representative of the oppressed people in Iran under the guise of negotiations and talks. Not only has the regime consistently violated U.N. Security Council resolutions but it has used its international platform to spew hatred, divisiveness, lies and terrorism.

The regime is no more interested in suspending its nuclear program than it is in conducting fair elections or respecting the inalienable rights of its own people. The idea that this regime can be reformed or negotiated with has long been rejected by the people of Iran, yet those in the international community continue to feed the crocodile, buying short-term relief at the expense of future chaos.

Ultimately, the most viable option at hand is neither a military conflict, nor continual appeasement and negotiations with this regime. It is obvious that a long-term and rational policy solution to this issue should follow the recent trend of change in the region. The West needs to embrace democratic change in Iran, a change that replaces ayatollahs with true representatives of the Iranian people and provides a platform for true moderates to devise policy in Iran.

The best hope for the future of Iran was on display recently in Paris as Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, spoke to a crowd of some 100 000 supporters of the Iranian resistance on June 22.

Rajavi outlined a vision of a democratic secular republic in Iran, free of nuclear weapons and ready for a new chapter with the international community. As Rajavi rightfully pointed out, the rhetoric of moderation is meaningless when the facts on the ground haven't changed.

"There can be no free Iran without freedom of expression and human rights and so long as political prisoners and activities of political parties are not free and the regime's belligerent policies in Syria and Iraq continue and it insists on obtaining nuclear bomb, nothing would change," she said.

For too long, the West has shaken hands with despots in the Middle East in the name of stability and order. For too long, it has stood and watched people protest in the streets without offering them tangible support.

The Iranian people and their resistance are poised to do what the international community has long been unable to do: solve the Iranian dilemma once and for all. The West will do itself a great favor in offering them support to achieve the democratic change in Iran that will put a permanent end to the regime's illicit nuclear program.

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(Baroness Muriel Turner of Camden was deputy speaker of the British House of Lords until 2008 and she is a leading member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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