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 (credit: Ellie Foreman-Peck)

Since his surprise victory in Iran's presidential elections in June, Hassan Rouhani has enjoyed undeserved popularity among Western policymakers and opinion-formers alike. Though hardly a reformist, Rouhani has immediately won the label of moderate from all corners of the transatlantic political spectrum.

The Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt — the most likely candidate to replace Catherine Ashton as the European Union's High Representative for foreign affairs next year and thus to be the lead negotiator with Iran — tweeted on June 15: "We should be open and see what changes election of Hassan Rouhani as new President of Iran might bring. We need to engage with Iran." When, six weeks later, the US House of Representatives passed new sanctions against Iran, Bildt opined that the decision was "counterproductive at this time".

Ashton's predecessor, Javier Solana, took an even bigger leap of faith and flew to Tehran to attend Rouhani's inauguration on August 4. When he was directing EU foreign policy, Solana repeatedly hit the brick wall of Iran's negotiating tactics, and this included the period when Rouhani, as secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, was in charge of them. Showing how hope can triumph over experience, Solana still went on to declare to Bloomberg News: "Based on what I know of him, he is a politician who's perceptive and open-minded."

Rouhani is indeed so open-minded that on International Quds Day, the last Friday of Ramadan and key date in Iran's revolutionary calendar — an Iranian-orchestrated anti-Israel hate-fest in support of Palestinian victory over the Zionists — he called Israel "a sore on the body of the Islamic world". 

So accustomed was the Western media to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's preposterous Holocaust denials, calls for Israel's destruction, and reference to UN resolutions as "torn papers" that Rouhani's statement seemed like interfaith dialogue by comparison. 

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August 29th, 2013
6:08 PM
ROUHANI and all of his ilk think alike. All are in that same bowl of soup as Achmadinejad - foremost on their mind is destruction of Israel

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