Iranian Version of Groundhog Day

When dealing with the Iranian regime I’m often reminded of the movie “Groundhog Day”. Bill Murray caught in a time trap and reliving the same day over and over again. While listening to Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the United Nations last night I thought I’m reliving the years 1997 and 2003 at the same time again.

I’ve said this many times, but here we go once again: we’ve seen this movie before. Rouhani is picking up his public interactions with the world community right where he left it ten years ago. The substance of his speech was the only thing the Islamic Republic can deliver: hostility, hatred and threats in a gift wrap paper of a little more moderate tone and a few more intellectual words. But once the gift is unwrapped it bears the same old toxic mix of destabilization that this dictatorship has brought to its own people and the rest of the world.

Today the Iranian regime is the most destabilizing force in the Middle East – either directly or indirectly through its proxies. So when Rouhani spoke of moderation, cooperation and peace what he really means is that the regime will never let go of the Assad dictatorship, it will increase its meddling in this conflict, it will further strengthen terrorist organizations while continuing to smile all the way to its own nuclear weapons.

Which brings me to the other speech we’ve heard at the United Nations yesterday when President Obama took the floor. His leitmotif is as usual that he himself and his administration haven’t learned the lesson in the case of Iran, Syria and issues of the Middle East. First and foremost, how many more times does this American President like to apologize for a coup in 1953 that was an Iranian inside task? Secondly, how many more times will the “mutual respect” philisophy come around the corner? Offering mutual respect to a dictatorship that doesn’t have the decency to respect its own population – not once, not twice, but over and over again. Seriously, Mr. President?

It is high time for anyone – including Barack Obama – who believes detente with the Islamic Republic is within actual reach to wake up to the reality on the ground. Iran is not Burma. Never was, never will be.

We are in this position that Iran’s despot is about to cross the threshold to nuclear weapons capability and Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is left alone in tackling this urgent strategic issue, because the political philosophy of this US President doesn’t match reality. His world view is founded upon the belief that a, American power is declining and b, whenever American power is used it is something bad. Doesn’t quite match the capacity of the world’s most powerful country in economic and military terms, does it?

It is late for the Obama administration to return to strong leadership and strong political order in the two most decisive strategic issues for the Middle East and beyond, Iran and Syria. But finding a way out of this Iranian version of “Groundhog Day” is pressing. Is it too late for restoring American credibility in the Middle East? Better it happens late than never.

About the Author
Saba Farzan is a German-Iranian journalist and Executive Director at Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.