There are, of course, reasons to welcome the election of a relative moderate as Iran’s next president, replacing the odious Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and perhaps signaling a less belligerent course for the country and its ruling mullahs. Hassan Rohani, elected with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote, has spoken about following a “path of moderation” and talks of easing tension with the United States and improving relations with neighboring Gulf states. He told a reporter that he would offer “more openness” concerning Iran’s nuclear program.
Of course, calling Rohani a “moderate” is relative, and clinging to such an image comes with its own dangers. A convincing case can be made that Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, manipulated the field to ensure a victory by the one non-hardliner among the candidates. Perhaps Khamenei has seen the light, although the more plausible explanation is that he and the other mullahs are looking to ease the international sanctions — and threats of a military strike — that have crippled Iran’s economy. If Rohani is mere window dressing, then it behooves the United States, and Israel, to peek behind the curtains.
When it comes to the prospect of an Iranian nuke, American Jews and Israelis would welcome any development that suggests a peaceful way out of the current stalemate. Perhaps a new round of negotiations can earn the transparency the West has sought and stall the nuclear program. But actions speak louder than words. While time will tell if Iran has elected a “moderate,” the results of the election should be treated with the utmost caution.