In his first public address since being elected President of Iran on Friday, Hassan Rowhani says he wants his country to be friends with the U.S. again, but not if that means giving in to what the U.S. actually wants from them.
Speaking before the Iranian media on Monday, Rowhani — a former nuclear negotiator for Iran — insisted Iran would be more transparent about its nuclear program, but that the "period has ended" when the country would be willing to halt its uranium enrichment program. He continues to assert the party line that Iran's nuclear development is for peaceful purposes and not for weapons making.
Rowhani also insisted that for any more negotiations to take place the United States would have to recognize Iran's nuclear rights and "say ... that they will never interfere in Iran's internal affairs." But if that happens, then he's totally up for new talks, saying the relationship between the United States and Iran "is an old wound that needs to be ... healed."
That last sentiment, at least, is a nice one — and one that officials in the West would like to hear more of. It's exactly what everyone was hoping for when Rowhani, the most moderate of the presidential candidates, easily won victory last week. However, a moderate in Iran is still not that moderate, and ultimately he still answers to (and was approved by) the Ayatollah. He may be able to alter the course of things ever so slightly in his own country, but the dream of Iranian-American détente is still a long way off.
In fact, some would argue the more personal public face of Rowhani only makes it easier for hardliners behind the scenes to continue to push the nuclear program forward while holding the rest of the world at bay. Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu has said he expects nothing to change and many others experts are inclined to agree. Rohani can talk about building trust all he wants, but the two sides could not be starting farther apart on that score.
Rowhani will assume office in August.