How fortunate we are that US President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. Otherwise we journalists, in Israel and across the globe, would again have to deal with such trivialities as the incessant killings in Iraq, the raging war in Syria or the sectarian violence in Lebanon.
No, it is much more interesting to discuss this matter of supreme importance, and to try to understand how such a historical event even occurred. It is imperative to analyze how the Iranian ambassador to the UN, who was in the car with Rouhani on the way to the airport, handed his mobile phone over to the president and on the other end was the White House. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said the White House called the ambassador five times in order to coordinate a conversation between Rouhani and Obama, after the former refused to meet the latter in person.
It is unclear why the US government was so eager to title a simple phone call as a “significant breakthrough.” It is also unclear where Secretary of State John Kerry’s unwavering optimism stems from. Even though Tehran had for years torpedoed any chance of an agreement related to its nuclear project, Kerry on Tuesday said that accords with Iran can be reached within a few months.
I can only hope that Kerry and Obama know something we are not aware of. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. At least for now, Iran has not shown the slightest willingness to halt nuclear enrichment even to a level of 20%. Might it be possible that all this excitement is, to quote Shakespeare, much ado about nothing?
Many analysts have already determined with utmost certainty that the Rouhani outreach is just an elaborate Iranian scheme, while others are equally convinced that we are truly witnessing a strategic change in Tehran. I believe some caution is still required, as well as time, in order to understand if and how much Iran has actually shifted course. The likelihood of Tehran halting uranium enrichment altogether is quite low, though it may agree to enrich uranium at levels that suggest no intention of producing a nuclear bomb.
The problem is that Tehran has already deceived the international community more than once. Will Iran really be ready to allow inspectors access to all of its nuclear facilities, even if they arrive unannounced? At this point, the West has no clear answers.
And what about the new winds blowing from Tehran? It is clear that the change is more than just a cosmetic one. Internally, the country faces much pressure for reform, and even for concessions regarding the nuclear issue, in order to allow for the reconstruction of a normal, more stable economy. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and probably the Revolutionary Guard as well, are ready to exhibit some degree of flexibility.
For now, a nod to the West and even a phone conversation with Obama do not constitute real change. As recently as Sunday, members of the Revolutionary Guard took part in the destruction of dozens of satellite dishes in the city of Shiraz, in order to block citizen access to TV channels not controlled by the state. The regime’s attempts to prevent the revival of an Iranian opposition will continue, regardless of negotiations, and so will the exporting of terror attacks to various locations throughout the Middle East.
And what else is new in the region? Not much. A car bomb was set off Sunday in Erbil, a city in the Kurdish region of Iraq. On Monday, nine cars exploded in Baghdad and dozens were killed. The Syrian regime bombed a school Sunday, killing dozens of children and innocent civilians, and mortar shells rained down on a neighborhood Damascus. In Lebanon, shootings between Hezbollah supporters and Sunni militants have ceased, for now.
But who cares about all that, after Obama and Rouhani reportedly joked about traffic jams in New York City.