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The New Rouhani

Same as the old Rouhani.

Oct 7, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 05 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
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Now there remain only a few big unknowns: Does Rouhani believe that delaying a breakout makes more economic and strategic sense than moving ahead rapidly toward a nuclear capacity? A one-week breakout window would make Iran a de facto nuclear power. (A much longer window would actually suffice since the odds of an American or Israeli strike against the nuclear sites are shrinking quickly.) Would the French, who have staunchly opposed Tehran but are also practical, hold firm to sanctions once they saw that the Islamic Republic was within seven days of a bomb and the United States had shown no desire to preempt? Without the French, the sanctions regime in Europe would unravel, and with it any U.S. hope of depriving Tehran of sufficient funds to happily muddle on, the economic standard for every Iranian leader since Khomeini. Would Rouhani decide that delaying the breakout date to 2015 or 2016 was worth whatever sanctions relief Tehran could acquire now, so long as the nuclear quest that he and Khamenei have worked so hard to achieve wasn’t compromised? If so, do Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards agree?

Without a credible American threat to go to war if Khamenei fails to dismantle—not just delay—his nuclear program, the upcoming negotiations are unlikely to end well. They could become, as we have already seen elsewhere in the Middle East, just farce. 

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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