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Media Week - Hand wringing over Iran; Tom after Tom

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Hand wringing over Iran

Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is a good guy the West can do business with according to an Age editorial (Aug 9).

Whilst it admitted that Rouhani was vetted by "Iran's overlords", that "he is not signalling capitulation on the issue that triggered sanctions - a uranium enrichment program that raises the spectre of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons", and that "ultimate power in Iran does not lie with the president", the paper still places its faith in his ability to make a deal because "he wants to resume talks 'with seriousness and without wasting time'".

However, as Rouhani himself noted in 2004 when he was Iran's main nuclear negotiator, time wasting with a smile is his forte - "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the nuclear conversion facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there."

The editorial pontificated how "the fate of the moderate revival in Iran is tied to Mr Rouhani's success or failure" and that the "dream of liberalisation was crushed a decade ago" when US President George W. Bush included "Iran in his 'axis of evil'" thereby playing "into the hands of hardliners seeking to reassert their supremacy".

The Age clearly has a short memory.

The Obama Administration tried to reset the relationship with Iran in 2009. The hardliners had the opportunity to take advantage of this outreach by refraining from engaging in electoral shenaningans to ensure the re-election of confrontationalist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Instead, the mullahs launched a brutal crackdown that secured Ahmadinejad another term and resulted in even more stringent sanctions being put in place by the Obama Administration.

In fact, Iran's hardliners have repeatedly managed to "reassert their supremacy" since they usurped the revolution against the Shah in 1979 - without any significant input from George W. Bush.

Indeed, in 1999, when Bill Clinton was president of the US and another supposed moderate, Mohammad Khatami, was president of Iran, a student protest movement centred on Teheran University was brutally surpressed - with 17 people reportedly killed, 1500 arrests made and thousands injured.

Tom after Tom

It is hard to understand how Tom Friedman can lament that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "foolishly did not take advantage of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's offer of a two-state deal in 2008" yet still question Israel's resolve to make peace, writing that "one should never forget just how crazy some of Israel's Jewish settlers are. They assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin when he tried to cede part of the West Bank for peace," (Age, Aug. 10).

Rabin's assassin was not a settler but came from the well-heeled Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.

Despite Rabin paying the ultimate price, all of his successors have all walked the same path for peace. Moreover, as evidenced by the results of two decade's worth of surveys, an overwhelming majority of Israelis back those efforts too.

- Allon Lee

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