In recent weeks, the New York Times has been playing up the moderation of Iran’s new government, especially that of its new president Hassan Rouhani.

Yesterday’s editorial, President Rouhani Comes to Town ahead of Rouhani’s speech before the U.N. later this week, is one more element of that campaign.

All eyes at this week’s United Nations General Assembly will be on Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani. Since taking office in August, he has sent encouraging signals about his willingness to engage more constructively with the West than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who insisted on proceeding with Iran’s nuclear program, denied the Holocaust and seemed unconcerned as his country slipped into deeper economic distress. Mr. Rouhani’s assembly address on Tuesday gives him a chance to provide concrete evidence that his talk of change is real.

Perhaps the most important article to appear last week in the media was Iranians Dial Up Presence in Syria in the Wall Street Journal (Google search terms)
The busloads of Shiite militiamen from Iraq, Syria and other Arab states have been arriving at the Iranian base in recent weeks, under cover of darkness, for instruction in urban warfare and the teachings of Iran’s clerics, according to Iranian military figures and residents in the area. The fighters’ mission: Fortify the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels, the U.S. and Israel. …

The fighters “are told that the war in Syria is akin to [an] epic battle for Shiite Islam, and if they die they will be martyrs of the highest rank,” says an Iranian military officer briefed on the training camp, which is 15 miles outside Tehran and called Amir Al-Momenin, or Commander of the Faithful.

The training of thousands of fighters is an outgrowth of Iran’s decision last year to immerse itself in the Syrian civil war on behalf of its struggling ally, the Assad regime, in an effort to shift the balance of power in the Middle East. Syria’s bloodshed is shaping into more than a civil war: It is now a proxy war among regional powers jockeying for influence in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions.

Even as Rouhani poses a moderate and his cheerleaders in the media and government hype Iran’s new reasonableness, Iran is still destabilizing the Middle East.

Rouhani --  How far will the New York Times
go to support him? Credit: Wiki Commons

The New York Times couldn’t ignore the reality of Iran’s involvement and Syria and reported, President’s Speech and Online Army Video Point to Iran’s Dueling Interests in Syria:
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, told Revolutionary Guards commanders on Monday that Iran would support whomever Syrians want as their leader even if it is not the country’s staunch ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. …

But Mr. Rouhani’s statement came as a video surfaced online appearing to show Iranian commanders and Revolutionary Guards soldiers training and fighting alongside pro-government militias battling rebels trying to oust Mr. Assad.

Taken together, the speech and the video, if it is verified, point to the dual tracks employed by Iran as it tries to navigate the Syrian civil war and its widespread impact in the region. While calling for peace and diplomacy, Iran has also aided the government’s war effort. Although Mr. Rouhani stressed Iran’s wish for a diplomatic solution in Syria, the United States has long said Iran was supporting Mr. Assad against the rebels.

“[D]ual tracks,” is another way of saying that President Rouhani’s actions prove that there is no real change in Iran. Rouhani is just as committed to keeping Assad in power regardless of the destruction the civil war causes, as Ahmadinejad was. His conciliatory tone is merely a pose.

(Robert Mackey who is usually ideologically tainted did an excellent job of confirming the accuracy the video.)

Later the editors assert:
The next few weeks will be critical for capitalizing on a new sense of promise created by a recent flurry of remarkable gestures: Iran’s leadership has sent Rosh Hashana greetings to Jews worldwide via Twitter, released political prisoners, exchanged letters through the Swiss with President Obama, praised “flexibility” in negotiations and transferred responsibility for nuclear negotiations from conservatives in the military to the Foreign Ministry. Mr. Obama eased restraints on humanitarian and good-will activities, including athletic exchanges between the two countries.
Ray Tayekh however asks that Iran be held accountable on substantive matters; not just window dressing. (via memeorandum)
It is not enough for Rouhani to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Is he prepared to withdraw the Revolutionary Guard contingents that have done much to buttress Assad’s brutality?

It is not sufficient for Rouhani to speak of transparency; he must curb Iran’s troublesome nuclear activities and comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
And it is not enough for Rouhani to speak of a tolerant society unless he is prepared to free his many former comrades and colleagues who are languishing in prisons under false charges.
To be sure there are many other reasons to be suspicious that Rouhani’s election is a reason to believe that Iran is entering a new kinder, gentler phase.

It would be nice if the editors of the New York Times read and comprehended what their reporters are reporting instead of believing in the fairy dust of moderate tweets.

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