Iranian press lauds Obama’s UNGA speech, dismisses Israel as ‘isolated,’ ‘warmonger’

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Rouhani

Iranian media on Wednesday lauded US President Barack Obama for a speech in which he attested to “past mistakes” made by Washington, and said a favorable shift has commenced in the global community’s attitude toward Tehran, AFP reported.

Newspapers in Iran hailed Washington’s seemingly altered tone toward its long-time foe as alluded to in Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday during which he spoke of engaging in a “diplomatic path” with the Islamic Republic.

AFP cited what it called the moderate Donya-e-Eqtesad daily as welcoming the US leader’s “different tone”. The report also noted the so-called conservative Jomhouri Eslami newspaper as praising Obama’s pledge that the US was “not seeking regime change” in Iran.

The report quoted Shargh newspaper as welcoming Obama’s speech while arguing that the hawkish Israeli stance on Iran would lose pertinence.

AFP cited the publication as claiming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would become “isolated” and viewed as a “warmonger,” while stating in its editorial that, “Even those most pessimistic to an opening in relations have accepted that the time for change has arrived”.

An Israeli wall of suspicion hardened by Tehran’s nuclear pursuits has not fettered amid a charm offensive toward the West by Iran’s new president and his nuanced approach to his predecessor’s Holocaust denial.

Netanyahu said Israel will not be fooled by Hassan Rouhani’s international outreach and the world must not be either.

So when Netanyahu arrives in the United States next week, he will be on what aides describe as a mission to unmask Iran’s new administration, in which the West sees a potentially promising partner for negotiations to stop what it fears is a drive to develop atomic weapons.

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday that he believes Obama was sincere in his efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Erdan told Israel Radio that the problem lies in the moment when good intentions run into reality, as shown in the case of Syria.

The minister said he was worried that the world’s changing approach to Iran was a dangerous turn of events as Iran approaches the ability to enrich uranium at an accelerated speed.

“We’ve anticipated ever since Rouhani’s election that there would be American dialogue with Iran,” a senior Israeli official taking part in the annual UN forum told Reuters.

“Our goal is to ensure that these talks, if they happen, are matched with action, and soon. The Iranians are smiling, but they’re still cheating, and that has to be exposed.”

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, demands a total rollback of Iran’s nuclear projects, including uranium enrichment and plutonium production that could arm a bomb.

At White House talks with President Barack Obama on Monday, and in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York a day later, Netanyahu will point to what he sees as Iranian duplicity aimed at eluding foreign sanctions while entering the final stretch toward nuclear weapons.

In the words of  Channel 2 television, the right-wing Israeli leader will assume the unenviable role of “party pooper” in trying to dampen any Western expectations of a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis.

At his UN debut on Tuesday – boycotted by the Israeli delegation to the General Assembly – Rouhani pledged Iran’s willingness to engage immediately in “time-bound” talks on the nuclear issue. He offered, however, no new concessions.

Staying away from the speech, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, only played into Iranian hands.

“We have to let the Iranians be the ones refusing peace and not appear as if we are not open to changes,” Lapid said in a statement, signalling a measure of domestic dissent that presented another challenge to Netanyahu.

And with Rouhani’s hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a lightning rod for Israeli and Western criticism – no longer on the world stage, Israel is now forced to dig deeper between the lines of Iranian rhetoric to try to show Iranian intransigence.

In a CNN interview on Tuesday, Rouhani avoided the Holocaust-denial language used by Ahmadinejad – while also steering clear of acknowledging the deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

The Holocaust, Rouhani said, was a “reprehensible crime” although its scale was a matter for historians.

“The comments ostensibly are welcome and a welcome change from those of his predecessor, but for a head of state of a country that still openly calls for Israel’s destruction this statement, frankly, does not carry much weight and it is effectively meaningless,” said Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, director of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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