While the United States and Europe may lament the failure to reach a final agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, for Iranian officials, all is going according to plan. After all, while the West may engage in diplomacy to resolve conflict, for Tehran, the process has always been about winning concessions and relieving pressure on Iran's moribund economy, not coming to agreement.
Immediately upon becoming Iran's president in 2013, Hassan Rouhani moved to remake the Islamic Republic's image on the world stage. His efforts, however, are window-dressing, meant to distract attention from Tehran's true aims. At its heart, the Islamic Republic's ideology remains as rigid and hostile as the day 35 years ago when revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini's followers seized the U.S. Embassy. Everything the Iranian leadership says in Persian and preach to their public suggest their regular call for "Death to America" is not mere rhetoric.
While Western officials hailed Rouhani as a moderate, Iranian leaders recognize him as a die-hard loyalist with a gift for public relations. He was the man who first called Khomeini "Imam," likening him to the Shiite messiah.
In February 2005, before a gathering of luminaries in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, he outlined a doctrine of surprise in which Iran would lull the United States into complacency, before delivering a knockout blow. In October 2011, answering criticism that he was too willing to compromise, Rouhani bragged to Etemaad, a reformist daily, that he merely used diplomacy to trick the West all the while furthering Iran's nuclear program.
In the year before talks began, Iran's economy shrank 5.3 percent. Not surprisingly, Rouhani's efforts have centered on lifting economic sanctions imposed on Iran in response to its refusal to open its nuclear program to full inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Supreme Leader Khamenei, however, never changed his stripes. His supposed anti-nuclear fatwa does not appear among those published on his website or, indeed, anywhere else. His aides explained that his call for "heroic flexibility" endorsed a change in tactics, but not policy.
Iran also continues to threaten Israel's existence. Khamenei calls the Jewish State a "cancer" and has referred to it as "the sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region." The head of Iran's armed forces, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, left no room for doubt when he defined Iran's cause to be "the full annihilation of Israel."
Iran's quest to arm itself with long-range missiles leaves America's Arab allies jittery. The commander of Iran's revolutionary guards bragged: "We are able to hit all the vital interests of the enemies at any point in the region," including American bases housing tens of thousands of American troops.
Thirty-five years since Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy, the Iranian message has not changed: Death to America. Death to Britain. Death to Israel.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore that Iran remains the world's premier state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial and operational support to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Iran may say it wants to negotiate with the West, but there is a difference between entering a process and seeking its fruition. If Iran can derive international legitimacy and financial reward simply by showing up and talking, why make hard compromise? With the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog reiterating that Iran continues its long-term policy of refusing to provide the IAEA with critical information, there is no logic to moving forward with any agreement that would keep Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact while also permitting Tehran to procure additional funds to pursue the regime's nuclear ambitions.
If the IAEA is still uncertain about whether Iran has a nuclear weapons program, then the time is ripe for toughening the sanctions until Iran complies with the international community.
As pledges of death and destruction continue to pour from their leaders' lips, now is not the time to allow Iran to delay and deceive while marching steadily toward the most destructive weapons known to mankind.