Iran's  new President Hassan Rohani
Iran's new President Hassan RohaniAFP file

Hassan Rohani, Iran's new President, is being termed a “moderate” in Western media, but it appears that his moderation stops when it comes to Israel. In his first speech as Iran's new leader, Rohani quickly launched into a diatribe against Israel, blaming the Jewish state for Iran's economic problems.

Those problems largely have their roots in the sanctions imposed by the West on Iran, the result of the previous government's refusal to allow international inspectors into some of its nuclear facilities, and its insistence at enriching uranium at a level that would allow Tehran to build nuclear weapons. Western countries several times tried to work out arrangements with Iran to allow the country to continue nuclear enrichment at a level that would be used for civilian nuclear development programs in exchange for the removal of sanctions – but Tehran refused.

Yet the sanctions are not the result of Iran's actions, Rohani said in his first speech; it was Israel that got the West to impose those sanctions, in an attempt to ruin Iran economically. “The Iranian nation has done nothing to deserve these sanctions,” he said. “Our activities are in line with international norms. If the sanctions help anyone, it is Israel. They are directed only at us. The Western nations do not have sanctions against anyone else.” It was part of Israel's plan to “ruin” Iran, he added.

In his speech, Rohani said that although Iran might consider stepping up international inspections of its nuclear facilities, it would not change its pace of development, or other policies regarding the nuclear program. Rohani is Iran's former top nuclear negotiator.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the world not to be deceived by the leader’s “moderate” credentials. “We are not deluding ourselves,” the prime minister said said. “We need to remember that the Iranian ruler at the outset disqualified candidates who were not in line with his extreme world view, and from among those whom he did allow, the one seen as least identified with the regime was elected. But we are still speaking about someone who calls Israel the 'great Zionist Satan.'”