Hassan Rouhani is surprising almost everyone with his refreshingly moderate tone. Wednesday, the recently elected Iranian president spoke with Ann Curry at NBC in his first interview with an American news outlet as head of state. He also penned an op-ed for the Washington Post Thursday, in which he declared, "Gone is the age of blood feuds."
"We must work together," he wrote, "to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart." Rouhani decried unilateralism and the "zero-sum, Cold War mentality" as dangerous to diplomacy, and announced that he would seek to broker a dialogue between the Syrian government and its opposition groups. He also asked that world leaders engage "on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives."
In terms of Iran's contentious nuclear program, Rouhani argued that it's "as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world." This follows his interview with Curry, in which Rouhani explicitly stated, "We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so."
Not everything was roses, however. Rouhani deflected on a question from Curry about whether he believed that the Holocaust was "a myth." (His predecessor, the bellicose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has infamously refused to acknowledge that the Holocaust ever happened.) He also continued his government's tradition of trading insults with Israel, calling it "an occupier and usurper government" that "has brought instability to the region with its warmongering policies." (For what it's worth, Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu has also called Rouhani "a wolf in sheep's clothing" who just wants to "smile and build a bomb.")
Photo: Via Reuters.