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5 Enemies of Diplomacy Hell-Bent On Sabotaging Peace Between America and Iran

Will the new Iranian president's diplomatic opening survive the onslaught from detractors like Israel, Saudi Arabia and members of the U.S. Congress?

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The new Iranian leader’s diplomatic moves have brought hope to those searching for an end to hostility between Iran and the U.S. In the days leading up to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani proclaimed to NBC News that Iran would not seek nuclear weapons under any circumstances and penned a Washington Post op-ed in which he declared, “I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world.”

It was all part of Rouhani’s effort to pave the way for a potential new chapter in U.S.-Iranian relations. After decades of mistrust sowed by a U.S.-backed coup in 1953 and the taking of American hostages in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Rouhani seemed to be trying to forge a different course. The new Iranian president’s United Nations speech continued the diplomatic opening, declaring that Iran was open to negotiations aimed at resolving “reasonable concerns” about Iran’s nuclear energy program. Rouhani’s UN talk came hours after President Barack Obama signaled an American willingness to engage in talks with Iran, though it’s far from a sure thing that meetings could bear fruit.

The details of a potential deal are fairly well-known. It would involve Western recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes in return for an Iranian willingness to allow more inspections of its nuclear program, ending work on a water reactor that could produce a key element of a nuclear weapon and capping the levels of uranium enrichment. Iranian concessions would be met with sanctions relief.

But will the diplomatic opening survive the onslaught of a wide array of detractors? That’s the big question.

On September 24, the day of Rouhani’s and Obama’s speeches, a large crowd of detractors virulently opposed to a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations demonstrated outside the United Nations. Organized by the political branch of the Iranian expatriate group Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), thousands of Iranian-Americans gathered to denounce Rouhani and any chance of diplomacy. Also at the rally were non-Iranian Americans that were bused in from around the country, their tickets, food and lodging all paid for by MEK. “Some of the people don’t have a clue what it was all about,” one man from Michigan at the rally told AlterNet.

Waving trademark red, green and white MEK flags and chanting for the downfall of the Iranian regime, MEK supporters listened to former U.S. officials on the group’s payroll fall over themselves for the most hyperbolic statements about Iran’s new leader.

Former Democratic senator Robert Toricelli thundered, “there is no compromising with evil....Do not meet with terrorists.” Former chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele said, “do not shake hands with Rouhani,” a reference to the possibility that Obama would do just that with Rouhani (the handshake or meeting never materialized). The hawkish former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told the crowd it would be “repugnant” for Obama to meet with Rouhani and that now was the time for “increasing” punishing sanctions on Iran which have wreaked havoc on their economy and led to medicine shortages. But it fell to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take the cake for the most ridiculous statement of the day when he tried to link Rouhani to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina.

“Rouhani…was certainly aware of it, certainly involved. Their blood is on their hands, and just wishing people ‘Happy Rosh Hashanah’ doesn’t wipe away the blood of these Jewish martyrs from Iran’s hand or Rouhani,” said Giuliani. But while the Iranian government has been linked to the attack, the Argentine prosecutor on the case told the Times of Israel in June that Rouhani “ did not participate” in the meetingthat approved the bombing.

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