Immediately after new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani appeared before the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, a blog headline of The New York Times positively gushed, "Rouhani, blunt and charming, pitches a moderate Iran."
The article, which went on to quote sources calling Mr. Rouhani "clever," "unflappable," "composed," "pragmatic," "bold" and "a risk-taker," was indicative of some of the flowery language we have seen heaped upon the new Iranian president by a Western press seemingly eager to adopt the narrative of the new, softer side of an Iran ostensibly bearing an olive branch.
Indeed, much has been made of Mr. Rouhani's "more moderate" approach. Despite all the decrees that Iran has begun a new era of reasoned discourse after a 30-year standoff, it would seem many of Iran's terrorist proxies have yet to receive the memo.
Consider the report published in The Washington Times on Sept. 23, nearly two months after Mr. Rouhani assumed the presidency in Iran. The report quoted senior members of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas announcing in the Lebanese press that they had "formed a stronger pact with Iran's government to watch out for one another's interests in the Middle East." Not the sort of thing one would expect to hear were the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism legitimately penitent.
These actions should not be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to Iran for the past decade, or to anyone who is familiar with Mr. Rouhani's record, for that matter. In fact, prior to assuming the office to which he is supposed to bring a willingness to talk about ultimately dismantling his country's nuclear weapons capability, Mr. Rouhani was intimately involved in building up that very capability. He campaigned for the presidency on these specific credentials.
Speaking to Iranian state TV a month before the election, Mr. Rouhani said only "the illiterate" would believe the "lie" that the Iranian nuclear program had been suspended on his watch. Although during his tenure as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, Iran had promised "voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities," Mr. Rouhani revealed that these promises were never fulfilled and that Iran had, in fact, only slightly reduced the yield of 10 centrifuges (out of hundreds) at one enrichment facility. Defending his accomplishments to the interviewer, Mr. Rouhani then rattled off a list of the Iranian nuclear program's advances under his leadership, asking, "Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004. Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004." Continuing to defend his own achievements, Mr. Rouhani boasted, "We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it. We completed the technology."
This is the "moderate" who is supposed to bring about a more peaceful Iran less bent on obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. The same "moderate" whose idea of peaceful diplomatic outreach apparently includes his recent statement regarding Israel: "The Zionist regime is a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed." Anyone willing to scratch beneath the glossy, thin surface of Iran's so-called "charm offensive" will find the hateful rhetoric and the violent ideology still very much intact. How quickly we are inclined to forget that Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, has not only called for the destruction of Israel and the West, but is actively — even as you read this — rushing headlong toward acquiring the means by which they might carry out its goal.
The popular tendency of late is to embrace Iran's "openness" and to reward its supposed willingness to negotiate. We know too much to fall for this effort by Iran to buy the alarmingly small amount of time it needs to put the finishing touches on a functional nuclear weapons capability. We have seen International Atomic Energy Agency declarations go unanswered by this regime and know that past diplomatic efforts, including 10 rounds of negotiation since 2011, have borne no fruit. Decades have passed without a single concession from the world's leading sponsor of terrorism.
Let us not forget that in 2005, we saw North Korea, another rogue nation, petition for "talks" about ending its nuclear weapons program and demanding U.S. concessions. How did that nation hold up its end of the bargain? It has since conducted three flagrant nuclear weapons tests. This, in spite of the fact that North Korea has been sanctioned into virtual starvation for a half-century.
As the Obama administration talks about making a deal with Iran, there is a legitimate risk that we could see an agreement reached with Iran that represents a grave national security threat to the United States. Consider that Mr. Rouhani promised during the Iranian elections that he would work to ease sanctions against Iran within the first 100 days of his term. The Obama administration, having trumpeted the "historic" nature of Iran's willingness to come to the negotiating table, may well find itself tempted to make a deal for the sake of claiming a diplomatic victory — even a hollow and dangerous one.
The stakes are far too high for the United States to make a bad deal with Iran.
To that end, I have just introduced the U.S.-Iran Nuclear Negotiations Act. This act outlines critical congressional priorities in any nuclear negotiations with Iran. A bad deal with Iran — one which does not definitively prevent a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran — is worse than no deal at all. The act would also strengthen the U.S. negotiating position in talks with Iran, which must be backed by a credible American military threat.
Whatever the cost may be of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, it will pale in significance to the cost to our children and the entire human family of allowing the jihadist regime in Iran to gain nuclear weapons.
Trent Franks is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona.