|Those cavorting Iranian conservatives in "their robes"|
Here's a sighing op-ed from from the BBC's World Affairs Editor on Today this morning.
In it John Simpson (for it is he) expresses his view that the picture of Iran as painted by Donald Trump and the Israelis "in particular" is partial; that media coverage of Iran has been poor; that President Rouhani of Iran is essentially a good thing; and that President Trump's decision to drop the Iran nuclear deal is very much a bad thing:
John Humphrys: With the aftershocks of President Trump's decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal still reverberating attention is now turning to how President Rouhani of Iran responds. What's he going to do? As our World Affairs Editor John Simpson reports Mr. Rouhani, who was educated in Britain, does not easily fit the picture of an anti-Western firebrand.
John Simpson: Soon after President Trump had announced he was pulling out of the deal we watched pictures from Iran's parliament, the Majlis, of members setting fire to an American flag with their cigarette lighters. It had been printed out on paper for greater flammability. Their chant of 'Marg bar Amrika' means ' Death to America'.
[Sounds of chanting].
That's the view of Iran that 40 years of hostility have conditioned us to expect: a nation of violent, anti-Western mullahs and their supporters. What cameras didn't show us were the other benches in the Majlis - the great majority of MPs who had voted back in 2015 by 161 to 59 for the nuclear agreement in the hopes that it will lead to a better relationship with the outside world. Now the supporters of the deal sat glumly in their places or wandered round disconsolately while the extremists cavorted and chanted and tried not to catch their robes on fire. If the president, Hassan Rouhani, was watching the scene from the Majlis on his office television he probably had his head in his hands. When Rouhani made a public statement about it the bit that got all the attention was when he said America would regret its decision. What we didn't hear nearly so much of was this.
[Voice of Hassan Rouhani].
He's promising to talk to the British, French, Germans, Russians, Chinese - the co-sponsors of the nuclear deal - in the hope of seeing if anything can be done to keep it afloat. Rouhani doesn't fit the picture of extreme religious fury which, according to the supporters of President Trump and the Israeli government in particular, tends to characterise Iran. He's not an anti-Western extremist. He studied Law at Glasgow Caledonian University and became a diplomat, a trade negotiator and a politician. In 2013 and again last year he won presidential elections by big majorities against conservative opponents. He fought on a platform of more personal freedom, far greater rights for women and an opening up to the West. The nuclear deal was the high point of his achievement. Daily life has become a lot easier for ordinary Iranians as the international sanctions on Iran were lifted. That whole phase is now finished. President Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal has given the conservative extremists in Iran their biggest boost for years. In his remaining time in office Rouhani will be a lame duck president and the reformist cause will languish. Six weeks ago on this programme I was banging on about the possibility of a war between Iran and Israel.
[Sound of missiles being fired].
After this week's exchange of missiles on the Golan Heights it seems rather more likely now and a war will finish off the hope for a more liberal Iran. But then, as we've seen in the international coverage, the outside world seemed scarcely aware that that side of Iran existed anyway.
John Humphrys: That was John Simpson.
It most certainly was, Mr. Humphrys.