Bleary-eyed from another night of interrupted by nothing-to-speak-of sleep, I made my way to the kitchen to make a pot of espresso. While it brewed on the stove I opened up the latest edition of The Wall Street Journal. The front page featured a large photo which literally made me close my eyes, shake my head and then re-open my eyes thinking the image before me was just an illusion due to lack of sleep.
Wow. There is was. It was a photo of a smiling Pope Francis and an equally smiling, relaxed-looking Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani…together. Well…isn’t that just peachy! The headline for the photo reads: Iranian President’s European Charm Offensive Comes to Vatican. There is even a photo of the two exchanging gifts at the Vatican. Shudder. Seriously. I know that the Vatican and Iran enjoyed close ties in the past…long ago past. I’m sure many would disagree with me but given more recent history, this happy-looking exchange just strikes me as…well…wrong. I make a mental note to talk to my bro-in-law about this. He’s much wiser than me and will no doubt get me to consider a different perspective.
President Rouhani is on a campaign across Europe to get people to like—and trust— all things Iranian. They want to be regarded as a tolerant country again. So, first stop towards that end was an audience with Pope Francis. Rouhani also wants to discuss human rights and Iran’s role in doing something positive about the Middle East conflicts and stemming the tide of terrorism. Incredulous. Incredulous too that His Holiness could believe a scintilla of that BS from a country that sponsors terrorism and chants “Death to America.” Excuse my extreme cynicism and so early in the morning too; this is not how I wanted to start the day. Clearly I should not have read the paper so early in the morning.
I know everyone just loves this new Pope and there is indeed a lot to like about him. But does His Holiness sincerely believe that the man with whom he is shaking hands with is really going to make serious changes to Iran’s human rights policies? Does he for one moment hold a shred of belief in the honesty and integrity of Rouhani and Iran’s “Supreme” Leader Al Khamenei…a man who holds more power and authority than the president or any other government official in Iran; a guy who has pursued weapons of mass destruction in the past? Iran needs money and desperately so. Dissatisfaction in Iran is growing and the best way to quell the seeds of uprising is doing whatever it takes in the moment to garner economic gain. They desperately need to be liked now and they will lie through their teeth–and have– to meet those ends.
I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on much of anything (shocking, I know!) but this omnipotent “Supreme Leader” business is troublesome to me on so many levels. Mostly, I don’t believe that anything that comes out of Khamenei’s mouth can be trusted although our own naive and incompetent leaders seems to think so. On the one hand the Supreme Leader can say whatever the West wants to hear in an effort to appease for political and financial gain but on the other he can practice obscure Shia doctrine that allows “Muslims to lie to infidels.” Folks, that would be anyone other than Shia Muslims. How can we who are labeled “infidels” trust anyone in Iran that clings to this kind of belief system? The official position of the Iranian government is being against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons since it is “forbidden by Islam.” I don’t believe for one moment that Khamenei would hold that position to the fire and there are plenty of people in the U.S. and Israel (infinitely more intelligent than I) that would agree. Except of course for our President and Secretary of State.
I fundamentally believe these are bad guys. It takes time and real effort to turn things around. Iran has not done enough to change my opinion otherwise. Until substantial change is truly evident we shouldn’t be engaging with the bad guys on any level. That’s just my humble opinion. Perhaps Pope Francis, at some level, must understand this too, although I wish he would not have appeared in a photo laughing, joking and exchanging gifts with the Iranian president. Must an audience with the Pope need to be all smiles and such anyway?
Your Holiness, I am confident that you will keep praying for peace and change all over the world.
And so will I.