Iran's Rouhani wishes Jews blessed Rosh Hashanah

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Iranian Jews pray at the Yousefabad Synagogue in Tehran November 23, 2006.

In stunning contrast to his Holocaust denying predecessor, Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday sent well wishes to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown.

“Not even under the monarchy do we remember such a message,” Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-born scholar who heads the Middle East program at the Woodrow Willson International Center, said of the message.

Rouhani's well wishes to the Jewish people come as the Iranian mission at the United Nations confirmed to Al-Monitor that he will travel to New York later this month to address the United Nations General Assembly and participate in a disarmament meeting.

Rouhani is scheduled to address the General Assembly on the afternoon of September 24th, the same day that US President Obama will address the body in the morning.

It also comes as Rouhani and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif have sent multiple messages condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iran's ally, while not saying explicitly they believe it was done by the Assad regime, and while urging against U.S.-led action. Former Iranian President Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, however, is reported to have accused the Syrian government of gassing its own people at a lecture last week, allegedly recorded on video, even as other reports say his office had denied the comment.

“We strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons anywhere, but must be careful not to jump to conclusions before[ the] facts [are] clear,” Rouhani wrote on Twitter August 29.

Obama's national security chiefs have been testifying on the Hill and intensively consulting with lawmakers this week as the Senate and House consider whether to grant Obama an authorization to use military force to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

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Syria expert Joshua Landis: “Torn” about whether US should get more involved

Barbara Slavin writes:

Influential Syria expert Joshua Landis presented a bleak view of Syria’s prospects Monday, saying that the country is headed for “a hard landing and it’s going to get harder.”

Landis, who directs the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and writes a daily newsletter on Syrian politics, “Syria Comment,” has opposed US military intervention in the past. He said Monday that he is now “torn” about whether the US should get more deeply involved in what the Red Cross has declared to be a civil war between the minority Alawite regime and majority Sunni population.

“Obama has been very reluctant to lead on Syria,” Landis said. That “has been a smart policy” but it may not stay that way, he said, citing the rising death toll and fragmentation of the country.

“I’m very pessimistic about the future of Syria and that’s what makes me so hesitant about jumping in,” he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. At the same time, he said “decapitation [of the regime] might work,” eliminating a president who is increasingly detached from reality. Continue reading