Has Iran Changed?

Since his election in June, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has signaled a more moderate stance in his country’s international relations. But the world’s second-largest oil producer remains a danger not just to Saudi Arabia but also to peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond.

RIYADH – As 2014 begins, there is no more important question in world diplomacy than this: Has Iran changed? Since his election in June, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has signaled a more moderate stance in his country’s international relations. But caution is in order – now and in the years ahead. The world’s second-largest oil producer, and self-proclaimed leader of Shia Islam and anti-Western Muslim revolutionaries everywhere, remains a danger not just to Saudi Arabia but also to peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond.

Saudi Arabia has two large concerns about the Islamic Republic: its quest for nuclear weapons and its interference in its neighbors’ affairs.

For starters, Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons pose a huge danger, and, if left unchecked, are likely to trigger a wave of proliferation across the Middle East. Faced with a nuclear-armed Iran, the Gulf Cooperation Council members, for example, will be forced to weigh their options carefully – and possibly to acquire a nuclear deterrent of their own.

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