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Can we trust new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani?

Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has introduced himself to the American people as a pro-peace leader, a hippie in comparison to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

When asked, for example, whether he thought President Obama looked weak after backing off his threat to strike Syria as punishment for using chemical weapons, he delivered a response that would make Bob Dylan sing.

“We consider war a weakness,” he told NBC News correspondent Ann Curry on Wednesday. “Any government or administration that decides to wage a war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace, we look on it with respect to peace.” [Watch the interview.]

It sounds nice, but are we being misled by a brilliant foreign relations marketing campaign?

It’s not as if Rouhani has ceased Iran’s nuclear program; he just makes it sound harmless. As he told Curry: “We solely are looking for peaceful nuclear technology.”

Which is why Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, urges caution on Iran.

“Beyond vague pledges of cooperation and lofty rhetoric about turning a new page, the question remains how to assess the intentions of the new Iranian government. The early indications are that Rouhani has put together a seasoned team that seeks to both advance and legitimize Iran’s nuclear program,” Takeyh writes in Friday’s Op-Ed pages. Further: “It is not sufficient for Rouhani to speak of transparency; he must curb Iran’s troublesome nuclear activities and comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Read on for how Rouhani speaks softly but still carries a big stick.

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+

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