Will Hassan Rohani, Not the First ‘Moderate’ Iranian President, Bring More of the Same for Nuclear Program?

June 19, 2013 5:24 am 1 comment

The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. The victory of so-called "moderate" Hassan Rohani in Iran's presidential election has renewed hope in the West of a resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran, but the country has proceeded with its nuclear program under moderate presidents in the past. Photo: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org - The win of the so-called “moderate” Hassan Rohani in Iran’s presidential election has renewed hope in the West that the nuclear standoff with the Islamic Republic may end, as opposed to the stalemate experienced under outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But in the past, Iran’s nuclear program has continued to progress, and nuclear negotiations with the West have broken down, under the watch of moderate leaders.

Rohani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, a time when Europe was providing a diplomacy track to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program under another so-called “moderate” president, Mohammad Khatami. But those negotiations “were a spectacular failure,” Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, told JNS.org.

“Later on, Rohani made a statement in 2006 that [Iran] leveraged Europe’s willingness to talk to buy time for the nuclear program,” Berman said.

“That should inform you how to think about him,” he added.

Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor at Rutgers University who considered running on a reformist platform for Iran’s presidency but decided not to submit his candidacy, explained that after the 1979 Iranian revolution, Rohani was a member of a group called the “combatant clergy organization,” which eventually split into the left and the right. The left became former Iranian presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami, and Rohani went to the right, but he was “more pragmatic and moderate than most of the right,” Amirahmadi told JNS.org.

“I would consider him to be more pro-Western than most of the leaders on the right in Iran,” Amirahmadi said. “In the domestic policy, he never was a member of the reform movement and did not support the ‘Green Movement’ in 2009. But he always stood somewhere in the middle and worked with all sides.”

Despite the Western media’s reporting that Rohani won a strong mandate, gaining a clear majority with 51 percent of the vote and avoiding a run-off, Amirahmadi explained that his victory was not as resounding as it may seem.

“The problem for Rohani is he doesn’t have a very strong mandate. Most of the votes went to Rohani because Rafsanjani and other reformists were not allowed to run,” Amirahmadi said.

“The most difficult thing for Rohani is that the ultra-rightist candidates still got a significant share of the votes,” Amirahmadi added. “They may have lost, but they are still there and have tremendous support. They [the ultra-conservatives] still have the Revolutionary Guards, the basij [street militias], and the fundamentalists clerics behind them. They are the real power out there.”

Amirahmadi also explained that Rohani might not be able to choose many of his government ministers, including important positions such as the defense, intelligence or foreign ministers. Additionally, Rohani will be constrained by a number of “red lines” that Khamenei will set for him on issues such as the nuclear program, negotiations with the West, and economic issues.

“[Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei will try his best to control him in the beginning and gradually see if he can deliver anything without passing the red line. He is a weakling at this point,” Amirahmadi said.

Iran's President-elect Hassan Rohani. Photo: Wikipedia.

With the election of Rohani, many in the West are hopeful of a thaw in the nuclear standoff with Iran. In his first press conference after being elected, Rohani promised more transparency for the nuclear program.

“Our nuclear programs are completely transparent. But we are ready to show greater transparency and make clear for the whole world that the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international frameworks,” Rohani said, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, the White House described Rohani’s victory as a “potentially hopeful sign” and welcomed a return to nuclear talks.

While some are optimistic after Rohani’s win because they considered it a setback for Khamenei’s conservative policies, Berman believes that the election result may actually work out in Khamenei’s favor by giving the regime less scrutiny from the international community over its nuclear program. Former president Rafsanjani, who was also viewed as part of the opposition and a critic of the Iranian regime, was frequently quoted as saying that “Ahmadinejad’s firebrand style was drawing too much attention and criticism from the West,” Berman said. During the 2009 Iranian election, Rafsanjani noted that the nuclear program actually “moved more quickly under his tenure,” Berman noted.

“Under Rohani, I think that the same approach will happen,” he said. “His ‘moderate’ style will buy additional time for the nuclear program for the regime.”

Speaking along those same lines, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that now is not the time to ease pressure on Iran, possibly allowing them more time to make progress on their nuclear program.

“We are not deluding ourselves when it comes to the results of the Iranian election,” Netanyahu said Sunday at his weekly cabinet meeting, Israel Hayom reported. “The international community must not get hung up on its own wishful thinking and become tempted to ease the pressure on Iran.”

On Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, said that Iran continues to make “steady progress” on its nuclear program despite sanctions.

“There is a steady increase of capacity and production [in Iran’s nuclear program],” IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said, Reuters reported. Asked by reporters if he believed that sanctions were having an effect, Amano said, “I don’t think so… I don’t see any impact.”

Amirahmadi told JNS.org that the West is giving Iran more time because of its ambiguous policies regarding the nuclear program, and he believes a more straightforward approach to negotiations is necessary.

“The West, especially the United States, needs to get rid of this stupid unclear policy of ‘all options on the table’ and offer Iran a more straightforward solution, either war or peace,” he said. “They should ask Iran, ‘Are you ready to make sacrifices for peace?’ I think if you put that on the table, the Iranian people will pour into the street supporting peace and the regime will have no choice but to support it. They cannot afford a war with the U.S.”

1 Comment

  • Pascal Mahvi

    Not only the US cannot afford another war, but war itself is not the answer. I am not advocating being a dove; hawkes can hold a dialogue, Ben with idiots. And Rohani is smarter than more educated than most of us. It is up to us to manage our resources intelligently and act responsibily.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.