Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Iranian Elections

July 1, 2013 4:22 pm 1 comment

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

A number of observers, including The New York Times, have exulted that the recent presidential elections produced a “moderate” winner, Hassan Rouhani. They suggest this could signify a new era in Iranian policy.

Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not.

When it comes to Iran, it would be wishful thinking to allow hope to substitute for experience.

Let’s bear in mind three salient facts.

First, to become a presidential candidate, Rouhani had to pass muster ideologically with Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei and his entourage. Of scores of would-be candidates, only six made it to the ballot. That ought to say something about who Rouhani really is. If his positions deviated all that much from those of the regime, he would have been barred from running.

Indeed, it may have been precisely his more “moderate” exterior, compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that proved so appealing to the powers-that-be. After all, Ahmadinejad’s antics made it especially difficult even for those most inclined to rationalize, or appease, Iranian behavior to do so persuasively.

Second, in the Iranian system, the president has limited powers. Khamenei is in full charge. Thus, Rouhani’s ability to introduce change, even assuming he would want to, is severely circumscribed. Consider the limited impact of the last “moderate” Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005.

And third, Rouhani has been an integral part of the post-1979 Iranian system, not a rebellious outsider.

As one telling example, he is reported to have been present at a fateful 1993 meeting of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council—he was its secretary at the time—when the decision was made to bomb the AMIA building in central Buenos Aires. That meeting has been documented by the relentless Argentine prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman. The actual attack was carried out in July 1994. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds wounded in one of the deadliest assaults in Latin America in decades.

Looking ahead, if Rouhani really wishes to help steer Iran in a different, more peaceful direction, here are four places to start.

– It is high time to put an end to Iranian support for international terrorism. Jihadist groups like Hezbollah, which operate in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, would be seriously weakened without Iranian weaponry, training, and funding. And nearly 20 years after the AMIA bombing in Argentina, Iran should come clean about its own complicity in the attack and hand over those officials, including the current minister of defense, who are the objects of Interpol red notices and are sought by Argentine authorities.

– Iran continues to prop up the murderous Assad regime in Syria. More than 90,000 people have been killed in a civil war now in its third year. Iran is a central player. Will Rouhani steer Iran away from continued involvement in crimes against humanity?

– Iran is a notorious violator of human rights. Not only are its presidential elections perverted versions of democracy, as only approved candidates can participate, but respected human rights watchdog agencies have cataloged a litany of violations of fundamental liberties. Try being a Baha’i in Iran today, or a feminist leader, or a gay activist, or a student protester, or a crusading journalist. And Iran uses capital punishment indiscriminately, including, as has been documented, against children.

– And if Rouhani seeks better relations with the world, then Iran must end its long-standing pursuit of nuclear-weapons capability, as the United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly demanded. For years, Iran has managed to run circles around European and American negotiators seeking a deal on its nuclear program, all the while buying time to develop the program further. Rouhani himself was part of that process, at one point boasting about his ability to outmaneuver his Western diplomatic interlocutors. Has he changed? If so, here is a good place to begin.

The history of the last century painfully demonstrates the seemingly infinite capacity of some Western policy-makers and security experts to deceive themselves, with devastating results. The stakes with Iran could not be higher. Concrete deeds must be the measure of any change in the country’s behavior. Anything less might end up as the dangerous pursuit of an illusion.

David Harris is Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee. This article was originally published by El Pais.


1 Comment

  • The ‘All The News That Fits We Print’ New York Times is so hopelessly conditioned to Liberal-Left (read Irrational} thinking, effective analysis seldom reaches beyond their psychoanalysts’ office couches.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →