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 *


  • Arts and Culture Israel Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel

    Jerry Seinfeld to Make Comedy Debut in Israel – Famed Jewish-American comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld is slated to make his comedic debut in Israel later this year. Seinfeld, who was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents from the Ukraine and Syria, will perform in Tel Aviv’s Mitvtachim Menorah Arena on Dec. 19 as part of a world tour. The comedian is most known for his enormously popular NBC sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1989-1998 and is widely considered one of the greatest TV series of all time. […]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    New Video Shows American Kids Reviewing Israeli Food After Tasting Dishes for First Time (VIDEO)

    A new video circulating online shows eight American children reacting — mostly positively — to their first taste of the famed Israeli eggplant salad/dip, known in Hebrew as “salat hatzilim” and in other parts of the Levant as baba ganoush. The clip, created by, features the youngsters trying a variety of exotic dishes from other countries as well, such as Hawaiian poi, Colombian pork belly and Russian borscht. The Israeli delicacies served include schnitzel, slices of pita, hummus and the baba ganoush salad. “If someone […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Pioneers/Philanthropists ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit

    ‘Start-Up Nation’ Israel to Host Forbes Magazine Young Entrepreneurs Summit – Forbes magazine announced Tuesday that it will host its Under 30 EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Summit in Israel for the first time in April 2016. The conference is expected to bring together some 600 young entrepreneurs, with 200 from Europe, 200 from the U.S., and 200 from Israel. The summit has been hosted in Philadelphia for the past two years. It will include presentations, speeches, a pitch competition, and cultural immersion opportunities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →