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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.