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June 24, 2013 10:12 am

Opinion: Rouhani Will Bring No Real Change to Iran

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Iranians in Tehran protest the country's elections in June 2009, in which reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi was defeated. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Weekly Standard – Iranians aren’t wrong to celebrate the presidential victory of Hassan Rouhani. It is a (small) thumb in the eye of the country’s clerical ruler, Ali Khamenei. Leaving aside foreign affairs and the nuclear issue for a moment, everyone should take some joy from controlled elections that still deliver surprises. The Islamic Revolution put into permanent tension two irreconcilable forces: theocracy and democracy. Although the regime has rigged balloting before, it doesn’t like to do so. It wants to believe that Iranians will vote the way “good Muslims” should, which is the way the supreme leader wants them to.

Rouhani was for years the all-purpose factotum—the inside fixer—for Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, former majordomo of the political clergy and right-hand man of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder. Without Rafsanjani, Khamenei would never have succeeded Khomeini. Since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2005, Rafsanjani has been in a very difficult relationship with Khamenei, who allowed Ahmadinejad, a man with a real bugaboo about corrupt mullahs, to torment relentlessly the great political maestro. The volcanic disputed presidential election of 2009, when the pro-democracy Green Movement rose up and was beaten down, left Rafsanjani prostrate before the supreme leader.

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