Hassan Rouhani and the Myth of ‘Moderation’
Human beings have a massive capacity to ignore bad news, as if dispensing with information that is either inconvenient or detrimental to one’s life will simply make the problem go away. Thus, the mainstream media could perhaps be forgiven for having bought into the solicitous charm offensive that is currently being conducted by Iran’s newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, in which the radical Islamic leader has fallaciously cast himself as a “moderate,” despite the overwhelming evidence that directly undermines this assertion. However, those actively working to advance the vital national security interests of the United States and of its one true ally in the Middle East, Israel, know better than to mask, mitigate or underestimate the truly evil inclinations of the clerical Islamic regime in Tehran. We have, quite literally, seen this movie before: it is called Argo.
In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency helped secure the throne of the Shah of Iran, who became for the next quarter-century the much vaunted centerpiece of American foreign policy in the Middle East. On December 31, 1977, President Carter infamously described Iran’s leadership as “an island of stability in a sea of turmoil.” The C.I.A. repeatedly confirmed the president’s faulty assessment. Just a few weeks later, however, riots broke out in the streets of Tehran. Yet even as the riots spread, some of the C.I.A.’s top analysts issued a draft National Intelligence Estimate that predicted the Shah might survive for another decade.
But the C.I.A. was soon caught fast asleep. On January, 16, 1979, armed thugs and loyalists of Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, a seventy-seven-year-old religious fanatic who returned from exile to Tehran, over-ran the Shah and his minions. Less than a year later, the Carter administration ignored advice given to it by the C.I.A. (which had finally begun to grasp the realities) and let the Shah enter the United States to seek medical treatment. Two weeks later, a group of Iranian “student protesters” violently seized the American Embassy, where they held fifty-two Americans hostage for 444 days. Ayatollah Khomeini recognized the value of embracing a military confrontation with the United States as a major means of consolidating his power and endorsed the hostage-taking.
Six State Department officials were lucky enough to find refuge at the Canadian Embassy across town, where they stayed for seventy-nine days. In January of 1980, the C.I.A. conducted a successful covert operation and extracted the American officials. They did so by posing as a fake film production company that had traveled to Iran to film location shots for their feigned upcoming movie, Argo.
No such luck greeted the remaining hostages. A special operations mission – Operation Eagle Claw – failed spectacularly, when an American helicopter crashed into a transport plane in the Iranian desert. Eight special operations commandos were killed in the crash; and as a result, life became increasingly unpleasant for the hostages. The hostages were eventually freed by their captors on the day that President Carter left the White House – and just minutes after the new American president, Ronald Reagan, was sworn into office. The entire ordeal was a humiliating blow to America’s perceived military might.
Now, as then, the United States government is seemingly unable, or at least unwilling, to protect its own interests and allies in the Middle East from belligerent Iran. True, Congress has passed harsh economic sanctions targeting Iran’s banking, energy and export sectors, which together have conflated the country’s economy. It is also true that President Obama has allegedly authorized covert action to be conducted against Iran, including the implementation of the Stuxnet virus and the mysterious disappearance of some Iranian scientists. However, these efforts have neither brought down the current regime nor have they stopped Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has been involved in the Islamic revolution since its murderous inception. In 1978 Rouhani helped Khomeini found the regime and has since allegedly assisted in plotting the country’s vast terror operations. Most notably, Rouhani was Chairman of the Supreme National Security Council from 1989 until 2005, during which time the Council is reported to have helped mastermind the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires and of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, like his presidential predecessors, Rouhani has demonstrated clear anti-American and anti-Semitic views. In 2002, for example, Rouhani conducted an interview with ABC News, in which he blamed the Jews for America’s foreign policy: “After September 11,” he said, “the hardliners, especially the Zionist lobby, became more active and, unfortunately, influenced Mr. Bush.” Rouhani also defended Hezbollah as “a legitimate political group” and called Israel “a terrorist nation.” Most recently, in an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Rouhani denounced what he called Israel’s “inhumane policies and practices in Palestine and the Middle East.”
Finally, Rouhani is intimately involved in advancing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. He served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator under President Mohammad Khatami from August 2003 until October 2005. In 2004 Rouhani gave a speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, in which he explained how he was playing for time during the nuclear talks he was conducting with Britain, France and Germany (“EU-3”): “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [nuclear conversion] facility in Isfahan. By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work there.” Rouhani’s deputy at the Supreme National Security Council, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, even described in a book his boss’ approach as the “widen the transatlantic gap” strategy.
And yet quixotically, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough responded eagerly to Hassan Rouhani’s election victory, announcing that the Obama administration is prepared – once again – to enter direct negotiations. “There’s a great opportunity for Iran,” said McDonough, “and the people of that storied country, to have the kind of future that they would, I think, justifiably want.”
It remains to be seen how Rouhani will conduct his term in office. But if the past is precedent, then the United States can ill-afford to sugarcoat the truly evil propensities of the Ayatollahs and of Rouhani. Doing so harms, rather than advances America’s national security interests in the Middle East.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has it right. In a recent interview with the Times of Israel, Mr. Baird said, “There’s always a reason to [delay action] another two or three months.” If the Iranian clerics want to demonstrate that they are operating in good faith “they can make meaningful progress [with the West],” he said. “These people don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.”
Mr. Baird’s analysis is spot on. Hassan Rouhani is a cunning terrorist mastermind. History shows us it would be foolish for the West to regard him as otherwise.
Mr. Raskas served in the Israel Defense Forces and is a research analyst for Secure America Now.