No New Dawn in Iran
For the past three years, the West has been tricking itself into seeing the Islamic Republic of Iran as a country undergoing a gradual process of reform. The outcome of Friday’s two elections — one for the Majlis (parliament) and the other for the Assembly of Experts — is serving as the latest mirage in the delusion.
In 2013, when Hassan Rouhani replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran, the United States and Europe took it as a sign of a new dawn. Even Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the chief mullah controlling Iran’s “elected” leader, came to understand that Rouhani was preferable to the volatile and fanatic Ahmadinejad, whose repeated pronouncements about wiping Israel off the map before attending to America were not serving Tehran in good stead.
Rouhani’s appearance on the international stage provided particular fantasy-fodder for supporters of a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s race to obtain nuclear weapons and to guarantee its regional, and eventually global, hegemony.
Those people today feel vindicated for two reasons. The first is that world powers finally did reach a nuclear deal with Iran. The second is that Rouhani’s “pro-deal” camp emerged victorious in the latest parliamentary election, and two of the most hard-line ayatollahs were voted out of the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with appointing the supreme leader. And considering Khamenei’s advancing age and questionable health, this clerical assembly, which sits for eight years, is likely to end up selecting his successor.
To understand why the above is no cause for celebration, two crucial things need to be kept in mind: the only thing the nuclear deal accomplished was to enable Iran to step up its nuclear program, but with lots more money at its disposal; and Rouhani is no moderate.
Indeed, Iran continues to assert its right to nuclear power, while flexing its military muscles nearly daily by testing missiles and threatening the West not to intervene. In addition, celebrations less than three weeks ago marking the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that turned Iran into an Islamic state included chants of “death to America,” “death to Israel” and a reenactment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s humiliation of U.S. sailors who had strayed into Tehran’s territorial waters.
A review of Rouhani’s record also leaves little room for optimism. Though the Shiite cleric was not Khamenei’s preferred choice, he would never have been approved as a candidate in the first place if his revolutionary credentials had not been impeccable. And they certainly were.
Rouhani was a long-time Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini loyalist, who has always backed and spearheaded the quelling of any popular protests, employing any bloody means to nip them in the bud. The only real difference between him and his predecessor is in his strategic understanding of how to accomplish Iran’s goals by presenting himself as more palatable to the West.
In 1992, his eldest son committed suicide, leaving a note to this very effect, saying, “I hate your government, your lies, your corruption, your religion, your double-dealing and your hypocrisy. I am ashamed to live in an environment in which I am forced to lie to my friends every day and tell them that my father is not part of all this — to tell them that my father loves the nation and to know that the reality is far from this. I get nauseated when I see you, father, kissing Khamenei’s hand.”
But it was his resume that made Rouhani such an appropriate nuclear negotiator, a role he fulfilled for years. Addressing Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council in September 2005, he explained the purpose of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the Isfahan facility,” he said. “By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work.”
It is this tactic that puts Rouhani in the “pragmatist” camp.
In July, after the completion of the nuclear deal was first announced — and then disputed as to its contents, perceived differently in Washington and Tehran — Rouhani made a speech to the Iranian public.
“Peace and blessings upon the pure souls of the prophets and the holy men, the great Prophet of Islam [Muhammad], the imams, the imam of the martyrs [Khomeini], and the exalted martyrs, especially the nuclear [scientists], and peace and blessings upon the Hidden Imam,” he began.
“We aspired to achieve four goals: The first was to continue the nuclear capabilities, the nuclear technology, and even the nuclear activity. The second was to remove the mistaken, oppressive, and inhuman sanctions. The third was to remove the Security Council resolutions that we see as illegitimate. The fourth was to remove the nuclear dossier from Chapter VII of the UN Charter and the Security Council in general. All four goals have been achieved today.”
He later referred to Israel’s warnings about the deal. “The people in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Lebanon are happy, too, because the hollow efforts of the oppressive Zionist regime to thwart the negotiations during the past 23 months have failed,” he said, ending with a message to the Arab countries of the region.
“Do not be misled by the propaganda of the Zionist regime and the evil-mongers of this [Iranian] nation,” he cautioned. “Iran and its might are always your might. We see the security of the region as our security, and the stability of the region as our stability.”
Let us not kid ourselves. Rouhani’s showing in the elections does not signify a new era of freedom for the Iranian people. Nor does it indicate a shift away from the regime’s sponsorship of global terrorism. On the contrary, if anything, it could provide American voters with a false sense of national — and international — security that is utterly unwarranted.
Ruthie Blum is the web editor of The Algemeiner.