Snippet: Iran’s President Rouhani – the politics behind the person

On 14 June 2013, Iran voted Dr. Hassan Rouhani to be the new President of Iran, replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani (Rowhani) is said to have been the most moderate of the candidates the Guardian Council allowed to run for office, and the only cleric among them. Will he change Iran?

The answer is unclear, but probably he won’t shake the foundations of the theocracy.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani, winner of the general elections in Iran 14 June 2013

Firstly, as I pointed out in an earlier post in March 2013, loyalty to the Supreme Leader and the principles of the Islamic Revolution were key in the run-up to this election.

With the election of President Rouhani, it is clear that Iran will not change radically. Remember, he is a person who has been carefully approved by the Guardian Council to run for office of President. This Council, very loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, selects the candidates on the basis of their loyalty with the principles of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the foundation of the Islamic Republic of Iran as we know it today As NYT’s journalist Thomas Erdbrink – one of the very few Western journalists permanently stationed in Iran – reports:

Mr. Rowhani, 64, is no renegade reformist, voted in while Iran’s leaders were not paying attention. Instead, his political life has been spent at the center of Iran’s conservative establishment, from well before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s. And analysts say that Mr. Rowhani’s first priority will be mediating the disturbed relationship between that leadership and Iran’s citizens, not carrying out major change.

And close to the end of the article, Erdbrink reinforces this,

It is a snapshot in the life of a man set to become an insider in Iran’s small circle of power.

Because of his dedication to political Islam and influential connections, Mr. Rowhani’s star rose quickly. He was the deputy leader of the Iran-Iraq war effort in the 1980s, served in Iran’s Parliament for 20 years, and for 16 years was in charge of the daily management of the security council, one of the country’s most influential agencies. He is currently the head of the Center for Strategic Research in Tehran, which advises both Mr. Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Khamenei. [italics added by me]

Hassan Rouhani (second left) with Ayatollah Khomeini

Hassan Rouhani (second left) with Ayatollah Khomeini

Second, Rouhani, in an interview on PressTV, speaks of the Syrian al-Assad government as being legitimate, but points out that he hopes for free elections in 2014.

Syria is an important regional issue. Syria is one of the states in the [resistance] front against Israel. It is, on the one hand, the neighbor of Lebanon – and well we have very close relations with the people of Lebanon, with the Shias of Lebanon. On the other hand, Syria is Iraq’s neighbor, which has special importance for us. Syria itself is a Muslim country and we have had very good relations with this country after the Islamic Revolution. Until 2014, when the incumbent [Syrian] government is in power, because it is the legal government, we will support this government… But after 2014, when it’s the time for election, we will completely support an indisputable, free and all-inclusive election. And we will be committed to supporting whatever the results of that election will be, in order to support the future legal government.

Not one of the most convincing arguments he could have made about Syrian politics (read dire humanitarian crisis).

In the first televised speech of Rouhani on 17 June, he points out that,

1) Iran still does not recognise Israel (As is the official standing of Iran, almost enshrined in the constitution)

2) The US should stop interfering into the domestic affairs of Iran (This is something Iranian leadership didn’t stop saying since the 1979 ICJ Court case following the hostage taking at the US Embassy in Tehran)

But also,

3) With regards to the nuclear issue: “ we are ready to increase transparency and clarify our measures within the international framework. … Of course our activities are already transparent, but still we increase it. … Second, we will increase the trust between Iran and the world.”

4) “The priority of my government’s foreign policy will be to have excellent relations with all neighboring countries.”

The bottom-line is that Rouhani is close to the Ayatollah, and hopefully they aim to improve diplomatic ties that could serve Iran, and the rest of the world, domestically and in foreign policy.

I will be writing about the developments in Iran, and especially regarding the foreign policy implications of the election of Rouhani.

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