The news is full of stories proclaiming that new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani is a real moderate and that with him replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad there is opportunity for renewed relations and a solution to the Iranian nuclear program difficulties. Oh if only that were so. Even a cursory review of the pre-election schemes and actions taken to prepare the ballot which was finally placed before the people will disavow any rational person from such thoughts. Initially there were literally hundreds of candidates who wished their names to be on the ballot so, as in any nation, there was a primary of sorts. These names are listed and sent to the Assembly of Experts which is made up of leading Imams and Ayatollahs where the list is selectively narrowed to a list of names these Clerics approve. There are those who believe that in all honesty the Assembly of Experts never even bothers to view the list and simply puts together a list of the names of whoever they think should hold the office of President. The possibility of a true liberal who believes in separation between the religious hierarchy and those who run the political functions of the State have absolutely no chance making past this review. The list formulated in the Assembly of Experts is passed along to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who then prepares the final list of five to eight candidates who make up the actual ballot. So, in the end only those whom the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei feels would best support his views and desires before the people and the world are allowed to even be on the ballot thus removing any possibility of a true moderate becoming President of Iran.
But what is known about now Iranian President Hassan Rowhani. We know he is sixty-four years old and his first statement announced a “new opportunity” for the West to treat the Islamic Republic with respect and to recognize its rights. Treat the Islamic Republic with respect and to recognize its rights was also a favorite grouping of words used by the preceding Iranian President and he used them to mean for the world to prostrate themselves before their betters and permit Iran to do whatever they pleased and be happy about it. I suspect it still means the same thing. We know that Rowhani was the country’s former nuclear negotiator under the former President Mohammad Khatami and also served as top security official under former moderate President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. There were no cracks in the Iranian insistence to the right to develop nuclear projects as they desired during his time in either position. To his credit, Rowhani recently accused his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of needlessly incurring crippling economic sanctions though such was very likely simple campaign rhetoric. In his first speech as Iran’s new President, Hassan Rowhani showed his true colors when he launched into a diatribe almost immediately against Israel, blaming the Jewish state for Iran’s economic problems. He defiantly pointed out, “The Iranian nation has done nothing to deserve these sanctions. Our activities are in line with international norms. If the sanctions help anyone, it is Israel. They are directed only at us. The Western nations do not have sanctions against anyone else.” He concluded his tirade claiming it was all part of the Israeli plan to “ruin” Iran.
Across the world it appears that all the players are lining up salivating at the chance to prostrate themselves before the new great hope in Iran. The United States said it was prepared to engage Iran directly. The White House said such engagement would seek a, according to reports, “diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.” Along similar lines, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was committed to working with Rowhani towards finding a “swift diplomatic solution” over concerns about the Iranian controversial nuclear program. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated he hoped Iran will now play a “constructive role” in regional and international affairs. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France is eager and “ready to work” with Rowhani, on issues including the country’s nuclear program and its involvement in the Syrian conflict. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed the election of Rowhani as a vote which may provide for “a constructive foreign policy.” He added, “We hope that the country’s new administration collaborates in this sense in order to reach solutions on international and regional questions.” The British statement urged Rowhani to set “a different course” for the future of the Iranian Islamic Republic. Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said Italy hoped that Iran and Italy would find a “relationship of renewed comprehension and constructive dialogue.” And lastly, the Syrian National Coalition representing the rebels in the Syrian Civil War hoped that Rowhani will review Iranian support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. This is almost reminiscent of the press and world’s stated praises for newly elected United States President Barack Obama upon his first winning the election in November of 2008. Let’s hope that everybody takes the eventual letdown when this person fails to live up to the hype better than they did when President Obama proved to be merely a fallible human-being. On a more sane reaction, Israel issued a blunt reaction to Iran’s new president Saturday saying, “Iran’s nuclear program has so far been determined by Khamenei, and not by Iran’s president. After the election, Iran will continue to be judged by its acts, in the nuclear field as well as that of terrorism.” During a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, Netanyahu was quoted yesterday saying, “Iran should not be allowed to gain time by holding drawn out talks” with the nations of the international community thus gaining precious time to complete their nuclear intentions. “Today, it is indispensable to keep the pressure. We should not surrender to illusions.” Israel was simply pointing out through the cacophonic din that, in reality, nothing has changed once again. There really is no great new hope on the Iranian horizons or especially in the office of the President.
Beyond the Cusp