Israel, Walla! NewsBy Dr. Moshe-hay Hagigat
It stands to reason that Rouhani, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council, wouldn't say such things without realizing that most of the arrests were made because of the Revolutionary Guards, and that the Supreme Leader is trying to regain some of the power the Guardians took for themselves without his permission.
Translated by Viktoria LymarEdited by Steven Stenzler
16 June 2013
The West hopes that the new president will be "Khatami 2.0," however, he is no reformist – but instead a careful pick of the Supreme Leader. Khamenei is first of all interested in preserving his status – and as much as possible, in uniting the people.
After a short election campaign, the citizens of the Iranian nation – with the Supreme Leader Khamenei at their head – elected for themselves a president for the next four years. Hassan Rouhani will assume office at the presidential palace in a little over a month – the time he will be sworn in by Khamenei in front of a large audience.
Thus, Iran will enter a new age, totally different from the last eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term. The streets of the capital Tehran last day painted purple-green, an indication that most of the Iranian people are pinning on Rouhani the hope that was not realized in the elections of 2009, and looking forward to a conceptual change of the government in the Islamic Republic.
Yet anyone hoping – mostly in the West – that the new president will be "Khatami 2.0" is wrong, just as many who mistakenly proclaimed Saeed Jalili a frontrunner in the election, or who defined him as a protégé of the supreme leader. In the absence of a decent moderate candidate except for him, Rouhani was perhaps the reformists’ presidential candidate – nonetheless, he himself is not a reformist. Not for nothing he is defined by many in Iran as a "moderate conservative." A moment after the election, question marks are popping up also regarding the degree of influence of the supreme leader on electing the president, and to what extent Rouhani’s advent to the presidential office really has weight. Why has he been elected, and what are the challenges facing him in the nearest period?
Why Exactly Rouhani?
A few conditions stood before the eyes of the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader when they were picking the list of candidates ahead of the presidential election. Not wanting a neoconservative successor from Ahmadinejad’s camp, a low to zero number of reformists and a wide range of the men of the conservative camp topped the provisions. But the reason standing above all these was an increasingly growing concern in Khamenei's office of a character that would band around him the Revolutionary Guardsmen in the past and present, one that would boost their steadily growing power anyway, and that would render them uncontrollable by the spiritual leader, as is already happening in certain areas.
Therefore, the Supreme Leader resorted to an oldest trick in the books of politics, and divided the candidates in order to conquer. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mohsen Rezaei and Saeed Jalili – all former Revolutionary Guards – are the trio of candidates lagging behind the elected president. The voters who chose them, had they united together with another candidate from the conservative camp, Ali Akbar Velayati, could have led to a draw or a victory for the conservatives. The preference not to do so, and to rely on a run-off that would unite them, is that which led to their defeat. Khamenei has nothing to fear of Rouhani as to the President-elect's relations with the Revolutionary Guards. Rouhani is a clergyman, who in recent years was dealing with diplomacy and strategic-political planning. Formerly, he served in the armed forces and not among the Revolutionary Guards.
Another possible reason for Khamenei’s handpicking Rouhani lies in the desire of the Leader to correct two big mistakes he made in the 2009 elections: deciding on Ahmadinejad for another term, and silencing by force a whole part of his countrymen: the 'Green public.' The choice he made, for Ahmadinejad's second term, however uncomfortable for Khamenei – that was still better than Ahmadinejad not getting re-elected. If Ahmadinejad did not continue as president, this would testify that even the Leader is not error-free – something that just can’t be in a theocratic state where supreme leader is God's representative on earth as well. This is also the reason why Ahmadinejad’s last four years looked like they did, with the non-stop clash between the president and the rest of the elements of the government, including the Supreme Leader's Office and other authorities.
The Ahmadinejad Mistake
When Khamenei opted to extend Ahmadinejad's tenure in 2009, two things happened: First, Ahmadinejad realized this is his last term, and he began to act accordingly, while disregarding the status of the Leader; and secondly, Khamenei understood that it’s preferable to live with the creep than to admit a mistake that would topple the entire regime.
The amendment of the second mistake was in improving the relations with the Green Movement and [making up for] the exclusion of the reformists. These have suffered over the past years from political arrests and imprisonment, and house arrests of the leaders of the Greens, Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi. By choosing Rouhani, their return to the center of the political arena is something that could be made possible immediately. From the internal standpoint, the oppression of such a large chunk of the population, may result at any moment in the explosion of the Iranian pressure cooker.
One of the most prominent slogans of Rouhani’s election campaign was that an end should be put to detentions and political arrests in Iran, and his promise to release those arrested on such charges. It is reasonable to assume that Rouhani, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council, would not say such things without realizing that most of the arrests were carried out because of the Revolutionary Guards and their inside Iranian units, and that the Supreme Leader is trying to regain some of the power the Guardians took for themselves without his permission. Also the promises Rouhani has been giving for over a month – that his government will be non-partisan – can suggest further developments, on the way to domestic Iranian reconciliation.1
As stated, Rouhani apparently won’t be a continuer of the way of Khatami. He isn't a reformist, and also in his election campaign he refused to be associated with the reformists for various reasons. Although, the reformists woke up in the morning with a big smile – and rightly so – as the camp proved to be still alive and kicking. Nevertheless, the epoch Iran enters is going to be a brand new epoch, such a one that if someone seeks to compare it to other presidents,’ it’ll be closer to the President Rafsanjani’s era. This is the era of a united Iran, as it was in the years of Rafsanjani, because of its licking its economic and social wounds of the war with Iraq, and it's today licking its wounds again because of the economy and society affected by the West’s sanctions and by the constant global preoccupation with the country considered a permanent nuclear threat.
Rouhani has already declared that the centrifuges must continue operating, but so must the Iranian people as well.2 Such a statement is not appropriate for a Green camp man, but it can also indicate the future atmosphere in the office of the next president: an uncompromising stand on the independence of Iran, especially in the nuclear field – and at the same time, a deep diplomatic understanding that there’s a need for political wisdom to fix Iran’s situation from within, in social and economic terms. Therefore, it is quite possible that in the coming days, there will begin a new era in the U.S.-Tehran relations. There will not necessarily be a great approximation between the two old rivals as was expected at the time from Khatami – nevertheless, it may be that there’ll begin preliminary exploratory dialogue between the moderate Rouhani government and the liberal Obama administration. All this – not in the name of a peace agreement between the two states or rapprochement and detente in relations, God forbid, but rather primarily for the sake of redefining the common interests of both countries, and mainly for improvement of the life of a hungry Iranian.
Rouhani's past shows that he was cherished by two people: Ayatollah Khomeini and President Rafsanjani. Both are no fans of the West or admirers of the U.S. Rouhani was the first to call Khomeini by the title "Imam," and kept being close to the leader's office even when the figure itself was replaced by Khamenei. The latter also appointed him to several key positions, including head of Center for Strategy Research and in charge of the nuclear talks with the West.
Rouhani's last role, as the personal representative of the Leader in the Supreme National Security Council, constitutes a glaring exclamation mark in respect to the trust Khamenei has in him. But the biggest mark is the opportunity Khamenei gave him – to run for president, and with the help of the Leader and the people, to also win. The choice of him as president, and the tremendous challenges at his doorstep, will be a significant part of the fate of all those who live in the Middle East region, at least for the next four years.
Original Hebrew article:
Photo credit: Reuters/Fars News/Majid Hagdost;
The New York Times/Maryam Rahmanian;
BBC News - Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi and the Green Movement demonstrating on the streets in 2009
1. In the original - “sulcha,” the Arabic word, used also in the Hebrew language, for a peacemaking process in the community that is used for restoring harmony after serious wrongdoing has occurred.