The Hill: Hassan Rouhani is a key figure within the establishment who in the past 34 years has always had critical posts within the regime, especially intelligence, military and national security posts.
The Hill’s Global Affairs
By Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
What took place on June 14 in Iran, according to the accepted practice in democratic society, was anything but a free and legitimate election.
The competition between eight candidates whose wholehearted and practical belief in the “velāyat-e faqīh” — loosely translated as “rule of the supreme leader,” who has to be a clergy — was carefully vetted by the Guardian Council, the entity protecting the interests of the leader, and could not have reflected the Iranian people’s will.
Hassan Rouhani is a key figure within the establishment who in the past 34 years has always had critical posts within the regime, especially intelligence, military and national security posts.
Rouhani was secretary of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council for 16 years and is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal representative in the SNSC, the regime’s highest decision making body regarding all affairs related to foreign policy and national security.
He is one of the founders of an organization of clergy affiliated to Khamenei, a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, a representative of the Assembly of Experts, and head of the mullahs’ Center for Strategic Research. He was the country’s top nuclear negotiator for two years (2003-2005). In these positions, he openly supported the expeditious development of the clandestine nuclear program and the crackdown of student demonstrations and popular uprisings in the years 1999-2009.
Now the question is can he be the answer to the deep and increasing dissatisfaction of the people and their call for freedoms. The are the people that, based on Rouhani’s remarks on July 15, face the highest inflation rate in the region or maybe the world and are suffering from chronic unemployment. Can he be the factor of such change and true reform?
Rouhani’s record leaves no room for the illusion that portrays him as a moderate. However, as Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian resistance, said in her speech at the grand Paris gathering on June 22, true moderation relies on five specific indications based on the society’s real necessities: freedom of speech, release of all political prisoners, freedom of establishing political parties, ending the regime’s belligerent policies in Syria and Iraq, and terminating the regime’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.
If Rouhani is able and seeks to take steps toward these indicators, we will strongly support it.
However, the hard reality is that even if Rouhani seeks to take these steps, these levers —the nuclear dossier, Iraq and Syria, the issue of political freedoms — are not under his jurisdiction. They are under Khamenei’s authority.
To bring about such changes, even if he seeks such measures, Rouhani must be powerful enough to change the regime’s structures and officially or practically limit the supreme leader’s authority, which in itself is against the regime’s constitution. Even if Rouhani had such power, decreasing the supreme leader’s authority would quickly lead to the disintegration and overthrow of the entire regime, including its president.
Rouhani’s positions following the elections speak for themselves in this regard. On June 15 he said to the Arab-language Asharq Al Awsat newspaper:
“Syria is the only country in the region that has stood against Israel’s expansionist policies and measures in the region. The clashes between our brothers in Syria [are] provoked by various countries outside of the region.”
In his first press conference on June 17, Rouhani rejected the idea of suspending nuclear enrichment and stipulated, “That era is long gone,” going on to describe the Bashar Assad dictatorship as the representative of the Syrian people. On July 15 he once again clearly underscored his support for Assad and Hezbollah.
In November 2003, when Rouhani was directly in charge of the nuclear dossier and the main nuclear negotiator with the West, he delivered a speech in the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution explaining the methods by which he explicitly duped the West.
During the election campaign interviews, Rouhani, in a nationwide state TV interview aired on May 28, very clearly referred to his function and role in pursuing the regime’s nuclear program and specifically deceiving the West, citing this as one of his accomplishments.
Khamenei completely controls Rouhani, and to maintain the system Rouhani will act as the facilitator to pursue Khamenei’s will, especially on the nuclear issue.
Inevitably, this will lead to a confrontation with the international community. In such conditions, adopting a policy of regime change by the global community regarding the mullahs’ regime and its regional and international threats — as the Iranian resistance has underscored for many years — will be inevitable.
Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is the son of a grand ayatollah. He joined the ranks of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in the early 1970s and was imprisoned by the Shah’s regime for years. He has represented the Iranian resistance in many international organizations and negotiations.