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Is Hassan Rouhani Really a Reformer?

Is Hassan Rouhani Really a Reformer?

Mideast Media Sampler – 06/16/2013

Long Live Rouhani the Reformer

To read the New York Times, the election of Hassan Rowhani was a victory for the people of Iran. Thomas Erdbrink reported in Iran Moderate Wins Presidency by a Large Margin:

The cleric, Hassan Rowhani, 64, won a commanding 50.7 percent of the vote in the six-way race, according to final results released Saturday, avoiding a runoff in the race to replace the departing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose tenure was defined largely by confrontation with the West and a seriously hobbled economy at home.

Thousands of jubilant supporters poured into the streets of Tehran, dancing, blowing car horns and waving placards and ribbons of purple, Mr. Rowhani’s campaign color. After the previous election in 2009, widely seen as rigged, many Iranians were shaking their heads that their votes were counted this time.

“They were all shocked, like me,” said Fatemah, 58, speaking of fellow riders in the women’s compartment of a Tehran subway. “It is unbelievable, have the people really won?”

Similarly the Washington Post reports in Moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani wins Iran’s presidential vote:

This time, Iran’s Interior Ministry took no chances, releasing the official vote total in live updates, which showed a steady increase in Rouhani’s margin of victory over Ghalibaf.

Until last week, Ghalibaf was widely considered the front-runner, but he likely lost votes to fellow conservative candidate Jalili.

In the end, though, it did not matter, as Rouhani took a majority of the votes, which is already being viewed as a repudiation of not only the Ahmadinejad years but also the hold that conservatives have maintained over Iranian politics since 2005.

And further reported:

Rouhani probably will bring with him a cadre of more moderate diplomats, technocrats and nuclear negotiators who favor a more pragmatic foreign policy, said Trita Parsi, author of “A Single Roll of the Dice,” a book on the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran.

But whether the political shift leads to a deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program depends on many factors, much outside the control of Iran’s new president, Parsi said.

“Ultimately the ball comes back to our side of the court,” Parsi said. “Neither side can break this impasse alone.”

Frankly, this is inexcusable. Trita Parsi isn’t a disinterested expert, but someone who actively advocates on behalf of the Iranian regime. (Whether or not he qualifies as a lobbyist for the regime seems to be a matter of some dispute.)

In this case, the New York Times was more cautious in predicting that Rouhani’s election would bring about change in Iranian policies than the Washington Post. Worse, the reporters for the Washington Post seemingly advocate for more American forbearance towards Iran.

Even if all of this is true, Barry Rubin points out:

Consider this: A stronger man and a more dedicated reformer and moderate than Rowhani, Muhammad Khatami, was president for eight years and did not accomplish a single reform under this regime.

However, as Israeli journalist by Avi Issacharoff writes in “The Regime Wanted Him to Win”:

So how did a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts and Supreme National Security Council – and a confidant of Khamenei – become the “great hope” of the moderate camp? It may be the embrace he received from the two former presidents, Khatami and Rafsanjani, rivals to Khamenei, that put him into the reformist category.

“He never called himself a reformist,” explains Dr. Soli Shahvar, who heads the Ezri Center for Iran and Gulf Studies at Haifa University. “But he uses rhetoric that is less blustery than that of Ahmedinejad, and speaks more moderately, including on the subject of nuclear negotiations.” Shahvar’s conclusion with respect to Rouhani’s win is unambiguous. “I interpret his election in one way only: The regime wanted him to win. If they had wanted one of the conservatives to win, they would have gotten four of the five conservatives to drop out of the race, paving the way for [eventual runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher] Ghalibaf to win. But they didn’t do that. Moreover, it was the regime that approved the candidacy of Rouhani alongside only seven others. This is striking evidence that Khamenei wanted Rouhani to win, both internally and externally.”

According to Shahvar, from the internal perspective, a victory for another candidate like Ahmedinejad risked provoking a renewal of the demonstrations like those of 2009. “Victory for a candidate who is perceived as more moderate yet still has the confidence of Khamenei, serves the regime in the best way. Externally, Iran today is in a very difficult situation with regard to sanctions and its international standing. A conservative president would only have increased Tehran’s isolation in the world. A victory for someone from the ‘moderate stream,’ however, will immediately bring certain countries in the international community to call for ‘giving a chance to dialogue with the Iranian moderates.’ They will ask for more time in order to encourage this stream, and it will take pressure off the regime. And so we see that in the non-disqualification of Rouhani and especially in the non-dropping-out of four of the five conservative candidates there is more than just an indication that this is the result the regime desired.”

A “reformer” winning a clear cut victory was probably the best case for Supreme Leader Khamenei. Someone who could put a more palatable face on the regime, could lead to the relaxing of sanctions. A clear victory meant no runoffs.

In the week before the election someone leaked and then denied that the Guardian Council – the body charged with vetting presidential candidates – was reconsidering Rouhani’s candidacy. What better way to buttress his reformist reputation?

Then two candidates, including the other “reform” candidate, Mohammed Reza Aref, dropped out of the race. Then there was one reformer, Rouhani.

In the end Rouhani was approved by the Guardian Council and did not stray so far as to be subjected to house arrest, like Mir-Hossein Mousavi four years ago. Is it really possible that Rouhani was not approved?

Finally, Rouhani won 50.7 percent of the vote. That isn’t even a full percent more that what was required to avoid a second round of voting. A second round of voting would have raised suspicions that the regime was trying to cheat him out of his rightful position.

If Rouhani is a true reformer, his election could spell real trouble for Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei. But that assumes that Khamenei isn’t the real power behind the presidency and that Rouhani is a true reformer. Evidence and experience suggest that neither is true and that the Khamenei got a friendly face to present his extreme agenda.

The White House’s statement suggests that this tactic has already met with success:

We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard. Yesterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly. However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.

The premise of this statement is that the Iranian voters demonstrated independence from Khamenei. In a sense, they did. But it couldn’t have happened if he didn’t allow it to happen.


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The NY Times are incurable idiots and terminal dupes. Just amazing. Iran hasn’t changed its objectives and won’t change its methodologies one iota.

    David Gerstman in reply to raven. | June 16, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I’m going to defend the NYTimes reporter here. The editorial board is a bunch of idiots. Erdbrink, however, did some good reporting here. Certainly a lot better than the Washington Post in this case. He wasn’t perfect to be sure, but better than a lot of other stuff I’ve read.

this is very bad for us.

Conservative Beaner | June 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

More rope-a-dope to confuse the world and like the morons they are it will be easy. I would not be surprised if calls for easing the sanctions start soon so we can make nice with the new regime which is really just a new face on the old regime.

BannedbytheGuardian | June 16, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Well the Shah is not coming back any time soon.

For the Iranians, this is akin to electing John Boehner as Speaker during an Obama presidency.

It’s meaningless.

Hassan Rouhani is as much a reformer as John McCain or Lindsey Graham are conservative.

In a totalitarian Islamic state there are no reformers and no moderates. All gravity and momentum pulls inexorably into the black hole of radicalism. Anyone who bucks the state winds up dead. Any moderate who “wins” an election is merely window dressing put out as part of the deception campaign to fool the west and manipulate them into a position that Iran can exploit further.

Juba Doobai! | June 17, 2013 at 12:34 am

You shouldn’t even have asked the question about whether Rouhani is really a “reformer”, David.The short and long answers are the same: No.

Rouhani is an Islamic cleric. ‘Nuff said.

Juba Doobai! | June 17, 2013 at 12:38 am

In Islam, a “moderate” is the guy standing silently behind the guy who’s screaming “Death to America; Death to Israel.”

“Is Hassan Rouhani Really a Reformer?”

“Is Obama Really a Uniter?” Seriously?

Scarier still, is that we have a traitor in the White House.

— And morons reporting for the Washington Post.

I don’t often link to my own blog, but this is a good one (and you get to watch a VERY good old movie):

“Pimpernel Smith:” a great old movie that shows plain as day the parallels between early Nazi rule in Germany and the actions of the gang of Obamatards and thugs now in charge of our government — and a glimse of what is coming, unless we stop them

We have seen what “moderate” means since the mullahs took over: someone slightly less overtly radical in their barbarism. There is no other major difference between a regime “moderate” and the “hard-liners.”

It gives Obama another excuse to dither and debate and to call for negotiations, so it buys the mullahs more time to work on their nukes.

Henry Hawkins | June 17, 2013 at 11:30 am

The Iranian presidency is always occupied by a puppet, a figurehead. It doesn’t much matter if he’s a reformist or head-lopper – Iran is governed by the clerics at the other end of the strings rising from the president’s limbs.

[…] blog of the day is Legal Insurrection, with a post discussing the “reformer” Hassan […]

The corrupt socialist media PRAISES IRAN for putting a “moderate” in power…

Like you, I was wondering about the difference between a “moderate” muslim islamofascist jihadist America-hater and a “regular” muslim islamofascist jihadist America-hater so I went to my local terrorist training center (aka mosque) but they wouldn’t talk to me, much less let me in. I then went to the next best source, the local headquarters of the d-cRAT socialist party. They graciously showed me to their “friends” and “enemies” files to use for my research. (Unfortunately, all the “enemies” files were listed as on “permanent loan” to the local IRS office.) In the “friends” files I did find the two key differences between “regular” and “moderate” muslim islamofascist jihadist America-haters:
1. After slaughtering/beheading a Christian, Jew or any American, the “moderates” DO NOT do an NFL-type victory dance. The “regulars” are quite the hoofers, however.
2. Thought the “regulars” insist on 72 virgins when they go to their great Allah in the sky, the “moderates” want ONLY half that many and look forward to 36 virgins. (However, when they see that the virgins look exactly like maxine waters – but with even more facial hair – both the “regulars” and the “moderates” scream “HOLY SHIITE!” and commit themselves to staying perpetually celebrate for the rest of eternity.)

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