Why is the international press referring to Iran’s new president as a “moderate”?
Is it because he speak English, holds a degree from a British university, and is active on Twitter? Is that all it takes to be labelled “moderate”? Or is it because in the week before the election he “reached out” to some of Iran’s disenchanted? Of course his “reaching out” came only after the real moderate candidate, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was barred by Iran’s Guardian Council from running in the election. (Not to mention that the original ‘moderate’ candidate of 2009’s hotly contested presidential election, Houssein Mousavi, is living under house arrest.)
Or is it simply because we are desperate for any glimmer of hope, any sign of moderation, that we accept a characterization presented originally by Iran’s own PressTV?
Rouhani was, in fact, a pillar of the original 1979 revolution and joined the original Ayatollah Khomeni in his Paris exile. Rouhani is also a Qom-educated cleric, and served as a top military adviser during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as the 1995 bombing of Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was also the personal representative of the Ayatollah Khamenei on the National Security Council.
Calling Rouhani a moderate would have been like calling Dmitri Medevev independent. Neither figure, despite holding an official presidential position, held or hold any real institutional power. (See Dry Bones, above, who as usual hits the nail right on the head.)
Far more important than Rouhani himself is the fact that Iran is run by the Ayatollah, his clerics, and, increasingly, the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the IRGC. The mullahs control all in Iran, which is why, incidentally, the emphasis placed on Ahmadinejad was to some degree misguided. He was problematic, to be sure, and was more than happy to antagonize the West and Israel. But the head of the snake is the Ayatollah. Not Iran’s president, whoever that may be.
Rouhani has been making some noise in recent days about loosening media control and seeking international dialogue over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. So is Rouhani a moderate?
Our theory? Rouhani is playing the role of useful idiot, being used by the mullahs to mollify dissident elements in Iranian society. Not to mention those in the West who are happy to accept the “moderate” label. For us, the only question is how long will Iran’s establishment be able to continue perpetuating the myth of Rouhani the reformer.
Because by definition, Rouhani cannot be a reformer. If he were, the powers that be would have eliminated him from the presidential contest.