The Western media is currently fawning over the newly-elected president of Iran, the ‘Smiling Mullah’, Hassan Rohani. Surely he should be a step forward from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the new president is highly unlikely to shift Iranian politics away from its path to perdition.
Iran remains a theocratic dictatorship and its presidential ‘election’ fully reflects that reality. Iran’s presidential election kicked off in May 2013 when an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists disqualified more than 600 candidates. Woman, naturally, were automatically excluded, as were Iranian Christians, Jews and Sunni Muslims.The remnants from that purge, including a former president, were largely removed for possessing insufficient revolutionary zeal. Eight regime loyalists made it onto the ballots. One of those loyalists, Hassan Rohani, emerged victorious.
Hassan Rohani is a 64-year-old cleric, former nuclear negotiator and security apparatchik. Born in 1948, he entered religious studies in Qom as a child, but went on to earn a law degree from Tehran University in 1969. He spent Iran’s revolutionary days as a close companion of the Ayatollah Khomeini and held top positions throughout the Islamic Republic’s first two decades in power. For 16 years, starting in 1989, Mr. Rohani served as Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. During this period, Mr. Rohani led the crack-down on the 1999 student pro-democracy uprising and helped the regime to evade Western scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.
Mr. Rohani, whether now ‘reformed’ or not, is fully aware of the tight leash that will encircle his neck throughout his presidency. The current regime’s theocratic structure – with a Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameenei who is a throw-back to the 14th century, and numerous unelected Islamic fundamentalist bodies, together overseeing elected officials – will quickly remind Iranian voters and Western governments as well as Hassan Rohani, that the new president has little or no room for political maneuver, even should that be his desire.
Hat tip: Sohrab Ahmari, ‘Behind Iran’s ‘Moderate’ New Leader’, The Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2013