Western liberal media have recently contributed in creating the narrative that the newly-elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is the political figure destined to resolve Iran’s heightened political, economic, strategic, and diplomatic tensions with the Western world. Specifically, media suggest that Rouhani may solve Tehran’s nuclear defiance in the face of the international community, its stance towards Tel Aviv, its support for Assad’s brutal and authoritarian regime, as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s unconditional military, financial, intelligence, and advisory support to regional and international non-state actors classified as terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
To support this argument, Western liberal media repeatedly make the following three points: first of all, they refer to Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign slogan, which is to pursue “constructive interaction” with the rest of the world, including the United States, Israel and European Union. Secondly, they refer to Rouhani’s nickname within Iran: “the Diplomatic Sheikh.” Thirdly, an overwhelming majority of liberal media assert that Rouhani is not an Islamist hardliner or traditionalist, but rather, a centrist. As a result, allegedly, a bright and promising era will commence for Tehran-Western relationships with Rouhani’s presidency.
It is crucial to address some of the significant inaccuracies that comprise the liberal narrative surrounding Iran’s newly-elected president. Hassan Rouhani is not a renegade reformer; rather, Rouhani is deeply woven in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s political fabric. If Hassan Rouhani’s background – including his personal life, Persian-written books and career – are closely examined, it becomes evident that he is one of the founding fathers of the Islamist regime. In his early ages as a teen, Rouhani took religious courses on Islamist and Sharia law and actively participated in anti-West, anti-U.S., anti-Israel, anti-“imperialism,” and anti-Shah campaigns as well as various religious extremists’ Shiite sermons. He caught the attention of Ayatollah Rooh Allah Khomeini – the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran – when he became an outspoken protester against the West, capitalism, democracy and the Shah. While gaining popularity among the Islamic Shiite fundamentalists, Rouhani then became the mouthpiece of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Rouhani received a significant welcome by Iran’s Islamist establishment and clerics. He was then particularly quick to climb the theocratic political ladder, first serving in Iran’s new parliament and then monitoring the state media where he was responsible for censoring any kind of information that was perceived as detrimental to the ruling of the clerics and Ayatollahs. Afterwards, he built a strong friendship with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is currently sought by the Argentinian government for ordering the 1994 AMIA bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Rouhani was then appointed as Rafsanjani’s top national security adviser during his 1989-97 presidential tenure. Additionally, Rouhani has also served as the Islamic Republic of Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.
Moreover, before becoming president, Rouhani was promoted during his political career to become the representative and mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the current most powerful hardliner in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since 1989, Rouhani served as the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council. He has also been member of other fundamentalist and Islamist institutions in Iran, including the Assembly of Experts since 1999,the Expediency Council since 1991, and head of the Center for Strategic Research since 1992.
Additionally, and most significantly, the fact that Rouhani was qualified by Iran’s authoritarian Guardian Council – which barred 98% of the candidates from running for the 2013 presidency –sends a formidable indication that he is ideologically aligned with the Islamist fundamentalists. Moreover, when Rouhani was the top nuclear negotiator and advisor to the Supreme Leader, he and Iranian leaders continued to defy the international community, arm Assad’s regime, spin the centrifuges, enrich their nuclear program and provide financial, military, advisory and intelligence support to terrorist groups. It is thus unrealistic to argue that Rouhani will alter his fundamental Islamist ideologies and become an advocate for human rights, democracy, and secularism overnight.
Finally, in his most recent speeches after his election as the 11th president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Rouhani has already clearly stated the Islamic Republic of Iran’s inalienable right to continue enriching its nuclear program, spin its centrifuges and obtain nuclear capabilities. He also has yet to even slightly condemn Assad’s violent suppression on citizens, which has thus far caused more than 93,000 deaths. Any political figure or cleric who is allowed to become the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran comes from the Islamist establishment.
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