At this time last year, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian regime insider, assumed the office of presidency in the Islamic Republic. Rouhani was approved to run by the constitutionally-mandated and appointed 12 members of the Islamist and hardline Guardian Council, and after he gave empty promises of bringing “dignity” to the nation, freeing political prisoners, promoting civil rights, normalcy, reintegrating Iran in the world economically and politically.
Other crucial reasons behind his election included his loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Islamist revolutionary principles, his background profile as a government insider and chief nuclear negotiator, the blessings of Supreme Leaders for him, and the low standards that the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set.
The purpose of having Rouhani as the president was evident from the beginning: for the first time, Ayatollah Khamenei and the senior cadre of the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards Corps deeply felt that their hold on power was being threatened. This was due to international economic and political sanctions, Iran’s nuclear defiance, along with disenfranchisement and discontent of Iranian youth (for reasons such as unemployment, human rights violations, suppression of freedom of press, expression, assembly, high inflation).
How has Rouhani served his regime? Under the first year of his presidency, Rouhani and his nuclear technocrat team were unprecedentedly and unexpectedly successful at reaching the regime’s objectives. He was capable of achieving the ideological, economic, and geopolitical goals of the Islamist agenda of the ruling clerics.
It is crucial to point out that, in the first year, Rouhani’s goal was to merge the Islamic Republic’s ideological and Islamist principles with its economic, strategic and geopolitical interests. Rouhani wanted to ensure the survival of the Islamist regime.
The game that Rouhani and his team played with the West and particularly the United States was anchored in utilizing softer tones while exploiting the fragile and weak position of the Obama administration.
First, by striking the nuclear interim deal with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, plus Germany), Rouhani and his technocrat nuclear team were successful in obtaining sanctions relief– worth between $6 and $7 billion – and suspending certain sanctions on some Iranian industries including the automotive sector, gold and precious metals trade, and petrochemical exports.
On the other hand, currently, the Islamic Republic’s economy has been stabilized according to the International Monetary Fund, and oil exports have increased by approximately 25 percent, specifically to Asian countries, in the first six months of the year 2014.
While Rouhani has spent a considerable amount of his political capital on the international arena, nuclear talks, attempting to empower the Islamic Republic in the world affairs and economy, and removing economic sanctions, Iran’s fundamental foreign policies in the region, internationally and domestically remain ideological and intact.
For example, President Hassan Rouhani voiced his support for the Syrian government, as Iran’s support for the Syrian government financially, militarily, politically and advisory continues. Even after the use of chemical weapons against the civilians in Syria, Rouhani’s administration has not shifted its support and policies towards President Bashar Al Assad.
In addition, under Rouhani’s administration, the Islamic Republic continues to support non state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In addition, the Islamic Republic’s foreign policies towards Israel remain intact as well.
On the other hand, billions of dollars gained by the ruling cleric, are tightly distributed among the top officials. Millions of ordinary Iranian people still encounter hardship economically. In addition, the unemployment rate remains to be in double digits for millions of Iranian people.
When it comes to human rights and freedoms (assembly, press and speech), Rouhani has supported the status quo of repression. According to the Human Rights Watch, there has been “no sign of improvement” and the Islamic Republic continues to violate human rights under Rouhani.
On March 11, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights conditions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, released his second annual report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), pointing out that there exists an “apparent increase in the degree of seriousness of human rights violations” and he expressed his concern at the “rate of executions in the country, especially for crimes that do not meet serious crimes standards.”
In addition, in October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his annual report expressing concerns with regards to the continuing human rights violations in the Islamic Republic under Rouhani. Human Rights Watch points out that “The government continued to block access to Shaheed and to experts with other UN rights bodies.”
It is an illusion to believe that any political figure in the Islamic Republic, who rises to power, will shift the Islamist, radical, and ideological perspective of this regime. Loyalty to the Islamist principles, antagonism towards Israel, and supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, or other Islamists groups, are the underlying and basic rules that each Iranian politician believes in and has to pursue, in order to survive and rise the political ladder in Iran. The higher an Iranian politician is in his political life and position, the more loyal he is to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the more he voices his antagonism towards the state of Israel publicly or covertly, and the more he views the United States as a Great Satan. This underlying rule is the political formula for survival and promotion under the Islamist and ideological regime of the Islamic Republic.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.