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    Middle East
     Jul 3, '13

Rouhani just just another cog
By Julia Ernest

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

The victory of Hassan Rohani, the reformist candidate, in the 2013 Iranian presidential election has attracted commentary suggesting reform is on the way. But the first question to be be asked is was it a free and fair election? The follow-up question is whether he is playing another role in Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's game, just another pawn on the dictatorship's chessboard?

Looking at Iran's current situation it's easily understood that sanctions have put pressure not only on the people but also on

the leadership. [1] Against Western analyst views about the utility of sanctions in North Korea, Cuba and Iraq, Rohani's appointment shows that sanctions have been quite effective. The evidence shows there have been limitations on foreign investment, declines in the value of the Iranian currency, severe inflation, and finally a reduction in the production and export of oil and gas. These have all contributed to placing the Islamic Republic at risk of destruction. [2]

After what happened in 2009 with Mahmud Ahmadinejad's appointment as president by election fraud and repression of opposition, Khamenei's image is tarnished in the eyes of every Iranian. Even those who used to be avid followers are now more cautious. It's clearly recognizable that the events of 2009 reduced the public's acceptance of "the system" and resulted in the distortion of Khamenei's neutral role.

The system's theoreticians planned another game using their most passionate supports and the regime's safety valve: "REFORMERS". Ahmadinejad's government failed as an exercise in radical politics and the regime survived. The question is how? How could people be drawn to trust the system again after the 2009 election and how were the people pushed to once again participate?

It seems like a well-scripted operation:
  • The System asked former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani to be nominated and with his notice he was rejected;
  • Rafsanjani reacted against the rejection in a way that showed jim to reformers to be separate from the regime;
  • He talked about some important economic and political problems and talked about Sistan and Baluchistan and Tabriz separation, to stimulate Iranians' national pride; [3]
  • Then the number of conservative candidate was set at six of the eight candidates, to cause concern in the minds of voters;
  • Saeid Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, was the election's scarecrow, placed to stir further apprehension;
  • And at the end, they asked Rouhani to talk about taboo topics in recent years, especially topics involving the 2009 election. [4]

    Once again Iranians, with blind hope for change and reform, voted for someone who didn't even talk about "reform" and "change" in his debates.

    Hassan Rouhani has been a member of the Supreme National Security Council - the main organ of repression, spying and killing people - since 1989. He was a member of the Assembly of Experts from 1999, a member of the Expediency Council since 1991, and head of the Center for Strategic Research since 1992.

    Given the history of his involvement with the Islamic Republic, it is obvious that he was also chosen by Khamenei - the same as all previous presidents. But this time he was chosen to improve international relations with the aim of reducing sanctions and isolation. Most significantly, he was chosen to open the hearts of the people towards about Islamic Republic once again.

    1. Sanctions push Iran's oil exports to record low, Reuters, June 5, 2012.
    2. A H Mosavian, The main results of the twelve sanctions against Iran, Al-monitor, translated by author.
    3. See here, translated by author.
    4. See here, translated by author.

    Julia Ernest is a pseudonym for an Iran-based writer.

    Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

    (Copyright 2013 Julia Ernest)

  • When to trust Iran's electoral system
    (Jul 1, '13)



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