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Rohani In Power: Between The Illusions And The Wishes.

The new Iranian president (the seventh president since the establishment of the Islamic Republic) Hassan Rohani summed up his program in his oath speech by saying that he relies on making a balance between principles and reality; and that he will steer clear of illusions.

Rohani was very specific when he described his mission ahead. His statement seemed like a response to the parties - within and outside Iran - who are expecting a change in the Iranian politics especially in the foreign affairs whereby Rohani would end the state of hostility that had been reigning between Tehran on the one hand and the regional capitals and the West on the other hand throughout President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's eight years in power.

Principles represent the primary elements that control the Iranian decision making process. This is no secret. The Islamic Republic was established by Khomeini for a specific purpose that was not merely limited to ending the Shah's rule of domination. The external objectives went beyond this internal slogan and included the "exportation of the revolution," which constituted the work program of the Iranian governments throughout thirty years or more. Anyone who deviated from this goal ended up in isolation despite their post, like the case of former President Mohammad Khatami.

Thus, Hassan Rohani must be well aware of the possible limits for inducing change even for the president of the Iranian Republic. Rohani had worked under Mohammad Khatami and was in charge of the nuclear file at that time. In light of Khatami's encouragement, he agreed on halting the enrichment and allowing western inspectors to double check the objectives of the nuclear program. However, the Guide Ali Khamenei rejected this and slammed the Iranian negotiators. The offer was then withdrawn and the nuclear file was taken away from Rohani after Ahmadinejad's access to power.

The powerful Iranian figures and decision makers dealt a very embarrassing blow to Hassan Rohani on his first day in power by preventing him from inviting Khatami to the oath ceremony in front of the Shura Council despite the amity and appreciation that the new president has for his predecessor. They justified the ban by saying that Khatami played a negative role (according to them) in supporting the "green revolution" in 2009, which was staged in objection to the rigging of the presidential elections. A large number of prisoners are still being detained since that time while the two defeated candidates, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Krobi, are still under house arrest.

After this blow, how will Rohani be able to meet the demands of his supporters by releasing the political prisoners and opening a clean slate in the relationship between the regime and the people in Iran?

In regard to foreign relations, Rohani wanted to give the impression that he wishes to have a fresh start with the regional and western countries. He tried to reassure the surrounding states by saying that Iran opposes the overthrowing of political regimes by force or through foreign interferences. He also called for transparent relations with the world in order to build trust and asked the international community to deal with Iran using the language of respect rather than the politics of the sanctions.

However, Rohani knows very well that Iran is responsible more than any other party for the interferences in the regional countries' affairs and the attempts at toppling different regimes either directly through the Republican Guards or through its military apparatuses such as the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon. He also knows that he will have limited or no power at all to halt these interferences.

Concerning the transparent relations with the world, the Iranian regime itself is the party responsible for the state of shadiness that is prevailing over these relationships by refusing to respond to the western suspicions concerning its nuclear program and by erecting barriers in the face of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thus, the agency has so far been unable to verify the "peaceful nature" of this program that is claimed by the Iranians. Rohani is mostly familiar with the Iranian restrictions in this domain.

One must be realistic with respect to what Iran and the world will be living through during Rohani's time in power. Rohani's statements - on that the Iranians opted for moderation instead of radicalism or that he extends his hand and calls on Iran's foes for mutual respect - are not important. The important part consists of how capable Rohani is to push Iran down the moderation road and how able he is to meet the international rules allowing for the establishment of normal relations between Iran and the world.

In any case, it is probably a good idea for us to heed Rohani's piece of advice during the oath speech where he called for steering clear of illusions.







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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Aug 6, 2013
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