Tuesday, 18 June 2013

West Already Courting Iran’s ‘Moderate’ Khomeinist

“Let us not delude ourselves. The international community must not become caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in response to Hassan Rouhani’s clear-cut victory in Iran’s presidential elections.
Netanyahu’s fears are, unfortunately, well founded. There is nothing the West loves more than another round of appeasement and deluding itself that the wolf has magically turned into a sheep.
Rouhani, on Monday, already spoke what appeared to be conciliatory words. He promised “greater transparency” in Iran’s nuclear program that would “make clear for the whole world that the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international frameworks.” He said Iran would engage in “constructive interaction with the world through moderation.”
The Wall Street Journal had already reported that “the Obama administration and its European allies” were “surprised and encouraged” by Rouhani’s win and “intend to aggressively push to resume negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program by August to test his new government’s positions….”
These eager plans come just as Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz has been warning that Iran is now “very close” to the nuclear finish line and that its nuclear industry is already “many times larger than that of either North Korea or Pakistan.”
But should Rouhani be given a chance? Is it just possible that, as the Wall Street Journal report describes Washington and Brussels as hoping, his “unexpected victory could pressure [Iranian Supreme Leader] Khamenei into softening his position on the nuclear issue or scaling back Tehran’s broader rift with the West”?
Not according to more sober, knowledgeable voices.
On Monday the Wall Street Journal’s Sohrab Ahmari gave some important background on Rouhani that has been missing from Western media’s laudatory accounts of his “moderation.”
Ahmari notes that Rouhani “spent Iran’s revolutionary days as a close companion of the Ayatollah Khomeini.” Later, as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Council, Rouhani led an effort to—as he himself put it—“crush mercilessly and monumentally” the 1999 student uprising.
Ahmari quotes a victim of that crackdown who recalls how, after Rouhani’s statement, security forces “poured into the dorm rooms and murdered students right in front of our eyes.”
During this year’s election campaign Rouhani also boasted of how, as Iran’s nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, his wily approach achieved great gains for Iran’s nuclear program (for details see this account by an Israeli expert). And Rouhani gave his view of the Syrian crisis just last January, saying: “Syria has constantly been on the front line of fighting Zionism and this resistance must not be weakened.”
Indeed, Dr. Soli Shahvar, head of the Ezri Center for Iran and Gulf Studies at Haifa University, told The Tower that in his view Khamenei’s regime actually wanted Rouhani to win. Shahvar’s analysis is worth quoting at length:
If [the regime] had wanted one of the conservatives to win, they would have gotten four of the five conservatives to drop out of the race, paving the way for [eventual runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher] Ghalibaf to win. But they didn’t do that. Moreover, it was the regime that approved the candidacy of Rouhani alongside only seven others. This is striking evidence that Khamenei wanted Rouhani to win, both internally and externally.
…Victory for a candidate who is perceived as more moderate yet still has the confidence of Khamenei, serves the regime in the best way. Externally, Iran today is in a very difficult situation with regard to sanctions and its international standing. A conservative president would only have increased Tehran’s isolation in the world. A victory for someone from the “moderate stream,” however, will immediately bring certain countries in the international community to call for “giving a chance to dialogue with the Iranian moderates.” They will ask for more time in order to encourage this stream, and it will take pressure off the regime. And so we see that in the non-disqualification of Rouhani and especially in the non-dropping-out of four of the five conservative candidates there is more than just an indication that this is the result the regime desired.
Or as a former head of the Mossad station in Tehran and prime ministerial adviser put it more pithily: “We will miss the Ahmadinejad era. He spoke like Hitler and the world knew him.”
Israel’s leaders will, of course, try very hard to clarify Tehran’s game of deception to top Western officials. Their work will be cut out for them.

Who Brought Iran Close to a Nuclear Bomb? The Focal Point of Rowhani’s and Jalili’s Election Propaganda - 

Vol. 13, No. 17    12 June 2013
  • With a few days remaining before the June 14 presidential elections in Iran, the most fraught, sensitive issue in the campaign concerns Iran’s foreign policy – its relations with the West in general and the nuclear talks in particular. Whereas the “principalist” [hard-line] candidates take a dogmatic, uncompromising line on Iran’s foreign relations and its stance on the nuclear issue, the “pragmatic” candidates show a readiness to open a new chapter in Iran’s dealings with the world and conduct the nuclear talks in a calmer atmosphere.
  • The “nuclear debate” is mainly being waged between two presidential candidates: current nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and, from the “pragmatic” camp, Hassan Rowhani, who served as nuclear negotiator while Mohammad Khatami was president. Jalili disparages Rowhani for the fact that, while he was nuclear negotiator, Iran agreed to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and indeed its nuclear program came to a halt. Rowhani charges that it was Jalili’s (and Ahmadinejad’s) aggressive, uncompromising, defiant approach that led to sanctions, Iran’s isolation in the international arena and a series of UN Security Council resolutions against it, and that during his own tenure the nuclear program actually progressed.
  • Overall, Jalili and Rowhani reveal the two sides of Iran’s nuclear negotiating tactics. These tactics complement each other and are derived from the geostrategic circumstances under which they are pursued. Rowhani conducted negotiations after the U.S. campaign to liberate Iraq, when caution was necessary. In Jalili’s period (2007 to the present), Iran has felt greater self-assurance as the anti-terror endeavor has been distanced from Iran, the United States’ regional status has weakened, and Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, has been able to survive in power despite a two-year long revolt.
  • In any event, whoever is elected, the influence of the next president of Iran on the conduct of the nuclear negotiations will be meager. The issue is in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. It is also clear that Iran’s nuclear negotiating strategies in the different periods have brought it to a threshold where, if it so chooses, it can attain nuclear capability.

  • Lackluster Candidates 

  • With just a few days remaining before the June 14 presidential elections in Iran, election propaganda is in full swing. The removal of high-profile candidates Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who could have injected some interest into the dull campaign, left only anemic candidates in the arena. These are more or less divided into three contending forces. The first is Saeed Jalili, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and head of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team; the second is the principalist  2+1 group comprising Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel; and the third or “pragmatic” faction includes Hassan Rowhani, who is considered similar to Rafsanjani and formerly headed the nuclear negotiating team; Mohammad-Reza Aref, Mohammad Gharazi, and Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
  • continue reading here...... Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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