Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Rohani and the Future of Reform in Iran

Rohani and the Future of Reform in Iran

by Firouz Mahvi
July 2, 2013

With the recent emergence of cleric Hassan Rohani, following the presidential elections in Iran, much has been made about the prospects for change in the country. To analyse the future of reform and Rohani's role as a "moderate", it is worth refreshing our memories about how the political system works in the theocracy.

Unlike France or the USA, where the president has the final say in key matters, in Iran this role is reserved for an unelected mullah, namely the "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded the late Khomeini, founder of the "Islamic Republic".

According to article 110 of the constitution, the leader can at any time dismiss the president and appoint or remove chiefs of the revolutionary guards and the army, the chief justice, and head of radio and television, among others. On top of that, he has the power to issue a "state decree" which overrides all decisions made by any person or institution in the country. It's no wonder the supposedly reformist President Khatami once described his role as no more than the "logistics man" at the end of his term. Decisions on sensitive issues such as the war in Syria or the nuclear program are entirely in the domain of the supreme leader.

Elections in Iran are not a challenge between the governing party and the opposition. They are at best a shuffle within the ruling clique. The real opposition is not even allowed to live freely, never mind running for office. Even senior officials who were not fully in line with the leader, such as Rafsanjani, were eliminated before the elections by the Guardian Council. Women were also denied the ability to run, excluding half of the society from candidacy.

In addition to the fact that the eight handpicked candidates were advisors, aides or representatives of Khamenei, this election was held in circumstances of absolute repression, including the denial of access to internet, a ban on media, and the mobilization of Revolutionary Guards and security agents. More than a million police and security forces were used to control people and suppress dissent.

A quick look at Rohani's background could also help to clarify his intentions. He has been part of the establishment for three decades. He held the position of Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years and was appointed by Khamenei as a member of the powerful Expediency Council. He was until this month, Khamenei's representative in the Supreme National Security Council. He was also chief nuclear negotiator with European Troika where he later proudly admitted that he successfully bought time to advance nuclear technology while the EU leaders were busy in negotiations with him. Rohani's approval by the Guardian Council, while Rafsanjani was disqualified, is yet another sign of his adherence to the supreme leader.

But couldn't Rohani's sudden emergence on the political scene be a cautious indication that the supreme leader is finally moving towards the idea of reform and moderation¬? If this was the case, then who better than Rafsanjani, with a more pragmatic outlook and political weight, to pursue this course? Quite the contrary – the elimination of Rafsanjani is the clearest signal that Khamenei is fully determined to maintain his hard-line course in pursuing nuclear armament.

Some may ask why Khamenei did not "engineer" the elections to bring in someone from his own faction like Saeed Jalili? It could be that the recent internal divisions have left him in such a weakened state that he did not dare such a move, mainly to prevent another uprising similar to the one in 2009 after the sham presidential elections.

A rockets attack the day after the elections, on Iranian opposition members in Camp Liberty in Iraq, was a strong hint of what the regime fears most. "Several hours before announcing the election result, Khamenei tried to conceal his defeat by attacking Camp Liberty and murdering the combatants of freedom in a bid to warn the Iranian people who were poised to stage uprisings," said Mrs Maryam Rajavi, leader of the Iranian resistance, addressing a crowd of more than 100,000 at the annual convention of the resistance on 22 June in Paris.

Rohani's role in this equation is now mainly to buy time for Tehran's nuclear goals, something which he has successfully done in the past. But contrary to previous rounds, time is not unlimited for resolving the nuclear issue. At some point the West will have to choose either to accept a nuclear armed Iran, or take the course of confrontation.

Unlike his predecessors, Rohani is now faced with three major issues that must be resolved within the coming months. The first is the nuclear issue, second the war in Syria, and third is the toll of sanctions on the country’s devastated economy. The regime is facing a dire situation with regards to the impact of sanctions on its economy, as well as the downturn in the cost of oil, and widespread unemployment amongst the youth. There are currently an estimated 5 million unemployed youths within Iran. With the recent graduation and the start of summer break these numbers will continue to increase.

If Rohani's intent is to pursue meaningful reform, there are bright-line indicators by which to judge his policies. Taking steps towards improving basic human rights, freedom of speech, freeing all political prisoners and halting public executions could be a start. Stopping the enrichment of uranium and opening the nuclear sites for inspection would also demonstrate good will towards the international community.

However, as the entire survival of the regime is based on the notion of the absolute rule of clergy, any deviation from this principle will inevitably lead to breaking the atmosphere of fear and terror and result in its fall. It is for this very reason that Khamenei has resisted any form of political manoeuvring, let alone serious political reform. Internal reform is unlikely to happen regardless of who holds the presidency. A free Iran will be one with no mullahs in power.

*************

Firouz Mahvi is a member the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Iranian parliament in exile. Follow him on Twitter: @FirouzMahvi or Facebook.com/firouz.mahvi
This article was first published on PolicyMic.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Binoy Kampmark: Dysfunctional Hagiography: Australia & Gough Whitlam's Death

Hagiography is the curse of the Australian Labor movement. It is a movement that searches for, and craves, mythical figures and myths. Such a phenomenon might be termed mummification, and detracts from closer examination. More>>

David Swanson: On Killing Trayvons

This Wednesday is a day of action that some are calling a national day of action against police brutality, with others adding 'and mass incarceration,' and I'd like to add 'and war' and make it global rather than national. More>>

Uri Avnery: Israel Ignoring “Tectonic Change” In Public Opinion

If the British parliament had adopted a resolution in favour of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the reaction of our media would have been like this: More>>

ALSO:

| UK MPs blow a “raspberry” at Netanyahu and his serfs

Byron Clark: Fiji Election: Crooks In Suits

On September 17 Fiji held its first election since Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup. With his Fiji First party receiving 59.2% of the vote, Bainimarama will remain in power. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: ‘Islamic State’ Sectarianism Is Not Coincidental

Consider this comical scene described by Peter Van Buren, a former US diplomat, who was deployed to Iraq on a 12-month assignment in 2009-10: Van Buren led two Department of State teams assigned with the abstract mission of the ‘reconstruction’ of ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Case For Using Air Power Against The Islamic State

There is an Alice Through the Looking Glass quality to the current response to the Islamic State. Everything about it seems inside out. Many people who would normally oppose US air strikes in other countries have reluctantly endorsed the bombing of IS positions in Iraq and Syria – not because they think air power alone will defeat IS (clearly it won’t) but because it will slow it down, and impede its ability to function. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Troubled Aftermath Of Scotland’s Independence Vote

A week can be a very long time in Scotland’s 300 year struggle for independence. The “No” vote last week that seemed to end the cause of Scottish independence for a generation, has turned out to have had an enormous fish hook attached, especially for the British Labour Party… More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The West’s Existential Crisis About What To Do With Putin, And The Islamic State

Say one thing for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At least he’s given NATO a purpose in life. Right now, that consists of being something that Barack Obama and David Cameron can hide behind, point at Putin, and say : “Go get him, tiger.” Just what NATO is supposed to do about Putin’s armed advance into eastern Ukraine is less than clear. But there is a lot of “steely determination” around in high places. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news