ANALYSIS: When Iran’s ‘moderates’ are hardliners themselves

Tony Duheaume
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With the departure of radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, a so-called moderate took his place. Of course, on the part of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, this was all part of a cunning plan, with which to lull the world into a false sense of security, at a time when world leaders were still reeling over Rouhani’s predecessor, who had almost brought the world to the brink of all-out war.

So in desperate need to salvage Iran’s economy, which had virtually collapsed under crippling sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, over Iran’s noncompliance to suspend its nuclear program under Ahmadinejad, Khamenei needed to roll out a good guy onto the world stage to lighten the world’s view on Iran.

Once in office, with his friendly smile, and affable way about him, Rouhani used his calming rhetoric to reengage with the West in talks to limit Iran’s nuclear program. In an effort to bring about an end to hostile relations with Western leaders, Rouhani agreed to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, and in return for this, Iran would be rewarded with an easing of sanctions, which had been in place for decades.

Rouhani a moderate?

With no regard for Rouhani’s devious past, the Iran Deal was eventually cobbled together by the Obama administration, and such was the haste to get a signature on paper to ratify the deal, the Iranian regime was allowed under the agreement to simply suspend its nuclear program, with an option to restart it at any point in the future, should they wish to do so if the treaty collapsed.

But on top of this, the regime was rewarded with billions of dollars, which it used to build up its armed forces, giving it the ability to spend extra on funding its proxy terror groups, such as Hezbollah, and also to use to finance various military ventures, including the propping up of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime in Syria, putting boots on the ground in Iraq, and destabilising Yemen.

With all of this having taken place during Rouhani’s time in office, plus the fact that capital punishment had drastically increased under his watch, there was nothing to suggest that Rouhani was in any way a moderate, but plenty to prove that he was a hardline regime man. Always having been a close confidante of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who was himself was known to be a hard-nosed autocrat, who hated the West with a vengeance, and had revealed so many times his contempt for world leaders, Rouhani was in good company.

Taking a closer look at Rouhani himself, he might like to revel in his mantle of being a moderate, but in his earlier career, when he was national security advisor to the then President of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had also taken on the mantle of being a “moderate”, two devastating terrorist attacks took place, both of which were said to have been instigated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qods Force, and carried out by Hezbollah, with the knowledge of both men, tainting them with the deaths of dozens of innocent victims.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani (R) chats with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during a session of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran on September 3, 2013. (AFP)
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani (R) chats with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during a session of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran on September 3, 2013. (AFP)

It was under the watch of President Rafsanjani, and Rouhani, who was his National Security Secretary, two truck bombings had taken place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, within two years of each other, which both men were certain to have been connected to. The first attack took place March 17, 1992, when a Ford pickup truck containing approximately 225-340kg of TNT, exploded close to the front entrance of the Israeli embassy, obliterating most of the building’s facade, and had resulted in the deaths of 29 people.

While in the second attack, on July 18, 1994, in the same city, the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) was targeted in a similar way, when a van containing a bomb said to have been the equivalent of 300 to 400 kg of TNT, completely destroyed the front of the AMIA building, which resulted in the deaths of 85 people, with 150 injured, and in the aftermath, Hezbollah claimed full responsibility for both terror attacks.

Then at a much later date, on October 25, 2006, after U.S. officials applied diplomatic pressure on Argentina, two of its prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcello Marquez, issued arrest warrants for Hashemi Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahijan and National Security Secretary Hassan Rouhani, for their involvement in the planning of the attack.

Does Raisi stand a chance?

As far as the Iranian regime is concerned, men of the calibre of Rafsanjani and Rouhani, who have no qualms about aiding terror operations, are well worthy of the trust of the Supreme Leader, and destined for high office. Then as time went on, Rouhani quietly built up a profile of being a moderate, which had reached a crescendo at the time of the 2003 to 2005 nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European states, and having been wheeled out by Ali Khamenei, as the perfect “good guy” to deceive the world into believing Iran was serious in its intentions to make a deal with the West over limiting its nuclear program, with his smiling face and pleasant demeanour, and his well-practiced use of taqiyya (lying to achieve a goal), Rouhani got to work putting together the first sham nuclear deal that he later became so famous for.

When this deal eventually collapsed, it became clear that Iranian nuclear boffins had in no way limited the country’s nuclear program, and they had in fact accelerated it. In doing so, they had installed new equipment in Isfahan, a nuclear facility where uranium ore is enriched, and while talks were well under way, the regime had developed a heavy water reactor at Arak during 2004, which had brazenly breached the 2003 agreement. It was then, on close inspection of the Iranian nuclear program, it came to light that the only part that was curtailed in any way had been the suspension of 10 centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility.

Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign meeting at the Mosalla mosque in Tehran, Iran, May 16, 2017.
Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign meeting at the Mosalla mosque in Tehran, Iran, May 16, 2017.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the 2003 to 2005 accord, Rouhani admitted that he had cheated Western negotiators into believing that the regime was serious about a nuclear deal, and the regime was in fact simply using the negotiations as a smoke screen with which to accelerate it. From that time on, Rouhani remained in the good books of the Supreme Leader, and as a reward, was eventually made president in 2013. Then embarking on another fraudulent nuclear deal, Rouhani once again played the West, claiming to be complying with an agreement to suspend his country’s nuclear program.

It also has to be remembered, during Rouhani’s time in office, he needed to remind the people of Iran that any moderation shown to the outside world, did not reflect conditions at home, and so to invoke his will upon the people, Rouhani had cracked down heavily against dissent, and with a spike in executions, 3,500 people had died under his tenure, many on trumped up charges.

So in the wake of Rouhani, it seems quite befitting that the main contender to become the next president, is the notorious Ebrahim Raisi, a man with a very violent past, who was a member of the infamous Death Commission, responsible for sentencing to death 30,000 political prisoners in Iranian prisons during 1988, all of whom had fallen foul of the regime.
It was during their stay in Iran’s notorious Gohar-Dasht prison, many survivors of the 1988 massacre, had identified the same members of the Death Commission, as being those that had been interviewing them, with the intention of sifting out dissidents to be slaughtered, and one name that kept cropping up was that of the then Deputy Tehran Prosecutor Raisi.

Prisoners brought before the commission had little chance to defend themselves, as with such a large number marked for death, questions were rapidly fired at the accused, many of whom had already been found guilty before entering the room. As it later emerged, their culpability to various crimes against the regime, had already been decided through paperwork placed in the hands of the commission by prison authorities, containing interviews, and coerced confessions made by the accused, which turned any interviews that took place into a despicable sham. In all, it is believed that 30,000 were slaughtered during the 1988 massacre, with many of their bodies having been taken away in trucks in the dead of night, and transported to unmarked graves. Now many years later, one of the men who had instigated this massacre, could soon become the president of Iran.

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