ANALYSIS: New Rouhani Cabinet: Seedy ministers, dubious goals

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No international political expert understands the ruling Mullahs of Iran better than the country’s average citizen, who has experienced the tyranny and repression of the theocratic elite for almost four decades.

During his election campaign, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (himself a mullah) vowed greater participation in decision-making for the youth, women as well as the ethnic and religious minorities. He even promised that his new cabinet would have members from “these sections of society, who belong to the Iranian motherland”.

However, in the president’s new cabinet – which he describes as having the most qualified individuals – there is no trace of the promised representation. In fact, all the ‘President’s men’ seem to be tacitly endorsed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. As stated above, the general perception in the Iranian public about Khamenei and Rouhani is more accurate than that of any international political expert - “they are simply two of a kind”.

Rouhani’s betrayal fails to surprise

According to Sadegh Ziba-Kalam – a university lecturer and known figure of the Rafsanjani faction that backed Rouhani in the last presidential election – there is nothing unusual about this betrayal of the election promise. In fact, “if women, Sunnis or Kurds were represented in the new cabinet, it would have been a big surprise,” he surmises.

In this regard, Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy of the Interior Ministry shared disquieting thoughts on the worsening situation in Iran in a televised interview. “Recently, Rouhani´s brother was detained and seven provincial governors summoned. This means Rouhani must be contained,” he said. “In present circumstances, there is no alternative way of doing things. Therefore we must all follow the same path”.

As regards the composition of Rouhani´s new cabinet, political analysts believe that as the old policies shall not change, the proverbial changing of guard remains meaningless. However, there are many who have started believing in their own myth that Rouhani is a moderate and they strangely express their disappointment with the state of affairs, as if they were expecting a miracle!

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, gestures to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the end of their press conference in Tehran, Iran, April 16, 2016. (AP)
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, gestures to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the end of their press conference in Tehran, Iran, April 16, 2016. (AP)

This is the real face of Rouhani. Following the outcome of the sham presidential elections, the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) declared issued a statement saying, “Rouhani neither wants nor is able to make a significant change in the foundations and behaviours of this medieval regime...”

Rouhani has not constituted his cabinet based on the wishes and fancies of the pro-regime policy makers in the West. Instead, the new cabinet is a reflection of the current social conditions prevailing in the Iranian society, which has come to detest conservative clerics like Ebrahim Raisi who was the main contender against Rouhani to become president. To mitigate the groundswell of social discontent, Rouhani was forced to remove some old figures, such as former justice minister Mustafa Pourmohammadi, while he handpicked others for his vested political reasons.

New ministers, old henchmen

Those who closely watched Rouhani´s inauguration ceremony, unlike others who were distracted by the presence of EU foreign policy official Federica Mogherini, noticed that Mohammad Ja´far Sahra Roudi was the individual made in charge of the reception committee.

Sahra Roudi, a former Revolutionary Guard officer, was the terrorist who had assassinated Iran’s Kurdish Democratic Party leader Dr. Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou in Vienna back in 1989. He is also the chief of staff of current Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani.

A few days after the return of the Tajik delegation from Rouhani’s inauguration ceremony, the national television channel of Tajikistan accused Iran-backed terrorists of conducting a series of assassinations in the 90s.

The three detained terrorists named in the documentary, namely – Taghay Morad Ashrafov known as ‘Ali’, Abdul-Ghader Abdollahov known as Rostam Nareki and Seyyed Mehroddin Ghadar-Tof also known as ‘Ishan’ – confessed to being recruited by Nazar-Zadeh from the Tajik Islamic Movement Party and were sent to an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps compound inside Iran to undergo military training and for executing terror attacks against certain Tajik officials.

To those who were well aware of the Iranian state establishment but on account of their vested interests had started thinking otherwise were somehow fooled by Rouhani who claimed himself of not being part of the state apparatus. Now, even these people have showing their growing disaffection.

Hasan Rowhani delivering his cabinet list to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani after he was sworn in before parliament in Tehran on August 4, 2013. (AFP)
Hasan Rowhani delivering his cabinet list to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani after he was sworn in before parliament in Tehran on August 4, 2013. (AFP)

Almost all the members of the new cabinet have dubious records and have been involved in the looting and repression of the Iranian people, and have worked toward exporting state-sponsored terrorism abroad. Pourmohammadi, a member of the notorious ‘Death Commission’, supervised the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners and was removed from his cabinet post due to rising public pressure. But he has been replaced by Alireza Avaii, another member of the selfsame “Death Commission.”

Similarly, newly appointed Communication Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari-Jahromi has been working for the Intelligence Ministry and has been in charge of interrogations, torture and censorship.

During the 2009 popular uprising he was appointed as the deputy responsible for controlling and intercepting anti-government communications, which led to the detention of many protesters and a brutal clampdown on the uprising.

The appointment of such a person exposes the true colors of Rouhani who pretends to uphold freedom, democratic rights and wider Internet connectivity. In fact, Rouhani blames many of his rival groups for internet censorship and inquisition.

The appointment of Ali Rabiei as Labour Minister includes another experienced intelligence official in the cabinet. In fact, he takes pride in his well-honed skills at suppressing protests by workers.

A regime under siege

In spite of his promise in elections, Rouhani has not appointed any woman or any member from ethnic and religious minorities in his cabinet. Why? The answer lies in the growing public resentment against the entire regime, which has forced him to form a cabinet that can suppress it.

The 2009 popular uprising was the result of rifts within the highest echelons of power. The groundswell of general resentment had opened the floodgates of public discontent. Rouhani wants to rebuild the dykes and barriers of repression to safeguard the regime from rising public ire, which will not abate until the regime is overthrown in its entirety.

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