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Rowhani, a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Hassan Rowhani, Iran's new president, is still issuing his giftwrapped friendly statements. He praised Saudi Arabia saying that it is a friendly, dear country and revealed his intentions to negotiate on the nuclear program which will end the dispute with Western powers. He added that he is willing to fix what his predecessor President Ahmadinejad ruined and he even condemned the holocaust and congratulated Israelis on Jewish New Year.

Rowhani’s Iran might just be an idyllic dream for the new president, or maybe a malicious propaganda project enabling Iran to accomplish its remaining agenda as it is now trapped in the corner. He wants to lift the economic sanctions and the siege on Iran’s allies such as al-Assad, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Mohammad Khatami, the fifth Iranian president, also promised to reform what his four predecessors ruined in the Islamic Republic. Khatami’s calls for dialogue and reconciliation were already expected before assuming the presidency, but his term ended in a humiliating way for him and his followers as Iran turned into a state governed by the fierce Revolutionary Guards and the extremist religious forces.

Past

We cannot say that Rowhani, who is now in power, is like Khatami.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who raised the banner of a strong Iran and expanded the influence of the Revolutionary Guards in the Arab world, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was the sixth president of the Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad rejected international pressures and accelerated the nuclear project, but he concluded his presidency with his country producing one-third of the petroleum it was selling; Iran’s incomes decreased and its influence were limited to Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Sudan.

We cannot say that Rowhani, who is now in power, is like Khatami. He is a university professor, who worked for the intelligence services and national security and coped with difficult files. Rowhani has the necessary knowledge and experience, but we do not know if he really intends and has the ability to change Iran or whether he will be an Iranian president just like his predecessors.

Present

How far can he influence the power in Tehran while he is stuck between the supreme leader who holds the key to heaven, and the Revolutionary Guards who have the keys of prisons and torture chambers? We do not know yet if Rowhani agreed with the supreme leader on a project that would take Iran out of three decades of international isolation, or whether he decided with his partners in the government to launch a public relations campaign to repair the relations with strong opponents, such as Saudi Arabia and the United States, and restore the strained relationship with Sunni Muslims.

I personally have doubts regarding Rowhani’s ability and intentions, to change the course of the Iranian regime that is soaked to the skin in a hostile policy against the Gulf and the West. We can see that the regime is increasingly trapped further into the corner with the approaching completion of its nuclear project. The Israelis are now urging their leaders to attack Iran because they can no longer trust American promises to prevent Iran from achieving its nuclear bomb, especially after the failure of the U.S. government to implement its promises to impose sanctions on the al-Assad regime for using forbidden chemical weapons. What will Rowhani do now with the approaching delivery of Iran’s nuclear project? What will he do when the al-Assad regime collapses and wider clashes take place involving the rest of his allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas?

Without hearing the Iranian military and revolutionary leaderships along with the president and the supreme leader restate the Rowhani’s announcements, we will keep on doubting that the new president is just reiterating the strategy of former President Mohammad Khatami; a strategy that consists of love, tolerance and dialogue declarations while Revolutionary Guard leaders perform criminal activities outside Iranian border, and engineers carry on with the nuclear reactor and the secret uranium enrichment.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 22, 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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