With the news that President Hassan Rouhani had won a second term, the Iranian people realized that they will now have an additional four years of egregious human rights violations, the Iranian-backed slaughter in Syria, the taking of American and other hostages, and increasing support of terrorists abroad.
What is interesting is that the Western governments don’t seem to realize that Rouhani is not a force for change in Iran. They don’t judge him on his human rights record or quotes calling for death to America.
To understand why Rouhani can’t be a force for change, it is important to understand that the president is not the most powerful figure in Iran. He is a puppet of the Supreme Leader, who is not elected. In addition, anyone who runs for president must have approval from Khamenei and also be deemed fit to hold office by the Guardian Council. In this election, more than 99% of the candidates who applied to run were rejected by this council.
Women were also excluded from the election. They also suffer with severe restrictions to their personal freedoms, including the right to choose how they will dress.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has only had two rulers, Khomeini and Khamenei. Both subscribe to the idea that Islam should conquer the world and it is a philosophy that guides Iran’s domestic and foreign policy.
Throughout Rouhani’s dealings with the West, his focus has been on how to make only superficial changes without reducing their control over the Iranian people. In the end, Western governments need to wake up to the reality that Iran is a dictatorship, where control and power are what drive the regime, not the needs of their people.
The New York Times has referred to it as an “undemocratic democracy”. While Rouhani has promised greater freedoms and vowed to reconnect Iran to the world, voters chanted for the release of opposition leaders who have been on house arrest since 2011.
“Rouhani’s second term will not be better than his first,” said an Iranian official in Tehran. “The only hope is the support of the people, but if the situation gets worse, do you think they will still change in favor of him and dance? I hope I am wrong.” He also noted that Khamenei has declined a request to meet with Rouhani, whose campaign rhetoric broke taboo rules as he attacked various aspects of the regime, including the IRGC, judiciary, and intelligence organs.
“Even in the most hard-line corners of the nezam[System], the republican nature of the Islamic Republic is appreciated and they know they cannot neutralize public demands, and will have to allow the president to deliver,” said Adnan Tabatabai, an Iran analyst and head of the Bonn-based Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (CARPO).
The reality is that Rouhani will still have to get anything done with Khamenei’s permission, which is not likely to come easily.