Iran: Between Hassan Rohani's "Key" and the Supreme Guide

Posted in Iran | 05-Aug-13 | Source: Geostrategic Pulse

The 11th presidential election held in Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979 AND after two years in office of the radical and controversial Mohammed Ahmadinejad, decided that the Iranians will have a new moderate president in the person of the cleric Hassan Rohani, who was, inter alia, the chief negotiator on the issue of the nuclear file in 2003-2005 and the vice-president of the Parliament in Tehran. After nearly a decade, we return to the parent- age of the predecessors of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed moderate Jhattami. The regional and international community was jubilant to this option of the Iranian electorate: the Saudi monarch, King Alballah II, addressed the new head of the Iranian state a warm congratulatory message accompanied by the hope of a shift towards normalcy and neighborly relations between Iran and the Arab monarchies in the Golf. U.S. and the influent chanceries in the EU expressed their willingness to establish a direct dialogue with Iran, given that Rohani will be able to fulfill his promises and commitments made during the election campaign. Israel departed from this optimism, asking, by the voice of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that the pressure from the international community to stop the Iranian nuclear program be continued.

At the polls, Hassan Rohani obtained , from the very first round, a comfortable majority of 50.68% of the vote, well above those achieved by his opponents, former head of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Reda'i and the mayor of Tehran, Monammed Baker Qalibaf, actually interpreted by most analysts as an expression of the Iranian desire for change, both by improving the living and social conditions internally and by restoring the external dark image of isolation that Iran was brought to under the two mandates of the radical conservative Ahmadinejad.

The electoral signed under which Rohani campaigned and won the presidential election was a key - a sign of willingness to open the door to change, reform and normalization of Iran's regional and international neighborly relations.

The changes brought by the recent vote takes place - as, before, all previous presidential elections - in the context of a volatile political system which, contrary to the Western descriptions, is neither unified nor monolithic. And the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is not a dictator in the sense of Western political semantics: he has the last word on critical decisions, but he is not the only decision maker. The Iranian political system has no single entity that arrogates to itself the development and adoption of decisions, and politicians are a multitude of options, approaches and positioning, making the government act to be carried by consensus. This explains why, despite numerous decisions criticized internally and externally, the system maintains its durability and functionality. What leeway will new head of state have to meet, in an appropriate and balanced way, the hopes that his inauguration produced? A significant signal in this regard was given by the Chairman of the Shura Council (Iranian parliament), Ali Larigan, who visited the new president in his office from the Center for Strategic Studies, in order to express the total availability of the legislature, dominated by conservative and fundamentalist currents, for an enhanced cooperation with the President "in solving the problems the country and Iranian society are facing and in implementing internally consistent social reforms" (according to the Iranian news agency IRNA). In turn, the institution of the Revolutionary Guard "thanked the people who, by the choice expressed at the polls, has proved fidelity to the regime, and assured the new head of state of the readiness for cooperation in legal and executive powers entrusted to the future government the country" (according to the same source).

Of course, what ideologically individualizes the Iranian reformists is reflected, among other things, in the wider opening to the popular claims, in the desire to limit the interference and abusive control of the clergy on the entire internal socio-political structure and the orientation towards a broader opening of the foreign policy to the regional and international community - the Western one, especially, but, in the case of Iran, the desire and positive orientations do not necessarily and always represent the ability to translate intentions into action, however reformist the leader or the politician in question. Iran is an institutional system that works on the foundation of great political and ideological coordinates - true-red borders - that no one can question and, even less, overcome. From this point of view, the position of the regime is confirmed unequivocally by its approach to several "existential" problems at the top of which stands, by far, the nuclear file, the civilian-confessional war in Syria and the religious expansion of the Shi'ism as a pillar of the rise of Iran's regional power status and as a power heard in the concert of the nations of the world. It would therefore be naive to believe that Hassan Rohani will announce, in his program of government, an essential review of this Iranian policy, that he will decide to withdraw the Al-Quds Battalions and of the Revolutionary Guard in Syria, or that he will put pressure on Hassan Nasrallah to determine him to bring home the Syrian militias engaged in the internal war. It would be equally naive to be- lieve that Rohani will be willing or able to go beyond the red lines set by the Supreme Guide and, for example comply with the desire of the Islamic world and the Islamic Conference Organization to start disseminating the Shi'ism in the Sunni Muslim world.

We must not forget that in Iran, an entity for defending the system of the Constitution and of the regime operates, which, among its main attributions, has the selection and rejection of the candidates in the race for the presidency, but does not hold sufficient guarantees that it will comply with the spirit, letter and meanings of the basic red lines of the Islamic revolution. Or Hassan Ruhan passed such an examination that other seven candidates flunked, among them being the experienced former President Rafsanjani, to which the Ayatollah Ali Khameney owes his rise to supreme religious and political dignity of "Ayatollah of the Islam and of all Muslims" and as supreme guide of the Islamic revolution. From this point of view, the fact that a reformist won the last elections should not outbid the optimism regarding some radical changes in the Iranian domestic and foreign policy. In this country, the alternation in power - presented as a supreme example of the Islamic democracy - can be compared to a large extent on how the rotation of power between Republicans and Democrats in the United States. As long as the sacrosanct coordinates and the profound essence of the objectives of the constituent philosophy remain intact, it becomes less important if there is a Democrat or a Republican in the White House, as it is not significantly decisive whether Iran has a reformist or a conservative-radical president. And this example is fully applicable in what regards Israel, where the political color of the government - right or left - is not relevant, but the extent to which it defends the major identity, political and ideological coordinates of the state.

Under such circumstances, there could be only one way - as difficult as complex, by which the Iranian reformism represented today by Hassan Rohani would implement changes declared as good-intentions, is to determine the "heavy" pillars of the Islamic revolutionary system and, along with them, the ultra- Orthodox belief that the policy that they will apply is harmful to the "secular" interests of the Iranians and to the religious Shi'ism alike.

Since it is difficult to imagine the feasibility of this alternative, there is a risk that goodwill and the symbol of the key shown to the people and to the foreign community by the new reformist president be summarized in a famous classic phrase: "to review, but not change anything".