June 5, 2017
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is shrewdly playing the role that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei desires of the current president; to bring additional foreign cash for the top leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to enhance their global legitimacy. His role is to accept the fact that the president has no actual power to govern the country, and to be publicly held responsible and accountable for any shortcomings to preserve the interests of the supreme leader and the political establishment.
Rouhani continues to appease the hard-liners in various ways. Unlike some of the former presidents, such as Mohammad Khatami or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani has been extremely diligent in respecting the IRGC and Khamenei’s major redlines. Rouhani has never challenged Khamenei publicly and has largely remained silent when Khamenei criticized him for the economy, unemployment and inflation. He is masterfully playing the good cop/bad cop game.
First, Rouhani continues to benefit the hard-liners by concentrating on the nuclear agreement. Iranian leaders are aware that international pressure, isolation, or the UN Security Council’s sanctions against Tehran, would endanger the hold on power of the ruling clerics. Rouhani’s crafty skills in rapprochement with the West, “diplomatic” initiatives, resulting in the lifting of more sanctions continue to empower the Islamic Republic geopolitically and economically. More importantly, it is also enhancing Tehran’s legitimacy and global image.
Rouhani is attempting to bring more cash through trade with the West. Since the trade is on a state-level, the main beneficiaries of this and oil exports are predominantly the hard-line organizations such as the IRGC, the Ministry of Intelligence, the Basij, and the office of the supreme leader. The Iranian people have yet to experience the financial fruit of Rouhani’s actions. That is why many people continue to criticize Rouhani for the high unemployment rate and his failure to fulfill his promises.
What are Rouhani’s plans with regards to other domestic, regional or global landscapes? Domestically speaking, when it comes to freedoms and human rights, Rouhani is continuing to fully permit the judiciary, the IRGC and intelligence forces to crack down on freedom of press, assembly, speech and human rights. Rouhani continues to show unwillingness in employing his status to challenge those institutions.
In fact, Iran’s rate of executions and oppression of ethnic and religious minorities (specifically the Sunni Arabs) continues to increase. According to Amnesty International, Iran is currently ranked top in the world when it comes to execution of people per capita.
He is not anti-establishment, but rather the ultimate loyal insider since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979; he is cunningly cognizant of the intricacies and loopholes of domestic, regional and international politics.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Unlike other countries such as the US where the second term presidencies give the president more freedom to accomplish what they desire because they do not have the concerns of re-elections, Iran’s political establishment is different. There exists hardly any difference between the first term and the second term of a president in Iran’s political establishment. This is because the lifetime political career and survival of Iranian politicians are not anchored in people’s approval, but in the constant approval of the supreme leader, his gilded circle of power, the underlying revolutionary pillars of the Islamic Republic’s political establishment, the IRGC, and the top echelons of power.
Regionally speaking, Rouhani continues to play a crucial role in the fact that the IRGC and its elite wing which operates in foreign nations, the Quds Force, are expanding their influence in several Arab countries including Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
Rouhani is not a roadblock, but a facilitator for Iran’s support of Bashar Assad and Shiite proxies across the region. In fact, the moderates’ view on Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon is in line with the hard-liners.
Globally speaking, Rouhani is pushing for more “rapprochement” with the West, particularly when it comes to trade (oil exports, aviation industry, tourism, mining and so on) to strengthen the clerics’ political establishment by increasing the government’s revenues.
Rouhani is not anti-establishment, but rather the ultimate loyal insider since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979; he is cunningly cognizant of the intricacies and loopholes of domestic, regional and international politics.
In a nutshell, Rouhani continues to be one of Khamenei’s favorite politicians. Currently, Rouhani is Khameni’s best option to advance his political, ideological and revolutionary interests. In order to enjoy the blessing of Khamenei, Rouhani is determined to find various Machiavellian paths which would empower the supreme leader and his military institutions as well as enhance their legitimacy. Rouhani continues to ignore delivering on his economic promises to the Iranian people.