On June 21, I posted a blog on the possibilities of a new wind blowing in Iran and considered possible interpretations of the presidential election of cleric Hassan Rowhani. I noted that his election as a moderate signaled a rebuke to the council of mullahs who actually run the country.
One of the factors in the Obama administration’s posture toward Iran has been the conviction that the young people in the country might eventually overthrow the ruling class and the ultraconservatives that have held power in the country. An example of what could create rebellion is one of the harsh social realities in this Muslim dominated society. Reported by French-Iranian journalists Freidoure Sohesbjanil’s book La Femme Lapidee, this actual experience was made into the international award winning movie The Stoning of Soraya M. The powerful story reveals the Muslim custom of stoning a woman to death for adultery. In this true and factual story, Soraya is falsely accused by her husband so he can pursue another woman. She is hauled onto a mount of dirt and stoned by the men of the village (including her two sons). The scene burns into one’s mind the ugly tragedies that can follow in a religion controlled society.
Rouhani’s election is hopeful, but the race reflects how restrictive the Iranian society remains. Out of the 700 individuals that applied to run for the office of president, Supreme Leader Khamenei rejected 99% of them. The only person’s allowed to run had to reflect Ayatollah Khamenei’s view of politics and his interpretation of Islam. Rouhani barely squeaked through.
Hassan Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator and is firmly entrenched inside the Iranian systems. While the Iranian people elected him partial because of his platform calling for improved relationships with the West, Rouhani still maintains a dangerous position on Iran’s nuclear program. It is known that Rouhani pushed negotiations with the West as a tactic to buy time for Iran to advance its nuclear program. He has encouraged the development of a nuclear weapon. He said in a 2006 speech that while negotiating with the Europeans, “we were installing equipment at the Isfahan site.”
The ultimate control of Iran’s nuclear policy is under the thumb of Supreme Leader Khamenei who has shown no signs of slowing the process down. His history demonstrates that he has repeatedly proposed talks only to buy time for the development of The Bomb.
The Iranians also elected Rouhani because of their hopes that improved conditions with the West would lead to the lessening of sanctions that have been highly painful for the society. However, the dreams of a better day must be based on the recognition that the West won’t bend until Iran suspends it’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. While the West can be hopeful that Rouhani is a step-forward, Westerns governments must be realist. Everyday that goes by without a halt in the pursuit of nuclear weaponry is another step toward a frightening disaster.
Surely, Rouhani understands that delay by the West only plays into their hands.