David Cameron has congratulated Rouhani as Iranian new president and hoped that Rouhani’s election can be an opportunity for an improvement in Iran and Britain’s relationship.
And its not only Cameron who seem to be so optimistic about Iran these days. The same atmosphere of optimism is present amongst many Iranians in social media. But when it comes to regressive regime of Iran in my opinion there is little to be happy about despite all the noise Rouhani’s presidency made in media. Because in an unlikely event that Rouhani remains loyal to all his so called campaign promises there are some serious issues he never mentioned he has any plans to resolve. Some are listed below:
1) Horrendous human rights situation under Islamic regime. The suppression of human rights and women rights activists, workers and trade union activists by means of prosecution are common place under Iran's Islamic regime. Rouhani did not mention any of these in his campaign.
2) Laws and treatments such as; death penalty for homosexuals, stoning for adulterers, lashing for drinking alcohol, mandatory Islamic dress code, discriminatory laws against women and religious minorities and etc. which are part of official civil and penal code of the country and are enforced by a feared religious police and judiciary system are going to remain the same with Rouhani. He did not mention any plans to resolve these issues.
3) It is no secret that the regime in Iran is holding its grip on power by keeping a tight control over media and by leaving no space for any opposition or protest without risking a high price such as imprisonment and torture. Rouhani made no direct and clear promise to improve the situation so I expect it remains the same with him as president.
Interestingly Rouhani and Cameron both chose to remain silent about some of the serious issues which are mentioned above. Rouhani in his elections campaign and Cameron in his letter congratulating him after he so called won.
I think the optimism expressed by many including Cameron on Iranian regime's change of political direction as a result of election (or selection) of Rouhani is premature and misplaced and can only be a result of cherry picking the facts and ignoring the whole spectrum of Iranian political scene. Because:
1) First and foremost in Iranian political structure the Supreme Leader maintains the ultimate power and the president is just a “yes man” to him. To hope that Rouhani as president is going to change anything against Supreme Leader's wish is a hope in vain. Supreme Leader is in the position of supervising the president in Iranian political structure and has the power to dismiss him if he wishes so.
2) People who think Rouhani’s presidency is a big change in Iranian political scene because he replaced Ahmadinejad have to remember that A.N. was no exception of the rule and the Supreme Leader was also giving him directions and could change Ahmadinejad’s policies if he disagreed with them during his 8 years term as president. So if the supreme leader made no intervention during Ahmadinejad’s presidency it can only be assumed that A.N. was merely following Supreme Leader’s directions and as Supreme Leader was happy with what A.N. was doing there was no need for Supreme leader to intervene. Hence the Supreme Leader is the one to be blamed for the state of affairs in Iran not A.N. and not anyone else.
3) In fact as evidence for what mentioned in 2 the Supreme Leader gave his affirmation to Ahmadinejad’s policies especially on his nuclear and social policies on number of occasions and called them a return to revolution’s original values.
By 1, 2 and 3 this is obvious the circumstances under Ahmadinejad (in terms of foreign policy, nuclear policy, economy, etc.) were what was (and perhaps is) seen as ideal by the regime and the Supreme Leader and in my opinion it is only the pressure resulting from economical sanctions which is forcing the regime to give up on its ideals (pursued during A.N.) and to put on a smiley face again and give raise to this Rouhani phenomenon.
4) My suspicion is empowered as it is not the first time the Iranian regime is following this Smiley Mullah Policy. I can recall in 1997 when the regime was facing total international diplomatic boycott in the aftermath of Mykonos restaurant scandal the same Smiley Mullah Policy came to it's rescue when Khatami was installed under the title of a reformists as president.
5) That solved the regime’s problem at that point (1997) as international community took Khatami as a real reformist and that optimism in international scene alleviated the international boycott which was in place on Iran at the time as international community wanted to give a chance to what they saw as a possibility of reform from within to Iranian regime so all foreign representatives which had left Iran previously in protest of Iran regime’s role in Mykonos assassinations returned to Tehran when Khatami become president. That gave the regime a breathing space to recover itself in the years that followed.
6) In Khatami’s eight years term (1997 -2005) he proved that he was no reformist. He failed or didn't want to deliver on most of his promises and by the end of his eight years term as the country’s oil revenue had increased significantly (due to increase in crude oil price in world’s markets) the regime gained an unprecedented opportunity to follow up on its lets say expansionist ideas which it left on pause in 1997 when it was forced to give raise to Khatami as a false reformer due to international pressure it faced at the time.
Thanks to extra cash which was flowing in as a result of increased oil revenues towards the end of Khatami presidency term the regime officially declared the reform period was over and under Ahmadinejad it began the period of return to real revolution values (as it was named by supreme leader himself) This return went on until it took the country to complete political and economical bankruptcy by 2013 due to economical sanctions it caused.
So in my opinion it is only under heavy economical sanctions and on the verge of collapse that the regime is initiating the second round of Smiley Mullah Policy using Rouhani to save itself again. And I can predict Rouhani’s term isn't going to be anything but just another eight years of empty promises as it was with his predecessor's Khatami (1997 -2005 ) and on the basis of what I explained in this article I think to lay too much hope on Rouhani is simplistic if not completely stupid.
To me it seems the regime is trying the Smiley Mullah Policy again in order to alleviate the pressure it is currently under as a result of international sanctions just as it did in 1997 with Khatami. Once this goal is achieved and the sanctions were lifted it will return to its ideal Ahmadinijad-ism soon enough.