Leave it to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to pull the wool over the eyes of his people by letting them believe that they have just elected a reformist president. And count on the United States to welcome the hoodwink.
Contrary to the cautious and not-so-cautious optimism expressed by the White House, the outcome of the June 14 Iranian election, in which Shiite cleric Hassan Rohani emerged victorious, is very bad news.
In the first place, Rohani is no moderate. This is evident not only in his past history as a loyalist of the Islamic revolution that ousted the shah in favor of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 or in his many subsequent top-tier positions in Khamenei-led governments. It is also a fact that Rohani would not have been approved by Khamenei as a candidate had his credentials or campaign been too liberal.
Secondly, Rohani is no friend of popular protests. In July 1999, during Rohani’s tenure as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, students at Tehran University demonstrated against the closing of the reformist newspaper, Salam. Though the demonstration began peacefully, it ended with a clash between students and police at one the university’s dorms. During the clash, a student was killed. This sparked a week of rioting throughout the country, leaving a number of people dead and hundreds injured. After that, more than 1,000 people were detained by authorities. Dozens of students “disappeared,” and their whereabouts are unknown to this day. The violent quelling of the demonstrations and the harsh detentions were spearheaded by Rohani.
These events occurred seven years after the suicide of Rohani’s eldest son, who left a note in which he attacked his father’s ideology and tactics. “I hate your government, your lies, your corruption, your religion, your double-dealing and your hypocrisy,” he wrote in the letter, excerpts of which were published in the Asharq-al-Awsat newspaper and reported Monday in the Israeli website Ynet.
“I am ashamed to live in an environment in which I am forced to lie to my friends every day and tell them that my father is not part of all this — to tell them that my father loves the nation and to know that the reality is far from this. I get nauseated when I see you, father, kissing Khamenei’s hand.”