Alireza Jafarzadeh, Townhall, 31 May 2017
The incumbent Hassan Rouhani has been selected, not “elected,” to a second-term as the Iranian regime’s president, as announced by the officials on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
The regime, not surprisingly, claimed a large voter turnout. However, reports and video clips presented by the network of the Iranian resistance in various cities in Iran, as well as journalists, who managed to visit unassigned voting stations, suggest that a large portion of the population had stayed away from ballot boxes.
The campaign this year attracted greater public attention to the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members of the main Iranian opposition, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Public outrage against Rouhani’s rival, Ebrahim Raisi, over his role in the massacre mounted to a point where even many powerful figures within Khamenei’s faction were not prepared to support Raisi, to the Supreme Leader’s dismay.
Rouhani’s first four years saw over 3,000 executions and an intense crackdown, rampaging poverty and injustice on the domestic scene; and intensifying foreign meddling and skyrocketing military/security budgets alongside efforts to advance the regime’s ballistic missile drive.
Funds gained as a result of the nuclear agreement were used to fuel wars in the region and increase military and security spending. Rouhani’s Defense Minister, Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan, in his remarks two weeks ago, described Rouhani’s tenure as “the most glorious period in development of missile and defense programs of the country in terms of both quantity and quality.” He added that until March 2017 “credit guarantees for defense grew by up to 2.5 fold compared with the previous government” and “it will increase up to four fold by March 2018 relative to the previous government.”
Rouhani openly boasted in February 2016 that the regime’s presence in Syria and Iraq was used as leverage to gain concessions during nuclear talks. “If our forces did not fight in Baghdad, Samarra, Fallujah and Ramadi, and if they did not help the Syrian government in Damascus and Aleppo, we would not have had any security in order to be able to conduct the [nuclear] negotiations so well,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani will likely try to present himself as the key to public problems as he has done in the past, through deceit and hollow promises. However, this would be rapidly discredited when faced with people’s expectations and demands. Iranian people know that massive economic and social destructions along with political suppression will continue in Rouhani’s second term. Rouhani neither wants, or is able, to seriously alter the foundations, structure, or behavior of this historically backward regime. As the Washington Post editorial suggested, “Real transformation in Iran will require a collapse of the Islamic Republic.” In early May, Khamenei admitted, “a change of behavior is no different from regime change.”
Although Rouhani acknowledged that the ruling faction during 38 years “only knew how to execute and imprison people,” but at the same time he praised Khamenei and publicly announced that he is willing to kiss the ring of the “exalted leader” dozens of times.
This is of course not unusual from Rouhani who for nearly four decades has held the highest positions in the regime’s security and military apparatus in domestic suppression and war mongering; he even called for public hanging of conspirators at Friday prayers to demonstrate the regime’s resolve in dealing with opponents.
“Khamenei’s failure to manipulate the election result to bring Raisi out of the ballot box and make the regime monolithic is a heavy blow for him and a sign of the regime’s approaching demise,” Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran said.
The take away from the 2nd term of Rouhani is that no change should be expected in the policies and behavior of the Iranian regime; the regime is more divided and thus weaker and more vulnerable; and the organized opposition has gained much more public standing. As evident in their sentiments expressed in the run-up to the election farce, the Iranian people see the overthrow of the religious tyranny by the Iranian people and the organized opposition as the only solution to Iran’s problems.
The recent summit in Riyadh where some 50 Muslim nations along with the United States built a consensus, concluded that Islamic extremism is the biggest threat in today’s world and that it must be confronted in a unified way. In his address to the conference, President Donald Trump was correct in stating, “The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people.” King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques expressed his “respect and appreciation” for the Iranian people, adding, “The Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the Khomeini revolution until now.”
As the Trump administration finalizes its review of its policy on Iran, the will of the Iranian people, voiced by their organized opposition, should be taken into account, as a central element of the new policy. This is the only way to break the cycle of failed attempts to nearly four decades of Iranian regime’s threats and violence.