Iran’s Challenges in Rouhani’s Second Term
AUGUST 25, 2017
he second term of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has officially begun. His first four years were experienced by the people of Iran, the region and the international community. It is necessary to discuss the challenges his second term will pose. The most important matter in Iranian politics is the issue of hegemony, authority and power. As long as the regime is formed around the supreme leader, known as the velayet-e faqih, the presidency and his executive branch will literally be functioning to his service and demands. In such a structure, the president in the Iranian regime, now Rouhani, literally enjoys no authority. Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami once described his role as a mere “procurer.”
Considering the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blessed the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rouhani’s role is to provide for the establishment’s best interests while dodging and sidestepping international demands.
Khamenei understands very well there is no better option for his regime’s future. Yet he also needs to maintain a straight face before a social base that may even accuse him of giving in to the enemy, being the United States, the “Great Arrogance.”
Following the JCPOA signing Khamenei has to this day ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to launch 15 ballistic missile tests, all in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and all supervised by Rouhani as chair of the Supreme National Security Council.
Twelve such tests were carried out during Obama’s tenure, without any punishments imposed. The next three tests, however, saw the new Trump administration taking action each time by slapping new sanctions.
Iran’s measures have not been limited to ballistic missile launches.They include collaborating with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, instigating US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf, continuing involvement in Syria and supporting Bashar Assad’s killings of innocent civilians, providing the Lebanese Hezbollah underground missile factories, and arming, equipping and financing the Houthis in Yemen
The message received by the outside world is the JCPOA has emboldened Tehran, its destabilizing measures must be contained and sanctions increased.
The end of the Obama years and Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House, while believing the JCPOA is the worst deal in US history, has made circumstances even more difficult for Tehran. As defined above, obvious is the fact that Iran began violating the JCPOA spirit from the very beginning.
Considering that Tehran has failed to change any approaches in different fields, it is Rouhani’s mission, as the facilitator of Khamenei’s policies, is to portray Iran in compliance with the JCPOA.
Iran’s global correspondents have major demands and expectations from Iran. The Riyadh Summit in May, which the US and 55 other countries attended, ended with a statement placing certain conditions before Rouhani and the regime in its entirety:
- Stop supporting terrorism in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and rein in all terror cells;
- End ongoing provocations in Gulf waters;
- Order back all IRGC members, Shiite militias and proxy forces from the four Arab capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa;
- Refrain from attacking embassies and diplomatic missions in Iran;
- End plots to assassinate ambassadors in various cities;
- Halt all ballistic missile test launches;
While these are all under the authority of Khamenei and IRGC, Rouhani has a record of supporting and facilitating such actions.
Therefore, there is no actual expectation that Rouhani will bring any change in his second term as this regime’s president. This was quite obvious from his humiliating inauguration ceremony. Which senior Western or Arab state official from a leading country took part in this event? None.
The most important official to take part was EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, who merely attended as head of the JCPOA committee. Her entire visit became a complete embarrassment, being seen with a mandatory scarf and taking selfies with members of the parliament of a regime with a terrible human rights record.
European media and officials went as far as using the terms “shameful” and “disgraceful” for Mogherini supporting the president of a regime who has explicitly described this regime’s 38-year rule as riddled with executions and prisons.
During Rouhani’s first tenure the world witnessed this regime send more than 3,000 individuals to the gallows. Amnesty International has issued a comprehensive reportexpressing grave concerns over human rights violations in Iran.
And speaking of prisons, political prisoners across the country are enduring extremely harsh conditions. Dozens have been on hunger strike since July 30th after being transferred to a hall and placed under extreme surveillance. They are also deprived of minimal hygiene products, adequate clothing and even family visits.
The heavy shadow of increasing sanctions pose a very difficult economic hurdle for Rouhani and the clerical regime. The current circumstances have left Iran’s market, domestic and foreign investors in limbo, and literally locked the country’s economy.
Add to this situation Iran’s systematic economic corruption, smuggling and credit institutions associated to the IRGC, the regime’s security organs and Khamenei himself.
Further add the IRGC economic empire, and a conglomerate of foundations and organs supervised by Khamenei. This leaves no breathing room or hope for the average Iranian.
There is literally no solution for Rouhani as the regime’s president. He is running a politically, economically and socially-failed administration. And this failure is of fundamental importance.
Considering the absence of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one can reach an absolute conclusion that Iran’s so-called “moderate” and/or “reformist” current has come to a complete end.
This branch of the Iranian regime, which played a very important role in maintaining the entire clerical establishment in power, will no longer be able to function to its intended role.
The JCPOA has failed politically. This pact was hoped to open new relations between the West and Iran, and especially lead to significant and meaningful economic relations. Again, another failure.
The JCPOA only enjoyed any chance of success under the former Obama administration. This window of opportunity for Tehran has obviously been closed.
The fate of presidents in the clerical regime are quite obvious, and concerning for Rouhani. A look back provides a preview of a grim future awaiting Rouhani:
- Abolhassan Bani Sadr (1980) – sacked and removed from power
- Mohammad-Ali Rajai (1981) – killed
- Ali Khamenei (1981-89) – transitioned to the role of Supreme Leader
- Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) – died a very suspicious death and diminished proile
- Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) – dubbed a “seditionist” and dismissed
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) – described as “deviant” and sidelined
- Hassan Rouhani (2013-…) – To be determined
Despite all the efforts made by the Iranian regime and its lobbies with millions of dollars, there are very few figures left who truly have any hopes of change from within this regime, let alone by Rouhani.
The most important and gravest challenge before him, being part and parcel of the clerical establishment, is the threat of Iran’s powder keg society rendering nationwide protests and uprisings.
The average Iranian is completely opposed to the ruling regime, and those sitting on the throne in Tehran are no longer able to bandage the bleeding wounds of this corrupt system.
Iran is heading for regime change and such a platform is gaining international recognition as we speak.