The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has cautioned against regarding the election of Hasan Rouhani as the new Iranian President on June 14, 2013 as a sign that Iran has taken a moderate turn and might be willing to either relinquish its war against Israel’s existence or terminate its nuclear weapons program. The ZOA has pointed out Rouhani is a veteran insider intimately involved in years of Iranian deception over its covert nuclear weapons program prior to its discovery in 2002. Additionally, Rouhani was a member of the Iranian government committee that plotted the July1994 bombing of the Jewish community center, the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which 85 people were killed and hundreds more maimed. the ZOA has also pointed out that the factions within the Iranian regime are not divided on such strategic goals of obtaining nuclear weapons or working for the elimination of Israel, but merely between different approaches to handling these policies internationally.
The ZOA has noted the following salient facts regarding Hasan Rouhani and his career within the top echelon of the Iranian hierarchy:
- Rouhani served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator under former Iranian presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatemi, at a time Iran was concealing from the world its clandestine nuclear weapons program.
- In this position, as well as while head of Iran’s National Security Council (1989-2005), he played a key role in Iran’s diplomatic concealment of its nuclear weapons program, frequently making conciliatory but misleading and false statements to the world which earned him the moniker ‘diplomatic sheikh,’ for the way he deftly handled the drawn-out nuclear negotiations with the E-3 (France, Germany, and Britain) during 2003-5.
- Rouhani may even prove more extreme on the nuclear issue than other factions within the government, as he said during his first press conference as president-elect that “the era of [uranium enrichment] suspension is gone.”
- He served on the special Iranian government committee that plotted the July1994 mass-murder bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case, “With regard to the committee’s role in the decision to carry out the AMIA attack … this decision was made under the direction of Ali Khamenei, and that the other members of the committee were [then-Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, Mir Hejazi, Rouhani, Velayati and Fallahijan.”
- He was member of the Supreme Defense Council responsible for the prolongation of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) even after Iran had recovered all Iranian territory initially seized by Saddam Hussein’s forces, which is estimated to have cost the lives of over 1 million people.
- He was a political commissar in the armed forces, where he purged senior Iranian officers.
- Rouhani has been a member of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), where he serves as Khamenei’s personally appointed representative.
- Rouhani lived in Paris in exile with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and followed him to Iran in 1979.
- Rouhani is a Shia mujtahid, a qualified senior Islamic jurist, and has been since 2000 a member of the Assembly of Experts, which is holds responsibility for electing and removing the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and supervising his activities.
Mark Wallace, the CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has said, “What we will see from Rowhani, I think, are conciliatory statements in public, while in secret, going forward with the nuclear program.” Soli Shahvar, the Director of the Ezri Center of Iran & Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa, said, “Rowhani’s win is indeed a victory, but whose victory? … I believe that it’s the regime’s victory if we happen to see a softening of the U.S. and western pressure on Iran.”
Karim Sadjadpour, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has written, “Rouhani should not be expected to significantly alter the deeply entrenched strategic principles of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, namely opposition to U.S. hegemony, the rejection of Israel’s existence, and support for “resistance” allies such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed there remain deeply entrenched forces in Iran—including, I would argue, Supreme Leader Khamenei—who see resistance against America, and the rejection of Israel’s existence, as inextricable elements of Iran’s revolutionary ideology.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We should not permit ourselves to be fooled when Hasan Rouhani states publicly that the policy of the outgoing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, only brought sanctions on Iran and that he, unlike Ahmadinejad, will ‘reconcile with the world.’
“This is a man who is among those responsible for the July 1994 terrorist bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and the killing and wounding of hundreds. If a man is willing to murder, he is also willing to lie. The idea that someone like Rouhani will be a trustworthy interlocutor on the nuclear issue is absurd, especially in view of the fact that he has aided and abetted Iran’s nuclear deceit all along.
“Rouhani has not only played a central role in Iran’s colossal diplomatic deception over the years regarding its nuclear weapons program, but as a Shia jurist sitting on the Assembly of Experts, he has served as guardian of the regime’s undeviating path of repression at home and terrorism and aggression abroad. Is it likely that someone who guards the ideological purity of the regime is a genuine reformer who has the power and will to stop Iran’s nuclear program?
“Rouhani is not a moderate when it comes to ultimate Iranian aims, including the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Like President Mohamed Khatemi in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rouhani sounds relatively conciliatory and reasonable, while adhering to the same extremist goals. Iran did not cease its nuclear program or alter its policy on destroying Israel during the Khatemi presidency. Let us remember, too, that it was another supposed moderate, Ali Akbar Mohammed Hashemi Rafsanjani, who said in 2001 that the acquisition of a nuclear bomb ‘would not leave anything in Israel.’ Rouhani is part of Rafsanjani’s faction within the Iranian hierarchy.
“In retrospect, we did not see any real, consequential moderation during the Khatemi or Rafsanjani presidencies – on the contrary, the Iranian covert nuclear weapons program, we later discovered, was proceeding apace at this time. Sadly, it is unlikely will see any substantive moderation under Rouhani.
“More importantly still, we must remember at all times that the Iranian president is not the most important decision-maker in Tehran – the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Guardianship Council, are.
“Under the Islamist Iranian regime, the president does not have control of the armed forces or the foreign affairs – both are in the hands of Khamenei. Thus, even were Rouhani a true moderate who, among other things, would be prepared to verifiably terminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, he lacks the power to do so.
“It is therefore imperative that there is not the slightest weakening of sanctions and other forms international pressure on the Iranian regime. The only chance of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program by non-military means – a slender chance at best – is to increase, not decrease, pressure on Tehran.”