Last week we witnessed the final stage of Iran’s supposed “democratic festival”:
The election of the “moderate” candidate, Hassan Rohani.
Ahmadinejad is scheduled to vacate his position in early August. He will leave
without having left his mark on his people’s history.
been accused by Iranian courts of various charges which have not been made
public, and he will probably disappear from the public eye just as quickly as he
It seems as if almost everyone across the board is happy with the
surprising and seemingly encouraging election results.
who had even the slightest glimmer of hope for reform took to the streets in
The US administration has received an excellent opportunity
to pursue diplomatic dialogue with the Iranians without having to make any
decisions regarding military action, which is anathema to it.
European Union will most likely take advantage of this happy turn of events to
return to its role as leader of mediation talks with the Iranians on the nuclear
issue. Even Saudi King Abdullah, who is a vigorous opponent of the ayatollahs in
Iran, sent a message of congratulations to Rohani.
Even in Israel a
number of officials voiced hope that this change would have a calming effect in
the Middle East.
Optimism is one of the most important components for
successful diplomacy in the modern era; however, understanding the reality of a
situation is no less important.
To comprehend the significance of the
election in Iran, it is worthwhile analyzing the situation from two distinct
points of view. We need to look at the how the Iranian leadership operated
throughout the election process, as well as to scrutinize the president- elect
In recent months, it appears that the leadership, under the
direction of the all-powerful leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, succeeded in
presenting Iran as the epitome of democracy to the entire world, as well as to
the Iranian people. The large number of candidates fell at different points
along a wide political and religious spectrum.
The media shared footage
of citizens freely voting for the candidate of their choice. Iran even
broadcasted a live debate between all the candidates. Moreover, the
president-elect adopted a Western-style campaign strategy; Rohani chose purple
as his official campaign color, which apparently endeared him to many Iranians.
He used slogans aimed against Ahmadinejad and in favor of improving relations
with the West.
But the reality of what actually happened is quite
Khamenei, and the special committee he headed, had the
exclusive power to decide who was and who was not eligible to run for
Anyone who was deemed too moderate, or too old, or too
resisting, or too secular was disqualified. Only candidates whom Khamenei
considered no threat in any way received committee approval.
who were approved were given strict instructions about which topics they were
allowed to voice opinions, and especially issues about which they were forbidden
to speak. They were given clear instructions to refrain from criticizing
Khamenei’s leadership and told specifically that they were welcome to criticize
Ahmadinejad – but only him.
In the televised debates, the candidates were
expected to follow extremely strict guidelines and were only allowed to express
their real opinions on a very limited number of issues – and only if they
followed a script that had been previously approved by Khamenei’s strict
At the end of the debates, it was difficult to determine what
the differences were among the candidates.
And Khamenei successfully
pulled the wool over our eyes.
The entire world, including the citizens
of Iran, bought the story and believed that they were participating in a true
democratic election. They were so relieved to see that there was at least one
candidate who seemed relatively moderate – someone who might really be able to
bring about the changes that the Iranian people has been waiting for so long. A
candidate who would lead Iran on a new path, and establish a new relationship
with the West.
But you must understand that the president-elect must
abide by policies set by Iran’s supreme leader – Khamenei – which have not
changed one bit. The president-elect is not only another protégé of the current
regime, but one of its founders.
Rohani is not exactly the symbol of
moderation and pluralism. Although he has a doctoral degree in law and speaks a
number of languages, he is still a religious cleric in all respects. He was a
member of the regime that came to power after the shah was overthrown in
He was responsible for the reorganization of the Iranian military
and was appointed head of the Iranian Broadcasting Authority, and thereby was
able to ensure that the only voice being heard throughout Iran was that of
Rohani was the supreme leader’s representative on the National
Security Committee, as well as the Iranian representative in nuclear talks with
the West in 2003 to 2005. In these talks, Rohani was viewed as relatively
moderate and he even agreed to freeze Iranian uranium enrichment for a short
His opponents in the West claim that he is an expert negotiator,
and that he is especially talented at carrying out negotiations for
In other words, he expertly succeeds in endlessly drawing
out discussions, which gives his country time to continue doing whatever it
The real reason Rohani won the election is that over the years he
has always been associated with former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, who is also relatively moderate compared to the regime. Despite
statements Rohani recently made, about his desire to move closer to the West and
to hold successful negotiations, he still considers Israel to be the Great Satan
that should be attacked in every way possible.
So what did Iran get in
the end? A new brand, but from the same ayatollah production line.
President-elect Rohani is an excellent orator and is more moderate, yet he still
Apparently the real revolution will only take place
in the next round.
The writer is a former brigadiergeneral who served as
a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Translated by Hannah