By: Afchine Alavi
To describe the state of power in Iran, a specialist made the following comparison: “Rouhani has done more to disappoint his supporters in eight months, than Khatami managed in eight years to convince Iranians that he’s not capable of change.” Both men occupied the Presidency and are mullahs characterized as moderates but are in fact a prime example of power without any moderation.
This harsh fact now circulating in Iran says much about the track record so far of Hassan Rouhani, who wanted to surf on the aspirations of Iranians for change, and was considered as a man with solutions man during his election campaign, and a providential ‘savior’ of the Islamic Republic.
However, once the euphoria of victory was over, the gloom returned with its procession of strikes of workers demanding their unpaid wages, of discontent from Bazaar, minorities rioting against the contempt and the injustice of the central Government, a population angry at the serious damage being done to the environment, families worried about the fate of their relatives in political prisons. Briefly, all layers and components of the Iranian nation, starting with the young and of course women, want to put an end to this anachronistic religious dictatorship and try to expose its flaws by any means.
The strategy of Rouhani which is likely to fail is very simple – since it began with negotiations on the controversial nuclear program a gridlocked process during the long years of Ahmadinejad’s Presidency – and it is to persuade the international community to lift the sanctions which asphyxiate the Islamic Republic by freezing a portion of the budget.
Rouhani remedy has had little effect on the economy. The latest report of the International Monetary Fund expressed strong uncertainty about a recovery in the short term of the Iranian economy. As pointed out in a very relevant article of the Foundation studies for the Middle East (FEMO), after the beginning of the negotiations, the Iranian currency rebounded then fell, and also stressed that the serious economic crisis is not only due to sanctions but that evil is inherent in the system.
However, the vision brought to the negotiations by the West is not the same as that of the mullahs. The West will lift the sanctions if it is persuaded that Iran’s nuclear program has no military criteria. On Teheran’s side, it’s a little more complicated: led by the revolutionary guards and the Ministry of Defense, this program tended from the outset to remain secret until it was unveiled by the opposition – The National Council of Resistance of Iran. Its military purpose may be taboo but in Iran it is an open secret. To kick start the negotiations in Geneva when they became bogged down in Vienna, the regime now has a choice.
One option would be to preserve and conceal most of the infrastructure that will allow it to get the bomb and freeze the emerged part of the iceberg, seeking only a partial lifting of the sanctions. This is the option approved by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the last word in the Iranian system, and leaves the president of the Republic as a simple performer.
This option would be a dangerous balancing act, focusing on the lack of common sense from the opposing party. It is even more difficult as the West has already tasted the deceit of the mullahs during the negotiations in 2003 and that their interlocutor at the time was none other than the mullah Rouhani. However, the investment and the precipitation of the United States to brandish an international political victory with the signing of an agreement may grant the Supreme Leader his wishes. In Tehran, this is called a win-win agreement. Everybody would win, it means that the regime would gain the lifting of sanctions without really dismantling its nuclear infrastructure. This is the option noted in a recent article in the Wall Street journal.
The other option would be to flatly renounce the military nuclear program to obtain the lifting of the sanctions and save the regime from economic collapse. However, abandoning this program involves a great risk, which is to put an end to the authority and effectiveness of the Supreme Leader by abandoning what he always called ‘the inalienable right’ of his regime. This is the option that scares a lot the ‘worried’ (Delvapassan in Persian), a new category of displeased people, supporters of the first hour and freshly concerned about the abandonment by the dignitaries of fundamental and indelible slogans. Their troops are composed of Revolutionary Guards, the Basij militia, of a few MPs and conservative officials, part of the clergy and the workers from nuclear and military sectors who agonize at the prospect of losing their jobs in the event of the collapse of their world.
But the danger is elsewhere. By continuing with this option, the regime shows its weakness, it exposes itself to an emboldened population that would capture the opportunity to rebel and to impose its aspirations for change. Facing the haunting idea of a widespread revolt, the regime is obliged to harden inside while on the outside flying the flag of Rouhani’s moderation.
In order to discourage any insurrection, the regime uses terror tactics. That is why since Rouhani’s arrival there has been a net increase in executions. Since January, more than 200 people have been executed in Iran according to the International Organizations. The executions of members of religious and ethnic minorities are increasing. The pressures on political prisoners are growing within the prisons. Following the resistance of prisoners in the notorious Evin prison to a bloody jailers’ attack, the regime has just hanged an activist of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) called Gholamreza Khosravi, who had spent 12 years of his life in prison. His only crime was to financially assist the Resistance’s television channel. His death angered the whole society and organizations for the defense of the Human Rights throughout the world. It is the manifestation of the impotence of a religious dictatorship has lost its starting point.
While the Iranians are silenced under the weight of such repression, those of the diaspora and the supporters of the Iranian Resistance intend to shout aloud the aspiration for change at a huge mass meeting on June 27 at Villepinte, near Paris. Alongside hundreds of prominent personalities, they will say that nuclear negotiations should not overshadow Human Rights, and especially that the true masters of Iran aren’t the mullahs but the great Iranian Nation that aspires to freedom.