June 18, 2013

Iran's new fanatic-in-chief by Michael Freund JPost

Eleven years ago, a middle-aged, up-and-coming Iranian cleric sat down
for a rare interview with ABC News. Though largely unknown to the West
at the time, the bespectacled mullah served as chairman of Iran's
Supreme National Security Council and was a key adviser to the Iranian

Despite knowing that he was appearing before a Western audience, the
turbaned official made little effort to hide his uncompromising and
extremist views. When asked why then-US President George W. Bush had
included Iran as part of the "axis of evil," for example, the partisan
Persian did not hesitate to invoke an anti-Semitic canard, blaming the
Jews for America's policy.

"After September 11," he said, "the hardliners, especially the Zionist
lobby, became more active and, unfortunately, influenced Mr. Bush."

A few minutes later, perhaps concerned that he had not gotten his
point across, he went out of his way to reiterate that, "What we
really see in the decision-making is the influence of the Zionist
lobby. They are very influential in the administration as well as with
members of Congress."

The man who uttered those hateful words is none other than Hassan Rohani, the new president-elect of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yes, that Hassan Rohani, the same one that much of the Western media is attempting to portray as a judicious and reasonable man.

"Moderate Wins Iran's Presidential Election," crowed National Public
Radio. "Rohani an Advocate of Peace," insisted The Australian.

But don't let the screaming headlines fool you. The assertion that
Rohani is a moderate is absolute hogwash, marinated in self-delusion
and garnished with sheer ignorance. Sure, when compared with outgoing
nutcase Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rohani is relatively restrained. But
that's like saying Attila the Hun was a moderate when measured up
against Genghis Khan.

In other words, it is a distinction without a difference.

Rohani has spent more than two decades as part of Iran's national
security apparatus, which has used violence and terror at home and
abroad to preserve the rule of the ayatollahs. From 2003 to 2005, as
Teheran's chief nuclear negotiator, his task was to dither, delay and
dissemble in talks with the West while Iran's nuclear scientists
advanced toward the atomic finish line. And for the past eight years,
Rohani was one of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's two personal
representatives on Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

His record is one of slavish loyalty to the thuggish theocracy that
was installed after the downfall of the Shah in 1979, and there is
simply no reason whatsoever to think that this close confidante of
Khamenei will suddenly become an Iranian F.W. De Klerk or Mikhail

Indeed, if Rohani's public statements are any indication, Iran's
hostile stance appears certain to continue.

In the ABC interview that he gave in September 2002, Rohani justified
Palestinian suicide bombers, saying that, "Palestinians can use any
means to kick out the occupier." He defended Hezbollah as "a
legitimate political group," called Israel "a terrorist nation" and
refused to condemn the March 2002 Passover Massacre, when a Hamas
suicide bomber blew himself up at a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel
in Netanya, murdering 30 Israelis and wounding 140 others.

More recently, in a meeting with the Turkish ambassador on January 11,
2012, Rohani came to the defense of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, even
as the latter was busy slaughtering his fellow citizens.

"Syria has constantly been on the frontline of fighting Zionism and
this resistance line must not be weakened," Rohani was quoted as
saying by the Iranian and Syrian press. "Syria," he added, "has a
particular position in the region and in the past 60 years has formed
the resistance line against the Zionist regime."

And if you thought that the race for the presidency might serve to
soften his views, think again. In an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat
last week, Rohani denounced what he called Israel's "inhuman policies
and practices in Palestine and the Middle East."

To be sure, Rohani has been making noises about reforming Iran's
economy and loosening the regime's stifling grip on the Iranian
people. But while his election to the presidency does constitute a
change of faces, it hardly signals a change in policy.

The departure of Ahmadinejad from the scene is certainly welcome news,
and few will miss his rancorous and vitriolic anti-Semitic and
anti-Western tirades.

But the results of Iran's presidential balloting are hardly a reason
to celebrate. Iran may have a relatively more moderate
fanatic-in-chief in the form of Hassan Rohani, but a fanatic he most
assuredly is.


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