Hassan Rouhani, often referred to as a “moderate” by some pundits in the West, has always been a high-ranking official in the Iranian regime. For the last three decades, he has served in the intelligence, military and national security apparatus. That means he has been involved in or supportive of Tehran’s core policies, including suppression of the Iranian opposition and the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Rouhani’s political record speaks volumes about his real intentions. He served as Khamenei’s representative at the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for 16 years (1989-2005). He was also National Security Advisor to Iranian Presidents for 13 years (1989-1997, and 2000-2005). Some of his other positions include: Deputy Commander-in-chief of the regime’s armed forces (1987-1988), and member of the regime’s Supreme Defense Council (1982-1988). Before becoming president, he was Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.
Still, the real power in Iran rests in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Former president Mohammad Khatami once described the President in Iran as nothing but “an executor” of Khamenei’s wishes. In line with the regime’s constitution, Khamenei sets the main policies of the regime, from appointing the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, members of the Guardian Council, Chief of the Judiciary, Head of the State-run Radio and Television, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commander of the suppressive Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and senior Commanders of the military and security agencies.
Both Rouhani and his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have admitted publicly that all final decisions regarding the nuclear program will be made by Khamenei. That is because the survival of the regime is based on Khamenei’s position and the absolute rule of the clergy (principle of “Velayat-e-faqih”). The slightest deviation from this core principle will inevitably lead to the regime’s downfall. For this reason, the regime is inherently incapable of genuine reforms. Not only will it refuse to carry out reforms, the regime will do everything and anything to continue on the path of terrorism, suppression, and nuclear weapons.
This summer will mark the 26th anniversary of the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran. The overwhelming majority of the victims were political activists affiliated with the main opposition the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). They had protested against the absolute clerical rule and called for a democratic Iran that respects, not violates, human rights.
Many of the victims had already finished their prison sentences. But the regime’s kangaroo courts sentenced them to death during show trials that lasted only a few minutes.
When Khamenei’s predecessor, Khomeini, saw his regime starting to crumble after the Iran-Iraq war, he began to systematically annihilate the only opposition capable of finishing the job. He issued fatwas (religious decrees) to massacre anyone who had not repented and was not willing to completely collaborate with the regime. Their corpses were secretly buried in mass graves all over major cities, particularly in Tehran.
Khomeini had ordered in his hand-written fatwa: “Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the MEK must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately.”
He tasked a three-member “Death Commission” to carry out the executions in a few short months. One of the members of this committee responsible for thousands of unjust deaths, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, has been appointed by the “moderate” Rouhani as the minister of “justice.” The irony could hardly be more pronounced.
In 1988, the regime’s killers had only one question for the political prisoners: Do you still stand for the ideals of the MEK? Those who said “yes” rather than using the derogatory term “Monafeqin” (hypocrites) to refer to the MEK were sent straight to the gallows.
The Iranian regime’s abhorrent rights violations are not new. Rights abuses are part of the DNA of a regime born out of pure authoritarianism. Yet, the situation has worsened under the new “moderate” administration in Iran. Since Rouhani took office, there have been nearly 800 executions. The most recent victim, executed on Sunday, June 1, was Gholamreza Khosravi, a political prisoner, incarcerated and tortured for a total of 12 years. His official crime was that he had made financial contributions to the MEK’s satellite TV channel. Even in prison, Khosravi stood up to the regime’s tyranny and was one of the leaders of an uprising in Ward 350 of Evin prison in April. Khosravi’s execution was met with an overwhelming chorus of international rebuke. Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Commissioner both issued statements condemning the hanging.
The execution bore all the hallmarks of a regime in decline and a population unwilling to give up the fight against it. Just as clerical rulers sought to prevent their downfall in the 1980s after facing defeat on the war front, now too, they are doing their utmost to crush all forms of opposition as they face defeat in the economic and international arenas.
Now it must be asked of all those who lobby and advocate for the regime as well as those who choose to turn a blind eye on Tehran’s abhorrent rights violations: what will you do when the nuclear negotiations fail? Will you choose war as the next option? Or will you finally take off your rose-colored glasses, see the regime and its false claims of moderation for what they really are, and stop shaking its blood-stained hands?
The question is simple but the choice is yours.
Dr. Khalil Khani is president of the Iranian-American Community of Arizona, a member of the Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC)