On June 15, when Iran announced the results of its recent presidential election, the New York Times reported the news of Hassan Rouhani’s victory under the headline, “Iran Moderate Wins Presidency by a Large Margin.”
In the weeks since the election, the Times has run scores of articles in which Rouhani has been described as “moderate,” a characterization that other major media outlets across the world have repeated hundreds of times.
By any common definition of the word, “moderate” Rouhani is anything but. Look at his proposed Cabinet to understand his agenda for Iran. Many were, in fact, senior government officials over the past 30 years. They have participated in some of the most egregious crimes of war, political suppression, and the export of terrorism and religious fundamentalism.
For instance, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, the choice for Minister of Justice, served for years as deputy in the Ministry of Intelligence, a position that allowed him to participate in the death committees responsible for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. The overwhelming majority of those prisoners were activists in the Mujahedin-e Khalq. Nearly all of the massacre victims had either served prison terms imposed by the mullahs’ courts or had completed such prison terms from which they had not yet been released. Only a handful survived.
Hundreds of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s political opponents were hung, their corpses hurriedly buried in mass graves. Twenty-five years later, no one has been able to uncover all the details of this atrocity.
Khomeini created “Amnesty Commissions,” that were, in fact, death commissions for political prisoners. The members included a representative of the Ministry of Intelligence, a religious judge and a prosecutor, with the Intelligence Ministry officer having the final say on the fate of individuals examined by the commissions. In Tehran, that official was Pour-Mohammadi.
All ranking members of the Khomeini regime in 1988 were complicit in the massacre. Those who protested it were removed from office.
One such individual, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montzaeri, was Khomeini’s designated successor at the time, but his protest against the massacre caused his fall from Khomeini’s grace and he was sacked in March of 1989.
In 2000, Montazeri published a memoir in which he revealed details of the massacre. Rouhani was the deputy commander-in-chief of Khomeini’s armed forces at the time and, since 1982, a member of the regime’s Supreme Defense Council.
Rouhani not only knew of the massacre’s planning and execution, but was in complete agreement with its perpetrators. No wonder he picked a murderer as justice minister, a slap in the face of all Iranians who are seeking justice for the tens of thousands of victims and political prisoners.
Rouhani also supported Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons, is an outspoken supporter of the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and has actively supported the crackdown on political dissent by university students.
It is all very well and good for Rouhani to describe himself as a moderate and to speak about greater engagement with the West. But for such words to be believable, he must back them up with specific actions.
In an address to 100,000 expatriates this past June 22 in Paris, Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that change in Iran is unimaginable without the release of political prisoners, freedom of expression, freedom for diversity of political parties, a cessation of meddling in the affairs of Syria and Iraq, and an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Any true moderate would do what he could to implement these measures.
Hundreds of Iranian-Americans in California attended a convention in August at the Anaheim Convention Center to highlight these very points. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, who serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, was among the distinguished speakers, as were former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.
The sooner the Western media realizes and exposes the sham moderation of Rouhani, the better for all those who seek a legitimate and just government in Tehran, and a prosperous Iran integrated into the world economy.
Nasser Sharif is President of California Society for Democracy in Iran.