Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hassan Rohani: A Beginning Dossier


Hassan Rohani, who is being identified throughout world news media as a "moderate cleric," has won the 2013 Iranian Presidential election in a landslide.

There is some basis for differentiating Rohani from outspoken hard-liners like Ahmadinejad. Rohani participated in a mid-90s Iranian-Israeli effort to "reduce tensions," going as far as meeting with an Israeli delegation in Finland in 1996, according to The Iran Brief.  And in 2008 Rohani put Ahmadinejad on blast for his reckless rhetoric on Israel.  "Does foreign policy mean expressing coarse slogans and grandstanding," Rohani was reported to ask.  "This is not a foreign policy. We need to find an accommodating way to decrease the threats and assure the interests of the country."

However, IRNA reported in April, 1994 that Rohani's activities were more in line with those of traditional hard-liners.  Rohani had just returned from multilateral talks in Damascus between Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian groups, in which they concluded that "the current developments never allowed any prospect for peace in the region." They discussed parliamentary cooperation between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

TEHRAN (IRNA)--The Vice-Speaker of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis), Hassan Rowhani, here Thursday underlined that Syrian officials as well as the Lebanese and Palestinian groups believed, as Iran does, that the current developments never allowed any prospect for peace in the region.

Upon his arrival from his visit to Damascus, he told the reporters at Tehran's International Mehrabad Airport that in addition to ranking Lebanese Ulema and Palestinian and Lebanese groups all parties that were themselves involved in the negotiations including the Syrian President Hafez al-Asad, Vice-President Abdel al-Halim Khaddam and Syrian Parliament speaker believed that what was going on under the pretext of peace negotiations was not but a mere plot.

He further referred to parliamentary cooperation between Iran and Syria and Hizbollah's fraction group as other issues discussed during the meetings.

He commented that in the present sensitive situation, all those confronting the West and not yielding to compromise should engage in more exchange of views and must cooperate with each other more than ever.

Rowhani left Damascus Thursday night and was seen off at the Damascus airport by his Syrian counterpart, Adel Jamous.

During his five-day stay there, he held talks with Syrian officials and Lebanese and Palestinian groups on regional and international developments, mutual ties and the ways to continue struggle against the Zionist regime.

Update: The BBC Middle East Monitoring Service has a more detailed summary of Rohani's diplomatic activity in April 1994.  We find that he had a cordial meeting with Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah, in which Nasrallah praised Iran for its support.  He met with what appears to be representatives of the PLO factions and told them that the Oslo Accords were "self humiliating"[sic].  And he affirmed ties between Iran and the Assad regime in Damascus.
The deputy speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Dr Hasan Rohani, met the leaders of ten Palestinian groups and the secretary-general of the Lebanese Hezbollah, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, in Damascus on 4th April, Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 (Tehran, in Persian 1430 gmt 4 Apr 94) reported. The report said that Nasrallah thanked the Iranian people and leadership for their support.

IRNA news agency (Tehran, in English 1910 gmt 4 Apr 94) reported that Rohani, who is also the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, reiterated "Iran's firm support for Islamic resistance in southern Lebanon".

According to an IRNA news agency report (2036 gmt 4 Apr 94), Rohani told the leaders of the 10 Palestinian factions that "what Yasir Arafat has signed with the Zionist regime as an agreement is `self humiliating'and will not realize any of the goals and rights of the Palestinian nation".

IRNA news agency (2049 gmt 4 Apr 94) reported that in a speech to the leaders of the ten Palestinian groups, Rohani had said that the Hebron massacre had helped to strengthen "the jihad of the Palestinian people in occupied Palestine".

Syrian Arab Republic Radio (Damascus, in Arabic 1315 gmt 4 Apr 94) reported that on the same day Rohani met Abd al-Qadir Qaddurah, the speaker of the Syrian People's Assembly. IRNA news agency (2103 gmt 4 Apr 94) reported that during the meeting Rohani described ties between Tehran and Damascus as excellent.

In the run-up to the American invasion of Iraq, Rohani, who was then Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, met with Algerian ambassador to Iran, Abdelkader Hadjar.  He referred to a plot by which the United States and Israel were using 9/11 to justify their respective campaigns of terror against the Muslim world and Palestinians.  Announcing that "The Muslims have never been involved in terrorism actions," he seemed to hint at 9/11 conspiracy theories.

The SNSC secretary said that the United States has embarked on propaganda campaign against Islam since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States, while the US-backed Zionist regime has intensified its terrorist operations against Palestinians. The Muslims have never been involved in terrorist actions, while, Washington accuses Muslims of terrorism, he said. He said that the United States is seeking to exert influence over the Muslim world's vital and geopolitical centres especially in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the horn of Africa, adding that the Muslim nations are in pressing need of solidarity more than ever before.

Archives also show that Rohani played an important role in the violent suppression of late 90s pro-democracy protests in Iran, in which he eagerly implemented the "revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements".  According to an August 1999 edition of The Iran Brief:

With Mr. Khatami firmly on board, the regime launched its counterattack on July 14, bussing tens of thousands of government employees to Tehran to stage a pro-regime rally. While no one was fooled as to the authenticity of the rally, it was an impressive show of force. Addressing the crowd, the Secretary of the National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, known as a top aide to President Khatami, promised to arrest pro-democracy protesters and execute them. "Two nights ago we received decisive instructions to deal with these elements," he announced. "And at dusk yesterday we received a decisive revolutionary order to crush mercilessly and monumentally any move of these opportunist elements wherever it may occur. From today our people shall witness how in the arena our law-enforcement force and our heroic Bassij shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces."