On 15 June many thousands of people were allowed on to the streets of Tehran and other cities to celebrate the “election” of Hassan Rohani as “president” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Rohani’s “landslide victory” quickly brought about statements from Ali Khamenei, the Leader, and many notable clergy, state institutions and political groupings congratulating him. Even the pasdaran, the so-called “Revolutionary Guards”, were quick to pledge their loyalty.
Across the world there has been a sigh of relief: Ahmadinejad will be gone in less than two months and his replacement is said to be a “moderate conservative”, nicknamed the “diplomat sheikh”. Even Barack Obama has said that he is now “cautiously optimistic: about progress on the deadlocked nuclear negotiations.
This “election” was precisely what the regime needed to renew its legitimacy at home. It wanted to give the supporters of Mousavi and Karroubi someone they could vote for — and to prepare a semblance of unity for future negotiations with the imperialist countries. Who is Hassan Rohani and what can we expect of him?
Rohani has said that his election” represents the “victory of moderation over extremism” and that he wants “to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries”.
In reality he is a conservative who has held many security and military roles within the regime, including being chosen by Khamenei to be the head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for 16 years. As part of this role he was the regime’s top representative in the nuclear negotiations with the EU during 2003-05. In October 2003, the regime stopped uranium enrichment (and conversion activities) and did not resume enrichment until early in 2006 (conversion restarted in 2005). Although he is praised by the EU and the reformists for negotiating this period of suspension, what they forget is that this was also when the regime was able to take major steps in mastering the nuclear fuel cycle!
Inside Iran his “moderation” has been on full display whenever peaceful protests have had to be smashed, most notably in 1999.
In July 1999, as the head of the SNSC, Rohani said at a rally: “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... our law enforcement force... shall deal with these opportunists and riotous elements, if they simply dare to show their faces.”
The “opportunists and riotous elements” Rohani had in mind were Tehran University’s pro-democracy students. This speech gave the pasdaran and the basij militia the green light to attack the dormitories, to throw students out of the windows, to kill and to maim them.
Rohani is clearly the person that the regime has selected to help mend the public rift between its main factions — which has become so bitter since 2011.
Four years ago — after a wave of killings and repression — they created unity around Ahmadinejad in fear of what the masses could do to the whole regime. However, this collapsed after about two and a half years, with Ahmadinejad even openly defying Khamenei on a number of occasions!
The Iranian bourgeoisie urgently needs to come to some kind of an agreement with imperialism so that at least some of the sanctions are lifted. The more the sanctions stay in place — and earlier this month new ones hitting the non-oil sectors were also introduced — the more the economic problems begin to mount.
With the official rate of inflation at 32%, and food price inflation at about 60%, official unemployment at 15% (and 30% youth unemployment), even most of the hardliners have stopped pretending that the sanctions are not crippling the economy. The Syria crisis has also intensified the pressure on the regime.
Whether the regime can resolve all its 34-year-old disputes with US imperialism, and how long this process might take, revolutionary Marxists now need to concentrate on helping workers to build and co-ordinate clandestine action committees — so that the workers’ movement can take full benefit of even the slightest let up in the repression.
We also must develop revolutionary cells that will become the building blocks of a future Bolshevik-Leninist party.