Iran Round-Up, Sept 26: Rouhani to Revolutionary Guards “No Political Activities”


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SUMMARY: This morning The Washington Post publishes an interview with President Rouhani. Inevitably, the two leading topics are nuclear talks and the Syrian conflict, and there is puffery about what Rouhani would have said if he had met President Obama at the United Nations this week.

Iran Feature: Rouhani Interview on Nuclear Talks, Syria, & Revolutionary Guards

Arguably, however, it is this paragraph on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that is the most significant:

One of the programs and pledges on my campaign was to insist on bringing a cultural, social and political environment in Iran and diluting the security dimensions of society at the moment. Regarding the IRGC, it’s an important institution. It helped Iran emerge victorious from the Iraq-Iran war. What the Supreme Leaders said, and I have also said, is that the IRGC should understand and analyze political affairs. But it shouldn’t get itself involved in any political groupings or activities.

For more than a week, we have covered Rouhani’s effort to get the IRGC out of politics. It is one matter, however, to do this through statements at home. It is another to declare the effort in an American newspaper.

The President would not have made the statement unless he was dedicated to pushing back the Guards.

And he did it not only with the belief that he has the backing of Ayatollah Khamenei but with an open declaration — “the Supreme Leader said” — that support.

Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Kazempour Appointed as OPEC Governor

Hossein Kazempour Ardebili has been appointed Iran’s governor for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Kazempour returns to post having been replaced in 2008.

Intelligence Minister: More Political Prisoners To Be Released

Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said Wednesday that more political prisoners will be set free on October 24, marking the Muslim feast of Ghadir Khum.

Sixteen political prisoners were freed last week, and Iran’s Prosector General said on Monday that the Supreme Leader has approved the release of another 80.

Alavi said, “The freedom of these prisoners has happened in the past and it will also continue in future too.”

Fars says the pardons came at the request of the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani.

Video: Rouhani’s Full Interview with CNN

On Wednesday, we considered headline extracts from President Rouhani’s interview with CNN. Now the full video has been posted:

Former President Khatami: Release All Political Prisoners

The front page of Etemaad newspaper features a call by former President Mohammad Khatami to “free all political prisoners and not just a few”.

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  1. Time for a U.S. Middle East U-Turn

    “In the wake of the chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus, we have been told that the ‘international community’ cannot stand idly by in face of this monstrous atrocity and blatant disregard for international norms. In response to the attack, the United States, Britain, France, and others were quick to call for some kind of military response. What is far less clear is what any military intervention in Syria was meant to achieve in the first place, aside from, in the words of Giles Fraser writing in the Guardian, ‘satisfying our own sense of retributive morality, and one that has become blurred with a large dollop of action-hero crap.’ And even a limited military engagement would have carried significant risks.

    So what are the roots and sources of all this mess?”

  2. If at First Rouhani Doesn’t Succeed

    “Obama and Rouhani are uniquely positioned to reach a detente and establish their historical legacies. But to achieve this Herculean task, they must first lower their expectations and realize that bilateral talks cannot end years of animosity. Rather, they would constitute one giant step toward establishing a new mechanism to manage their conflict.

    It is difficult to know Iran and the United States’ real intentions. But there are two ways to find out. The first is to actually begin direct bilateral negotiations. The other is to invite Iran to the Geneva II conference on the future of Syria.”

  3. I find the kind of reporting seen in the article below quite infuriating. Who is David Rothkopf to say that American sanctions resulted in Rouhani’s election? For that matter, it seems to be a popular trend to say that anything happening in Iran lately – from the release of political prisoners to the easing of media restrictions – is for the benefit of the Western audience. The last I checked, Iran has a population of over 70 million people who have their own demands and ambitions, and whose polity should serve them first and foremost.

    Regardless, if one does want to extend this flawed analysis, then it should be noted that Ahmadinejad is the result of American sanctions, not Rouhani. It was the US who completely undermined Khatami – a moderate, reformist president who reached out to the West – with its “axis of evil” speech and refusal to even contemplate a grand bargain. It was the US who invaded Iran’s neighbour and pinned a flag on Tehran as its next target.

    In spite of all the new hope and optimism, nothing will be achieved so long as this mindset exists.

    What’s New Is Nuance

    “Handshake or no handshake, Hasan Rouhani owes Barack Obama a debt of gratitude. That is because Rouhani is the president of the Iran that American sanctions made happen. After listening to him field questions from American media luminaries (and some not-so-luminous types like myself) for over an hour this morning, it was striking that, as the meeting closed, the biggest question of all remained the one posed by his very presence, his tenor, and the message he sought to deliver: What kind of change does he represent from the intemperate, combative, rogue Iran of the Ahmadinejad years?”

    • Khatami was nothing but a bunch of talk. He never had the authority to do the things he claimed to want. You can thank Iranian hardliners for Khatami’s weakness. The hardliners outmaneuvered and sabotaged him from the start. He never had the backing of the Supreme Leader. Blame the US for all the bad things and then don’t give them any credit for prompting positive developments. That’s pretty much par for the course. It becomes tedious.

  4. Rouhani and Obama manoeuvres leave Iranians cautiously optimistic
    Tehran Bureau, The Guardian
    Observers in Tehran express confidence in possibility of future dialogue but conservatives remain sceptical of US intentions.

    “…observers also noted that, 34 years after the Iranian revolution, the hardliners’ idea of America’s inherent hostility towards the Islamic republic was becoming outdated in the eyes of many Iranians.

    “Instead of worrying about dialogue with America and Rouhani’s chance of success, conservatives should be concerned that society no longer believes in the idea of American animosity,” the leading Tehran intellectual Sadegh Zibakalam wrote in a Shargh editorial. “These are the values of a new generation of Iranians.”

  5. It’s very convenient that just a few days after refusing to even shake Obama’s hand away from cameras they are now claiming they are ready for high level talks with the US. Obama essentially called their bluff and now they are trying to restart the charm offensive where they do a lot of talk without making commitments to back it up. If they can’t even manage to shake Obama’s hand at the UN because of hardliners in Tehran then how in the world do they think they will make painful nuclear concessions that will surely be required for a deal? Rouhani claimed he had complete authority over any nuclear talks, but he doesn’t even have the authority to decide who he meets and who he doesn’t. Until they act on their words it is nothing but a bunch of hot air. They already had one test and they were very underwhelming to say the least. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

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