Rouhani’s Victory is Good News for Iran, but Bad News for Trump and his Sunni Allies

Rouhani’s Victory is Good News for Iran, but Bad News for Trump and his Sunni Allies

The Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranian has won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold

Robert Fisk | Independent UK

So it’s a good win for the Iranian regime – and its enormous population of young people – and a bad win for Trump’s regime, which would far rather have had an ex-judicial killer as Iranian president so that Americans would find it easy to hate him. Maybe Hassan Rouhani’s final-week assault on his grim rival candidate and his supporters – “those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonment over the past 38 years” – paid off. Who among Iran’s under 25s, more than 40 per cent of the population, would have wanted to vote for Ebrahim Raisi whose hands had touched the execution certificates of up to 8,000 political prisoners in 1988?   

So the man who signed Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States of America, who struggled (often vainly, it has to be said) to reap the economic rewards of this nuclear bomb “truce” with the West, who believed in a civil society not unlike that of former president Mohamed Khatami – who supported him in the election – won with 57 per cent of the vote, backed by 23½ million of the 41 million who cast their ballot. The corrupt and censorious old men of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the bazaaris and the rural poor – the cannon fodder of the Iran-Iraq war as they often are in elections – have been told they no longer belong to the future.

But what a contrast this election has been to the vast congress of dictators and cut-throat autocrats greeting Donald Trump in Riyadh – just as the Iranian election results were announced. Save for Lebanon and Tunisia and Pakistan, almost every Muslim leader gathered in Saudi Arabia treats democracy as a joke or a farce – hence the 96 per cent victories of their leaders – or an irrelevancy. They are there to encourage Sunni Saudi Arabia’s thirst for war against Shia Iran and its allies. Which is why the Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranian has won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold.

There are those who will remember, of course, that executions proceeded apace under Rouhani’s previous presidency – though not on the Golgotha scale of the 1988 executions – and that Rouhani’s revolutionary credentials are clear: just before Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of 1980, he managed to re-organise Iran’s tattered post-revolutionary army. But if Raisi symbolised the repressive past, Rouhani, however imperfectly, represents the future. For now.

Because everything depends on how he will respond to the madness of the Trump regime and its willingness to support the Sunni war machine with more than $100bn of weapons against Iran and its allies and friends.

Rouhani must pray that Iran’s response can be political – he does at least have the satisfaction of knowing the voter turnout in Iran this week was 70 per cent against America’s miserable 58 per cent in the Trump-Clinton election last year. Iranians are a very political people and take their presidential polls seriously, even if only six out of 1,600 potential candidates were allowed to stand.

As they will when the next man to be chosen as Supreme Leader after Khamenei departs. This critical position – without any precedent in Islam, is now regarded as untouchable – could go to Ayatollah Sayed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a man who, as head of the judiciary, reduced some of Iran’s more vicious punishments without being a true reformer. But this was true of old Hashemi Rafsanjani, the ex-president and Richelieu of Iran who died earlier this year. No one in Iranian politics can talk of reform and civil society without acknowledging the revolution and the martyrs of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

It was in the aftermath of this First World War-style conflict that the mass executions began. The only prominent cleric to stand against them was Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, whose courageous and moral decision cost him the Supreme Leadership. He spent the rest of his life under virtual house arrest. Khamenei took his place. And among the brutal men who then showed their “Islamism” in the execution chamber, a massacre of prisoners that came to be known as the “national disaster”, Raisi could not expunge his name. Perhaps his only compensation today is that many of the Sunni Arab leaders gathered in Riyadh to applaud America’s mad President have almost as much blood on their hands. But they got “elected”.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On May 23, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Donald Trump is Trying to Stick to the Script – But He’s About to Mess Up in the Middle East

    There he was talking of the ‘ultimate deal’ between Israel and the Palestinians – as if peace was just a commodity to be bought or sold

    Robert Fisk | Independent UK

    In Riyadh, Trump couldn’t mention where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from or whose Sunni cult-faith was the inspiration for ISIS – nor which country chopped off heads with ISIS-like relish. (Answer: Saudi Arabia).

    And when he arrived in Israel on Monday, Trump was faced with a new censorship protocol: don’t mention who was occupying whose property in the West Bank or which country was outrageously and continuously stealing land – legally owned by Arabs – for Jews and Jews only. (Answer: Israel).

    So, bingo, in the biggest Middle East alliance ever created in history, the Saudis and the other Sunni Arab dictators and America’s crackpot President and Israel’s cynical Prime Minister have all agreed on the identity of the devil country they can all curse with one voice, inspirer of “world terror”, instigator of Middle East instability, the greatest threat to world peace: Shia Iran.

    So, within a few minutes of landing at Tel Aviv airport – part of whose runways actually lies on land legally owned by Palestinian Arabs 60 years ago – the Trump speechwriters (for Trump surely cannot write this stuff) were churning out once more their hatred of Iran, of Iran’s “terror”, of Iran’s plots, of Iran’s continuing desire to make a nuclear bomb.

    And all this when Iran has just re-elected a sane president who actually signed the nuclear agreement two years ago that substantially reduced Iran’s strategic threat to Israel, the Arabs and the United States of America.

    “Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” said the USA commander-in-chief. Iran “must cease its deadly [sic] funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias.”

    A Martian who might also have landed at Tel Aviv at the same time would surely conclude that Iran was the creator of ISIS and that Israel was already bombing the cruel and violent cultists of the Islamic caliphate. And Martians – surely smarter than the USA President – would thus be much amazed to discover that Israel has been bombing the Iranians and the Syrians and their militias, but has not once – ever – bombed ISIS.

    No wonder Trump tried to stick to his prepared script. Otherwise he might do something sane. Like congratulate Iran’s new president on his electoral victory and for promising to stick to the nuclear agreement; like demanding an end to Israeli occupation and Israeli colonisation of Arab land; like telling the tired old dictators and princes of the Arab world that the only way they can rid themselves – and the United States of America – of “terror” is by treating their people with dignity and safeguarding their human rights.

    But no, that’s far too sensible and fair and just and moral – and far too complicated — for a man who long ago fell off the edge of reality and entered Twitterworld.

    So, there he was talking of the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians – as if peace was just a commodity to be bought or sold. Like the one he’d just fixed in Saudi Arabia: Guns for Oil and Dollars.

    But then, sitting next to Netanyahu, the guy did go off script. To the relief of all, he returned to the horrors of the nuclear agreement with Iran, the deal that was “unbelievable”, a “terrible thing” which the USA had entered into. “We gave them a lifeline – and we also gave them the ability to continue with terror.” The threat of Iran, he told Netanyahu, “has forced people [sic] together in a very positive way.”

    This was truly “unbelievable”. Trump, in his weird innocence, believes that the Sunni Muslim world’s desire to destroy Shia Iran and its allies is the key to Arab-Israeli peace. Maybe that’s what he meant – if he meant anything – when he said that his visit marked “a rare opportunity to bring security and peace to this region, to its people, defeating terrorism and creating future harmony and peace” – that bit was in the script, by the way – in what he called “this ancient and sacred land”.

    He meant Israel, but he used the same phrase about Saudi Arabia and would no doubt do so about Switzerland, Lesotho or, well, North Korea if it brought any advantage. Or Iran, for that matter.

    Who knows if Trump’s going to be able to face up to Jewish colonisation, land theft and Palestine’s own little dictator when he meets Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. Or human rights. Or justice. His speech in the Israel Museum afterwards is going to be a humdinger if he wanders off script.

    But bets are closed on the content: the unity of Sunni Arabs in their hatred of Shia Iran – he’ll mercifully leave out the “Sunni” and “Shia” bits in case this gives the game away – the closer relations between the Gulf dictators and their princes with land-grabbing Israel, the need for Palestinians to end “terror” against their occupiers – the word “occupiers” must also be left out, of course – and America’s eternal, unending, sacred love for Israel right or wrong.

    On Sunday, CNN headlined a “reset” with the Arabs. On Monday, the BBC headlined a “reset” with Israel. What they both meant – but dared not say – is that Trump thinks he can get the Arabs and Israel to destroy the power of Iran after the horrid, moral years of Obama.

    That means “war”, preferably between Muslims. The “ultimate deal”, indeed.

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