The emergence of the cleric Hassan Rouhani, following the recent presidential elections in Iran, seemingly ticked all of the boxes. The Western media crowed that this new "moderate" president would be open to dialogue on stopping the nuclear program and would be a harbinger of positive change for the oppressed masses in Iran, improving basic human rights, freedom of speech, freeing all political prisoners and halting public executions.
Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Public executions, which were temporarily halted during the presidential elections, have begun again with a vengeance. More than 75 prisoners, including six women, have been hanged, many of them in public, over the course of the past two weeks. In one gruesome spectacle, 21 prisoners were hanged collectively.
This is barbarity on a grand scale and is taking place under the "moderate" presidency of Hassan Rouhani!
If he is a moderate, thank God Iran didn't elect a hard-liner!
The clerical regime is resorting to a wave of executions and suppressive measures to heighten the atmosphere of intimidation and repression in order to contain opposition and prevent protests, particularly among Iranian youth, who long for freedom and democracy and an end to the brutal theocracy. Angry and frustrated students and a growing surge of unemployed young people know that they need not look to President Rouhani for moderation.
They understand that the role of the president in Iran is purely ceremonial. Total power under the Iranian constitution lies with the unelected "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic. The Supreme Leader claims to be the representative of God and as such can overrule acts of Parliament and can even choose which candidates can stand for election.
Under Article 110 of the Iranian Constitution, the Supreme Leader can dismiss the president and appoint or remove chiefs of the revolutionary guards and the army, the chief justice, the head of radio and television and others. He also has the power to issue a "state decree," which overrides all decisions made by any person or institution in the country. He has the full control and final say on key matters such as the nuclear program and supporting Bashar Assad of Syria.
It is an open secret that Iranian presidential elections are a shuffle within the ruling circle and even then women are excluded, denying half the population their right to female representation.
The real opposition in Iran has been systematically hunted down, arrested, tortured and executed. In an orgy of blood-letting more than 120,000 members and supporters of the People's Mujahedin of Iran were executed in the 1980s alone, for opposing the mullahs; survivors fled abroad and 3,200 of them are currently incarcerated in appalling conditions in a former U.S. military base near Baghdad airport, ironically known as Camp Liberty.
As the front line of opposition to the mullahs in Tehran, they have come under constant attack, despite being registered as refugees by the United Nations.
In collusion with their puppet regime in Iraq, the Iranian mullahs have launched three separate rocket attacks on Camp Liberty, killing 10 of the unarmed residents and wounding hundreds, while the United Nations, European Union and United States stood idly by, praising the arrival of a so-called "moderate" as the new Iranian president.
Hassan Rouhani emerged from a list of eight handpicked candidates, who were variously advisers, aides or representatives of Khamenei.
Rouhani has been part of the establishment for three decades. He held the position of secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years and was appointed by Khamenei as a member of the powerful Expediency Council.
He was, until last month, Khamenei's representative in the Supreme National Security Council. He was also chief nuclear negotiator with the European Troika, where he later boasted that he successfully bought time to advance Iran's nuclear program, while keeping EU leaders busy in negotiations.
Rouhani's approval by the Guardian Council was a sure sign of his total loyalty to the supreme leader.
Rouhani's role is now mainly to buy time for the mullahs' nuclear goals, something he has successfully done in the past.
International experts believe that only one year from now the mullahs may have enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear missile. The PMOI has just revealed the existence of another secret nuclear site in northern Iran, where Rouhani is said to have had a key role.
But Rouhani is now faced with two other major issues that will seriously compromise his attempts to woo the West. The first is the war in Syria and the second is the toll of sanctions on Iran's devastated economy.
The regime is teetering on the brink. But like all fascist regimes, its survival, based on the notion of the absolute rule of the Supreme Leader, requires the maintenance of an atmosphere of fear and terror.
The deluded notion that we can now deal with a "moderate" Iranian presidency will simply play into the hands of the mullahs and prolong the agony of the Iranian people.
We cannot afford to dither while Iran builds an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Only the departure of the mullahs will guarantee peace, democracy and freedom.
(Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro Member of Parliament for Scotland and is president of the European Parliament's delegation for Relations with Iraq.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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