Canada doubts ‘moderate’ president-elect will effect real change in Iran
Friday, 21 June 2013 08:42
Canada doubts ‘moderate’ president-elect will effect real change in Iran
The election of Hassan Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator and top security official,

as president of Iran is being cautiously hailed as a rare and promising victory for moderates against hardliners within the Islamic republic, but his ability and willingness to reform the fundamentalist regime is widely doubted.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldForeign Affairs Minister John Baird has advocated democratic revolution in Iran since closing Canada’s embassy there.

“We need freedom of speech and the right to criticize. If we cannot criticize decisions, then our problems will not be solved,” said Mr. Rowhani, who took more than 50% of the vote, with more than 70% turnout, according to Iranian Interior Ministry results released Saturday.


Mr. Rowhani called the results “a victory of wisdom, a victory of moderation, a victory of growth and awareness and a victory of commitment over extremism and ill-temper.”


Almost alone among Western countries, Canada disagreed, saying the vote was a sham and Mr. Rowhani a “puppet.”


John Baird, the Foreign Minister, who has openly advocated democratic revolution in Iran since closing Canada’s embassy there last year, said in a statement the election was “effectively meaningless” because only “regime-friendly candidates” were allowed in the race, and none “represents a real alternative for Iranian voters.”


“The person tagged to replace [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad will simply be another of [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah Khamenei’s puppets in the tragic and dangerous pantomime that is life for all Iranians,” he said.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldForeign Affairs Minister John Baird has advocated democratic revolution in Iran since closing Canada’s embassy there.

This was in marked contrast to John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, who praised Iranians for creating an opportunity to “restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians.”

J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press

J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated PressU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

France and Germany were similarly polite, though Britain explicitly urged Mr. Rowhani to put the Islamic Republic on “a different course.” Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, spoke of her hopes for a “swift diplomatic solution” to the stand-off over Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program.


Even Russia was welcoming, which leaves Canada “almost standing alone,” said Houchang Hassan-Yari, a professor of politics at Royal Military College of Canada. Though Canada’s influence is minimal, by rejecting him, Western countries would “simply weaken his hand” domestically, he said.


“Those who voted for him, they are looking for change. That was a very clear ‘no’ to the leadership,” Prof. Hassan-Yari said. “Now that the context in Iran is gradually shifting toward more moderation and more inclusion, Canada might be interested to look at the situation more positively, rather than believing that by empowering NGOs and militants and those people who use the Internet to make revolution.”


Israel, which has indicated it may strike Iran to prevent the development of a nuclear bomb, was also skeptical of this supposed new “moderate” Iranian leadership, with intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz saying Supreme Leader Khamenei remains in control of nuclear policy, and Iran will be judged on its actions.


Mr. Rowhani, 64, is a former nuclear negotiator who studied law in Scotland as a young man, and joined the exiled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in France, where he became close with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997, whom he would later serve as security advisor. For many years Mr. Rowhani was head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, dealing with top-level affairs of state, and took over the nuclear file in 2003. He quit after coming into conflict with Mr. Ahmadinejad, soon after his election in 2005.


Mr. Rowhani is not a reformer, but a conservative moderate and influential regime insider, though his campaign was critical of Iran’s human rights record and foreign policy. Still, the reformist vote coalesced around him, after a fellow moderate backed out at the last minute. The hardliner regime loyalists, however, failed to unite behind a single candidate, and in the end resorted to spreading rumours of Mr. Rowhani’s imminent disqualification for disclosing classified nuclear information, which never happened.

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

AP Photo/Vahid SalemiOutgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, talks to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in Tehran, on May 27, 2012.


His colour was purple, but on the campaign trail it co-mingled with green, the colour of the opposition pro-democracy movement, whose uprising was brutally suppressed in 2009, and whose leaders remain under arrest today, but who backed the winner this time around, and with far less violence.


Mr. Rowhani “may be a moderate, but that is moderate within the Islamic Regime. He was one of the only eight people out of 600-plus who were allowed to run for presidency and approved by Khamenei and the Guardian Council,” said Sayeh Hassan, a Toronto lawyer who fled Iran 25 years ago, and is a pro-democracy activist against the regime

‌ • Writer:Joseph Brean
 • Source: nationalpost‌
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