Rouhani’s victory empowers Khamenei and IRGC
Some are portraying Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election as a threat to hard-liners. Some are also depicting a rosy picture domestically, regionally and globally because of the triumph of the so-called moderates. This argument is unsophisticated and fails to accurately examine Iran’s political establishment.
For hard-liners and their affiliates — including the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, the judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry — Rouhani is more helpful in achieving their major objectives.
Iranian leaders were aware that if Ebrahim Raisi was elected president, tensions would have escalated with the West, the nuclear deal would likely have fallen apart, and possibly UN Security Council sanctions would have been re-imposed. Iranian leaders feared that this could lead to war with the US. Tehran wants to keep the US as the enemy, the “Great Satan,” but short of actual war with the superpower.
Rouhani allows Khamenei, the senior cadre of the IRGC and its elite Quds Force, which operates in foreign nations, to pursue their regional hegemonic ambitions and revolutionary ideals more freely. Rouhani brings in the revenue that Iran’s military needs to continue expanding its regional influence and intervene in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere.
He also brings revenue that the IRGC needs to secure its power and arm, finance and support Shiite militias and proxies across the region. Rouhani increases Iran’s legitimacy globally so hard-liners can pursue their ideological agenda more freely. He plays the good cop, bad cop political game very well. We should not forget that it was under Rouhani that the IRGC significantly increased its regional interventions.
Tehran is more likely to ratchet up its interventions in Arab nations as the IRGC and Quds Force will be empowered and emboldened, and Iran will continue to be the top state-sponsor of terrorism.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Many Iranians, including opposition groups, have criticized the election. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the election a “sham.”
In Rouhani’s second term, Tehran is more likely to ratchet up its interventions in Arab nations as the IRGC and Quds Force will be empowered and emboldened, and Iran will continue to be the top state-sponsor of terrorism.
A robust, united coalition between Arab and Western countries (particularly the US) could counterbalance Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.