Iran’s ‘moderates’ have been forced to show their true colors
The so-called moderate political party of Iran, the Moderation and Development Party, which is led by President Hassan Rouhani, came to power by promoting a clear distinction between themselves and the Principlists (Osolgarayan), as well as the hard-line factions of Iran’s politics, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the judiciary.
The moderates advocated for employing diplomacy, using a softer tone on the international stage, and refraining from using harsh, incendiary rhetoric and threats. Many Western politicians and mainstream media outlets bought into the regime’s fabricated binary narrative of Iran’s moderates versus the hard-liners.
But the reality on the ground is that Rouhani and his political party never were moderates, but rather insiders. Nevertheless, for almost four years, Rouhani and his technocrat team, including the Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, succeeded in hiding their actual intentions, policies and positions. This has recently changed, as the moderates appear to be showing their true colors.
For example, Rouhani has recently been making serious threats, which, if implemented, could have catastrophic results and grave geopolitical and strategic implications for the region and the international community. He pointed out: “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported while the region’s oil is exported.” Rouhani is threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz.
Rouhani further escalated his threat by stating: “If you can do such a thing, do it and see the result.” In addition, Zarif also recently threatened that Iran is prepared to “vigorously” resume its nuclear enrichment program. He said: “We have put a number of options for ourselves and those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities.”
Serious threats such as these are increasing. Where are the so-called moderates and the “diplomat sheikh” of Iran, who appeared to be respecting international laws and norms and promoting peace and stability in the region?
Although the moderate political party projects itself to be different from the hard-liners, such as former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recent policies and incendiary and provocative statements issued by the ruling politicians are strikingly similar to those of the hard-liners.
In fact, Iran’s hard-line politicians, including the commander of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, as well as the state-controlled conservative media outlets, have praised Rouhani for his recent posturing and statements. In other words, the so-called moderates are joining the hard-liners and reiterating the same core agenda of the regime.
Another major question to address is why are the moderates now coming out of the closet and adopting these positions?
The moderates advocated for employing diplomacy, using a softer tone on the international stage, and refraining from using harsh, incendiary rhetoric and threats.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Although this might appear to be a tactical shift, the moderates have been forced to reveal their true faces. It is important to note that the true mandate of Iran’s ruling moderates is to pave the way and to facilitate the revolutionary agenda of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC, both in the region and on the international stage. This agenda is anchored in increasing the IRGC’s influence in the region, exporting the extremist revolutionary ideals of the mullahs abroad, and pursuing the regime’s hegemonic ambitions through military adventurism and aggressive and expansionist policies.
For almost the first four years after assuming power, the “moderate” politicians were more effectively capable of advancing the supreme leader’s agenda through a softer tone on the international stage, smiles, and a misleading facade. They sealed a flimsy and one-sided deal in their favor, labeled as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action but commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. They received unjustified economic and geopolitical concessions, and gained billions of dollars in extra revenues, which helped the IRGC and its elite branch, the Quds Force, increase their influence in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. They created more Shiite militias in the region. They escalated their ballistic missile activities, launching more than 20 missiles in a few years. In other words, the moderates successfully duped the international community, specifically Western powers.
But, with the election of Donald Trump as president, the political dynamics in the United States and the balance of power has changed. The Iranian regime lost its leverage over the global superpower, which previously offered it significant appeasements during Barack Obama’s presidency. Now that the Iranian regime’s moderates observe that the Trump administration cannot be deceived by the shrewd “diplomat sheikh,” the moderates versus hard-liners narrative, and tactical phony smiles and softer tones, they have no option other than to reveal their true hard-line stances.
In sum, by threatening to further destabilize the region and by reiterating the hard-liners’ messages, Rouhani and Iran’s moderates are finally showing their actual hard-line face. There are no genuine moderates in Iran’s politics: The so-called moderates, hard-liners and Principlists all serve Khamenei’s rule.
- 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. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh