Hassan Rouhani: The Iranian “Moderate” Who Has Consolidated the Power of Radical Islamists

Apologists for Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani continue to devise elaborate arguments that he is in fact a “pragmatist” who is bringing reforms to his country and holding the “hardliners” in check. Sohrab Ahmari explains that he is nothing of the kind:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has now been in office for more than four years. Yet he hasn’t fulfilled any of the major domestic-reform pledges that got him elected in 2013 and re-elected earlier this year. Those pledges won him the decisive backing of urban, secular-minded, middle-class Iranians—and plaudits in the West. . . . Rouhani’s ballot-box triumph, [in short], was enough to give the regime a smiling, reasonable visage, and to reduce rising discontent, but not enough to effect any meaningful change. . . . .

The Rouhani-as-reluctant-hardliner theory, [proffered by those of his defenders who argue that he compromises now to secure reform later], is belied by the man’s long record in the Islamic Republic. Try as they might, Rouhani’s apologists can’t elide the fact that he served as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council from 1989 to 2005, years during which Iran conducted a campaign of assassinations and “chain murders” targeting dissidents at home and abroad. Nor can revisionism undo Rouhani’s leading role in the crackdown against the 1999 student uprising, when he called on the regime’s security forces to “crush mercilessly and monumentally any move by these opportunist elements wherever it may occur.” Nor, finally, can the apologists ignore Rouhani’s years-long refusal to speak out for the detained leaders of the Green Movement, [which campaigned for broad political reforms in 2009].

What does all this mean for the West? It means that the U.S. and its allies must finally come to terms with the Islamic Republic as it really is, rather than as they would wish it to be. Nearly four decades since its founding, the regime is much more ideologically cohesive and united than the appearance of factional wrangling among its elites would suggest. There are no liberal-minded, pro-Western friends on the inside. Too bad that in Washington, and more so in Brussels, reformist hope springs eternal.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security