Presented by the clerical regime to Iranians and the world as a "prudent and moderate president", Hassan Rouhani is tasked to whitewash the role of Ali Khamenei in taking Iran to the brink, comments Dr Behrooz Behbudi, founder of the Center for a Democratic Iran and, he argues, while international hopes may be high that Rouhani is the man to bring about peace, ultimately that decision lies with the supreme leader.
There has been much talk of the purported differences between the last two presidents of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani, since the latter was elected to office in June 2013.
Many people, including political pundits and analysts who prefer to ignore the real power structure of the regime, insist on closing their eyes to the documented backgrounds of Rouhani and Ahmadinejad, and basing their judgments of both men on the contents of their speeches. They quickly arrive at the conclusion there is an ocean of difference between the words and actions of the former president and the current holder of that office. This misconception has emerged because pundits and laymen alike have compared only the contents of speeches delivered during the first few months of Ahmadinejad and Rouhani's respective presidencies.
Those who seem to be infatuated with Rouhani and his election victory would rather not acknowledge some of the vocabulary and terms he employs in his oratory these days. In fact his words, spoken in Farsi, often resemble those of Ahmadinejad so closely as to cause a serious clash between the general, hypothetical perception of him and the reality.
However, the real question remains: is there any real difference between Rouhani and Ahmadinejad in so far as their approach to the aspirations of the Iranian people is concerned; and if so, will it have any impact on the nation's future?
My answer to both these questions is an emphatic "no". A glance at the background and deeds of Hassan Rouhani over the past 25 years clearly reveals that he has always been one of the closest followers of the regime's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. As such, he has never had any political preoccupation other than that of carrying out Khamenei's orders. This subordination to Khamenei was also the hallmark of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for most of the eight years he served as the regime's president. Some politicians and pundits in the Islamic republic would like to wish this fact away by blaming all the misdeeds of the regime on the...