Iranian Moderates, Then and Now

We are hearing much these days about negotiations with the new “moderate” Iranian leadership. What is an “Iranian moderate”?

Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

December of 2001, shorty after the 9/11 attacks, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 4th President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, spoke at Teheran University.

“RAFSANJANI SAYS MUSLIMS SHOULD USE NUCLEAR WEAPON AGAINST ISRAEL”

Nuclear Weapons Can Solve the Israel Problem

Rafsanjani said that Muslims must surround colonialism and force them [the colonialists] to see whether Israel is beneficial to them or not. If one day, he said, the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel’s possession [meaning nuclear weapons] – on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This, he said, is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.  [MEMRI.org, citing three Iranian newspapers]

Here, from a slightly different translation, is the Iran Press Service version:

“If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world“, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.

In a lengthy speech to mark the so-called “International Qods (Jerusalem) Day” celebrated in Iran only, Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who, as the Chairman of the Assembly to Discern the Interests of the State, is the Islamic Republic’s number two man after Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, said since Israel was an emanation of Western colonialism therefore “in future it will be the interests of colonialism that will determine existence or non-existence of Israel“.

Rafsanjani was succeeded by Ahmed Ahmadinejad (a “non-moderate”).  But he ran for the presidency again in 2013, and the world press acclaimed him.

  • Reuters, for example, called Rafsanjani “a relative moderate.”
  • The BBC said he is “virtually assured the support of reformers.”
  • The Associated Press called Rafsanjani the “prime hopeful for reformists.”

When the government prohibited his candidacy (finding him indeed to be too moderate), he found another “moderate” to endorse – one whom the Mullahs decided was not too moderate.

Iran’s former moderate president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday endorsed ally Hassan Rowhani in the June 14 election, saying the candidate is “more suitable” than others for presidency.  [AFP, re-printed in Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Voice of Russia, etc.  6/11/2013]

Even further down memory lane: All this harks back to the Reagan administration in 1986-7, when the foreign policy “realists” thought they had found a way to placate that generation of Iranian “moderate Mullahs”.  That, too, blew up in the US administration’s face, with Iran getting stronger and making us look foolish.

All of this is not to deny that Rafsanjani is in fact a “moderate” among the Iranian ruling elite.  He does indeed appear to be a middle-of-the-road reformer.   That is the disturbing point:  his views of the plausibility and even desirability of the nuclear destruction of Israel conform fully to the mainstream thinking of Iran’s leaders – moderates, conservatives, reformers, whatever.  They all agree that Iran’s achievement of nuclear weapons would immediately and radically solve the Israel “problem”.

With such a bloodthirsty ideological regime, so steeped in Jew-hatred and committed to the genocidal destruction of a democratic nation, the only realistic and acceptable outcome of negotiations must be the complete termination of their nuclear program.  If they agree, it must be well-policed.  If they refuse, the only sane alternative is military action to terminate it for them.

Obviously, the Obama administration disagrees.  They think they can deal with these “moderates”.

Or maybe there’s another explanation.  Maybe Obama just doesn’t mind seeing Iran nuclearize.

Obama lied to pro-Israel voters in two elections, leading them to believe that military options were “on the table,” when they never really were.   Maybe this kind of a “deal” with the Iranian “moderates” was always the goal: saving face while kicking the can down the road, hoping it will not explode into all-out war before his term ends.

I am reminded of the biblical story of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 39). The king, seeking good relations with the Babylon, showed their emissaries Israel’s great wealth and power. The prophet Isaiah scolded him, telling him that all his wealth and power would soon be seized by Babylon.  Even your sons, Isaiah thundered, shall be taken away to become eunuchs of the Babylonians.

“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There shall be peace and security in my lifetime.”

(If you don’t know where Babylon is, you’ll find it on the map just east of Iraq.)

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2 Responses to “Iranian Moderates, Then and Now”


  1. 1 1mikeadams1 January 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Great piece. On the topic, check out the Senate briefing this Weds in Dirksen with great panel including General James Jones, Ambassador Ginsberg and Governor Howard Dean. More details here: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/24/oiac-senate-briefing-idUSnPnDCmgV2Y+165+PRN20140124

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