In a region full of mirages, just because something appears to be there, does not mean that it is actually there. In a region full of extremism, moderation is very much relative. In a region full of history, ein chadash tachat hashemesh, there is nothing new under the sun.
While there was an election in Iran, one can hardly call it fair and democratic when all of the candidates had to be approved by Khamenei and must support the extreme nature of the regime in general in order to earn that approval. In other words, no one allowed to run should be termed a “moderate” unless that is done with the full understanding that every single candidate is a supporter of the extremist regime.
Golnaz Esfandiari writing for Radio Free Europe wrote that:
The 64-year-old [Hasan] Rohani is not a reformist. He is a regime insider who has held top posts in the Islamic republic. Unlike Rafsanjani, who in 2009 expressed support for the Green Opposition movement, Rohani condemned the protests as a move by “some who had been fooled.”
That said, Alireza Nader, an Iran expert for the Rand Corporation, indicates that there is some hope that Hasan Rowhani might be able to build bridges within Iran between the Green Movement and the establishment. Nader suggested that:
The regime is trying to heal the internal divisions within Iran and alleviate external pressure. Rohani has a chance to do both, without seeking a wide-ranging transformation of the Islamic republic.
However, when asked why Ayatollah Khamenei would accept Rowhani’s victory, Nader noted that:
He [Rowhani] is Khamenei’s representative to the Supreme National Security Council. In addition, he was qualified by the Guardians Council, which is very telling.
While some hope that Rowhani will end Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Elhanan Miller in the The Times of Israel points out that:
As his country’s chief nuclear negotiator, Rowhani famously suspended the enrichment of uranium for two years between 2003 and 2005 — fearing the US might target Iran after ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. But as Iran researcher Sasan Aghlani of London’s Chatham House pointed out, it was Rowhani who also resumed the enrichment during the term of “moderate” president Mohammad Khatami.
Decisions about the nuclear program are in truth made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with the President being little more than an advisor. What might Rowhani advise concerning Iran’s nuclear program? In 2004, speaking about the Iranian nuclear program, he said that:
If one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice — that we do possess the technology — then the situation will be different. The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them. Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold.
If they were at the threshold in 2004, where are they nearly a decade later with a vastly improved nuclear program?