By Sean Savage/

The win of the so-called “moderate” Hassan
Rohani in Iran’s presidential election has renewed hope in the West that the
nuclear standoff with the Islamic Republic may end, as opposed to the stalemate
experienced under outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But in the past, Iran’s
nuclear program has continued to progress, and nuclear negotiations with the
West have broken down, under the watch of moderate leaders.

Click photo to download. Caption: The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. The victory of so-called “moderate” Hassan Rohani in Iran’s presidential election has renewed hope in the West of a resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran, but the country has proceeded with its nuclear program under moderate presidents in the past. Credit: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

Rohani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator from 2003
to 2005, a time when Europe was providing a diplomacy track to negotiate with
Iran over its nuclear program under another so-called “moderate” president, Mohammad
Khatami. But those negotiations “were a spectacular failure,” Ilan Berman, vice
president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, told

“Later on, Rohani made a statement in 2006 that
[Iran] leveraged Europe’s willingness to talk to buy time for the nuclear
program,” Berman said.

“That should inform you how to think about him,”
he added.

Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor
at Rutgers University who considered running on a reformist platform for Iran’s
presidency but decided not to submit his candidacy, explained that after the
1979 Iranian revolution, Rohani was a member of a group called the “combatant
clergy organization,” which eventually split into the left and the right. The
left became former Iranian presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami, and
Rohani went to the right, but he was “more pragmatic and moderate than most of
the right,” Amirahmadi told

“I would consider him to be more pro-Western
than most of the leaders on the right in Iran,” Amirahmadi said. “In the
domestic policy, he never was a member of the reform movement and did not
support the ‘Green Movement’ in 2009. But he always stood somewhere in the
middle and worked with all sides.”

Click photo to download. Caption: Iran president-elect Hassan Rohani. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite the Western media’s reporting that
Rohani won a strong mandate, gaining a clear majority with 51 percent of the
vote and avoiding a run-off, Amirahmadi explained that his victory was not as
resounding as it may seem.

“The problem for Rohani is he doesn’t have a
very strong mandate. Most of the votes went to Rohani because Rafsanjani and
other reformists were not allowed to run,” Amirahmadi said.

“The most difficult thing for Rohani is that the
ultra-rightist candidates still got a significant share of the votes,” Amirahmadi
added. “They may have lost, but they are still there and have tremendous
support. They [the ultra-conservatives] still have the Revolutionary Guards,
the basij [street militias], and the fundamentalists clerics behind them. They
are the real power out there.”

Amirahmadi also explained that Rohani might not
be able to choose many of his government ministers, including important
positions such as the defense, intelligence or foreign ministers. Additionally,
Rohani will be constrained by a number of “red lines” that Khamenei will set
for him on issues such …read more


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