One of the inconvenient truths for Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani has been the growing irrelevance of the Iran lobby and its inability to drive the narrative in the U.S., especially among leading media outlets.
Where once loyal allies such as Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council were common fixtures on CNN, NPR and the New York Times, they are now largely relegated to small, progressive blogs and websites.
Much of that has been due to the revelations over the years of the existence of the Iran lobby and its cooperation with the Obama administration to create an “echo chamber” in support of passing the Iran nuclear deal and its ties to the Iranian regime through the work of investigative journalists and lawsuits.
Iran itself didn’t help with its long support and intervention in the bloody Syrian civil war and sectarian fights in Iraq and Yemen that have claimed tens of thousands of lives. Neither did the election of Donald Trump as president; who took a much dimmer view of the regime’s claims towards moderation and has all but ignored anything the Iran lobby says.
All of which may explain why the regime has decided to put Rouhani out in front aggressively shilling a moderate/hard line on topics ranging from the economy to recent protests in effort to reinforce the illusion of moderation it once projected.
It’s important to remember that this is really what Rouhani was elected to do in the first place. His position lacks any real substantive power within regime since he does not control the Revolutionary Guards Corps, nor its Quds Force. Neither does he wield any power over the paramilitaries that brutally enforce morals codes on the people or the religious courts that are often used to sentence and imprison Iranians by the thousands.
Which is why the original messages put forth by regime supporters such as Parsi and the NIAC that Rouhani’s election was a sign of a seismic shift within the regime government weren’t worth much more than used toilet paper.
As a prophet, Parsi falls somewhere between David Koresh of the Branch Davidians and the Weekly World News.
What is true is that Rouhani put on a PR blitz this week to try and shore up support from the regime in a number of areas at a wide ranging press conference:
- Rouhani conducts a televised news conference in which he states that Iranians have political, economic and social demands that must be met. “Our ears must be completely open to listen and know what the people want. The government is trying to solve the problems with all its power,” he said. Unfortunately, that didn’t help the over two dozen people that were killed and more than 8,000 arrested and tossed into prison as the protests were put down by Rouhani’s government;
- At the same press conference, Rouhani reiterated that the regime would abide by the nuclear agreement’s terms even if President Trump opted out and withdrew from the agreement. “We will stay in the JCPOA [nuclear agreement] as long as our interests are observed. The US staying in or out of [the accord] will not be the main criteria for our decision,” Rouhani said. “We have principles and will continue [our commitment to the deal] based on our principles.” He neglected to mention that the regime got all of the benefits it already wanted from the agreement such as billions in cash, relief from sanctions and the ability to see oil back on the open market without giving up hardly anything;
- Rouhani adds that the Revolutionary Guard Corps would divest itself from a range of companies it controls, including some in the energy sector, in order to “rescue the country’s economy.” Claiming that Iran needed outside investment to modernize its petroleum production facilities, Rouhani neglects to mention that under his corrupt government, billions were siphoned off to fund war and terrorist activities, allowing industry to falter and fall apart; and
- In taking a harder stance, Rouhani said that Iran’s ballistic missile program would be off-limits to any restriction or sanctions. “We will negotiate with no one on our weapons,” Rouhani said. “Iranian-made missiles have never been offensive and never will be. They are defensive and are not designed to carry weapons of mass destruction, since we don’t have any.” He neglected to discuss why the regime’s missile program was the linchpin to a new regional military strategy to put its neighbors and most of Europe and Asia within missile striking distance as a means of political leverage or even blackmail;
So, while Rouhani was all sweet and moderate, behind his words were the real iron fist of a regime unwilling to bend or compromise or deny itself the ability to stifle dissent or control its own destiny.
Add to that statements made by two Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq that demanded the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in order to allow Iran a dominant position as the only foreign military power within Iraq.
Kataib Hezbollah, a more militant, secretive and anti-American group, repeated threats to attack US forces.
“We are serious about getting the Americans out, using the force of arms because the Americans don’t understand any other language,” its spokesman, Jaafar Al-Husseini, told Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV on Monday evening.
Kataib Hezbollah has strong links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and has threatened to attack US forces several times in the past, describing their presence as an occupation.
But what has Rouhani most troubled, as well as the Iran lobby, is the persistent protests by ordinary Iranians that are not going away, no matter how many are imprisoned.
That is what concerns Rouhani and the mullahs the most; that this organic and natural protest movement will continue to spread and take deep root within Iran and pose the most significant threat to their rule.