Judith Levy of Ricochet takes a look at the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. Here are my takeaways from her analysis of the man I call “Sh*t Squared” (so as to distinguish him from his election rivals, Sh*t to the third and fourth power):
1. Rouhani is a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini. He stayed close to Khomeini while in exile and then moved up the political system once Khomeini seized power in Iran.
2. More recently, Rouhani has been aligned with former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani believes at least somewhat in a free market economy, and he prefers not to antagonize America and the West unnecessarily. Rouhani apparently shares these views.
3. This distinguishes Rouhani from President Ahmadinejad and makes him a better choice for Iranians. But it doesn’t make Iran appreciably less dangerous to America’s underlying interests in the Middle East or to Israel.
4. In this regard, Rouhani has not wavered in his support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Why the staunch backing? According to Levy, it’s because “Rouhani admires Assad’s absolute rejection of any kind of rapprochement with Israel, ever.”
5. Perhaps the biggest tip-off to Rouhani is the fact that Iran’s Guardian Council culled the original list of presidential candidates from about 680 names down to eight. Rafsanjani was among those disqualified. The fact that Rouhani remained standing strongly suggests that he is on board with the regime’s core policy objectives.
6. Perhaps the most central of these core objectives is the development of nuclear weapons. Rouhani backs Iran’s nuclear program.
7. Rouhani’s image as a moderate, and his tendency to avoid inflammatory language, will help take heat off Iran as it continues with its nuclear program. It also diminishes even further the likelihood that the U.S. under President Obama would back a decision by Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear capability.
8. At the end of the day, Supreme Leader Mohammad Khameini will retain the last word on anything of consequence. Naturally, this includes nuclear policy. He has already warned Rouhani not to make concessions to the West on that (or any) score.