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February 24, 2015

Moderate Rouhani or 'Moderate' Rouhani? News or Opinion?

Is Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a moderate, or a “moderate”? In The Washington Post, he can be either, and within 24 hours. It depends on whether one is reading the news or opinion pages.

In the Feb. 9, 2015 print edition, under the headline “Kerry rules out extending Iran nuclear talks without an outline of deal soon; ‘Fundamental decisions’ have to be made in coming weeks, he says,” Post diplomatic correspondent Carol Morello wrote:

“The nuclear talks, which began a decade ago with Iran and were revived after Hassan Rouhani, a moderate [emphasis added], was elected president in 2013, have been the subject of much concern.”

But in the next day’s editorial, “The message of Iran’s actions; The country’s foreign minister hopes a jailed Post reporter is ‘cleared,’ but his words aren’t enough” the newspaper said:

“Some analysts of Iran have speculated that the persecution of Mr. [Jacob] Rezaian [Post Tehran bureau chief] is an attempt by ‘hard-liners’ and their allies in the judiciary to undermine the ‘moderate’ [single quotation marks in original, italics added] government of President Hassan Rouhani and the nuclear negotiations being conducted by Mr. [Mohammad] Zarif [Iran’s foreign minister].”

Looking at the case of its imprisoned reporter in the framework of Western negotiations with Iran about its presumptive nuclear weapons program, the newspaper wasn’t certain “whether there is a power struggle in Tehran or not …”

However, one can be pretty sure Rouhani is no moderate in Western political terms. CAMERA pointed out soon after his election (“Hassan Rouhani—The Extremists’ ‘Moderate’,” June 21, 2013) that Rouhani has a career-long record as a loyal and sometimes deceptive, brutal servant of the Islamic Revolutionary Republic’s messianic founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor as supreme leader—Iran’s ultimate decision-maker—Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That record includes apparently presiding over authorization of deadly terrorist attacks on Americans and Argentine Jews.

Rouhani, like the similarly misidentified “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization, appears to be a pragmatist instead. That is, in each case, someone willing to use limited, “moderated” tactics in pursuit of broad, extremist strategies. (See, for example, CAMERA’s “Those Intransigent ‘Moderates’ of Fatah,” May 6, 2014, in particular the last five paragraphs.)

In spite of Rouhani’s record and The Post editorial page’s doubts, Rouhani the unsubstantiated moderate reappeared in the paper’s news coverage on February 19. A one-paragraph news brief, “Iran schedules 2016 parliamentary elections,” said, “the vote will be a key test for moderate [emphasis added] President Hassan Rouhani, who is looking for his allies to win the majority.”

The possibility that two factions of Islamic revolutionaries, one that speaks softly and the other that shouts, struggle for power under the gaze of Iran’s top revolutionary, Ayatollah Khamenei, seems too subtle for the news pages.

Posted by ER at February 24, 2015 05:01 PM

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