January 20, 2018


The next supreme leader could transform Iran (Saeid Golkar, 1/20/18, Al Jazeera)

However, the current Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who is also a senior Muslim leader and considered a pragmatist, also stands a chance of being selected as the next supreme leader. This likelihood is even higher if Khamenei leaves office or dies, while Rouhani is still president (his term ends in 2020). 

As a member of the Assembly of Experts, President Rouhani has more power to lobby and influence the selection process. As a recently leaked video of the session in which the Assembly of Experts chose Khamenei in 1989 shows, a small group of members can wield a lot of power in selecting the leader. Rouhani is the most powerful man among the current members of the assembly. As president of the republic, he can co-opt and coerce the others and his bureaucratic, security and clerical background could help him set up alliances with different groups and power blocs. 

He is the most experienced and respected Muslim leader on the international arena and is less ideological compared with the other members of the assembly. As a pragmatist, he has the support of technocrats and Iran's bureaucracy. He also has the backing of traditional Muslim leaders, who support the separation of religion and politics in seminaries.  

Although the IRGC commanders mainly belong to the hardliner camp, the IRGC itself is not a monolithic entity. There are a number of pragmatists in high positions within the corps, including Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. Rouhani himself has extensive experience in Iran's military and security apparatus. He used to be deputy to second-in-command of Iran's joint chiefs of staff, member of the Supreme Defence Council and deputy commander of war in the 1980s. He was also national security adviser under Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami.

Although Iranians who want to see a transition from theocracy to a democratic state know that Rouhani would not push for such radical change, they would still prefer to see him as supreme leader than a hardliner.

If he indeed makes it to the position of supreme leader, hardliners would be sidelined and technocrats and apolitical Muslim leaders would be empowered. Rouhani has adopted his mentor Rafsanjani's model of development for Iran; he wants to see this country become the "Islamic version" of China with a strong military and economy. He wants Iran to be a country which operates independently of the West but has a good relationship with it.

Posted by at January 20, 2018 8:11 AM