London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani met with a number of highly regarded Shi’ite clerics in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran on Thursday.
During his visit Rouhani emphasized his determination to resolve the very complicated and challenging problems facing Iran with the support of the people, the supreme leader, and Iran’s influential religious figures.
“We will overcome all obstacles considering people’s patience and resistance,” Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday during a meeting with Ayatollah Zanjani.
In a subsequent meeting with Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Rouhani announced his government’s intention to establish an organized and permanent relation with all seminary schools, in particular the Qom seminary.
This means striking a strong relationship with grand ayatollahs whose network of followers and supporters can be crucial for any serving president in Iran. Rouhani appears determined to avoid the fates of his predecessors Seyed Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both of whom failed to forge a strong alliance with the powerful Shia clerical establishment.
“The 11th government is taking control of the executive branch in the most difficult time, thus it needs help,” Rouhani said during his meeting with Shirazi.
Rouhani also met Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani, an outspoken cleric who has strong views on political and international topics. In this meeting Iran’s president-elect said: “We need to make an effort to raise hope in people’s hearts; let the youth increasingly be interested in the Quran and religious knowledge, and boost the unity among Muslims.”
In another meeting with Ayatollah Mousavi Ardabili, a pro-reform senior cleric, Iran’s president-elect expressed hope that his government will be able to move towards solving the country’s internal and external problems through a constructive relationship with grand ayatollahs and other religious figures.
Rouhani also managed to meet with Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani and Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, both conservative clerics, to reiterate his manifesto and programs when taking office on August 3.
Rouhani is scheduled to meet with other Qom based members of the Assembly of Experts. This assembly is composed of 80 plus clerics who are elected every 8 years and tasked with appointing the supreme leader and supervising his conduct.
Visiting Qom has become something of a tradition among state officials as a show of respect from political leaders towards religious leaders.
Rouhani, a cleric himself, served in mid-to-high ranking positions within the hierarchy of the Islamic Republic since 1979, and is a well-known figure within Qom religious circles.