Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Iran’s Heroic Flexibility | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55317731

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, addresses the media during a press conference on the sidelines of the 68th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 27 September 2013. (EPA)

Recent signs imply that Iran is going to show us a new face. Not only has the man who denied the Holocaust gone, but further remarkable changes in Iran are also taking place. In other words, it seems that Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has made a significant decision; he has decided to change the face of Iranian governance and policy-making.

It is becoming increasingly clear that President Rouhani possess the brilliant capacity to do this job in the best possible way.

How can we distinguish between two important categories?

First and foremost, what is the reason behind the recent changes in Iran? Secondly, do these important changes cover the essential elements or are they an accidental identity? These terms are mostly used in philosophy, but they can be used in politics too. Are we facing a strategic change or tactical maneuver in contemporary Iranian politics? This is the fundamental question.

Ayatollah Khamenei, as the main decision-maker in Iran, has taken three major positions, all of which were unexpected. Firstly, on the eve of the election, he demanded that all Iranians, including those who do not support the government, participate in the election in order to help their country. “They are against the government, not against the country,” he said.

Secondly, during a meeting with the commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Khamenei said it is not necessary for the IRGC to play a role in politics, or defend the country through political actions.

Third, Khamenei as a strategist said that sometimes we need flexibility in our positions, but such flexibility could and should be heroic flexibility. On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told an audience of IRGC commanders that he was “not opposed to diplomacy,” adding that he believes in this idea of “heroic flexibility.”

Scholars, who are familiar with Khamenei’s background, remember his book about Imam Hasan’s peace with Mu’awiya.

In 1970, when Ayatollah Khamenei was a young cleric, he translated an Arabic book entitled Hassan’s Peace by Radhi Al Yaseen. In Persian, the title reads: Imam Hassan’s Peace: The Most Glorious Heroic Flexibility of History.

Imam Hassan is the second Shi’ite Imam who signed a peace treaty with Mu’awiya, handing him the caliphate. However Shi’ites do not necessarily view Imam Hassan’s peace treaty as a sign of surrender but rather as a noble act to avoid senseless bloodshed.

Fourth, in an interview with NBC last week, President Rouhani said that his administration would never develop nuclear weapons. He also mentioned that he has full authority to make a deal with the West on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

I believe all these indicators tell us that we are on the eve of the reconstruction of Iranian-US relations.

I think that it is clear that all extremists in Iran, Israel, and the US, are against the strengthening of relations between the two countries. Let me focus on the extremists’ point of view.

In Iran, some hardliners have defined “heroic flexibility” based on their own views. For instance one MP said Ayatollah Khamenei wants to expose the true nature of America, by which he means America as the mother of all corruptions in the region and the wider world. President Rouhani should not waste his time on direct negotiations with the US. In addition, some of Ahmadinejad’s disciples say that the former president stood up to America and Israel, and since the new government is not as strong, the Supreme Leader had no choice but to accept this. They believe that this “heroic flexibility” theory is going to mark the end of Iran’s long resistance against America.

With regards to Israel, it is quite clear that the Israeli government is against any reconstruction of relation between Iran and America.

Turning to America, we are well aware that the Neoconservatives have always been against the idea of renewing relations with Iran, and therefore, Obama’s recent remarks did not sit well with them at all. For example, Republican Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, is seeking to introduce a use-of-force resolution allowing the president to attack Iran at will.

All of this means we are facing an extremely complicated issue. I think President Rouhani’s election has provided Iran with a unique opportunity, which can be used to allow the world to see the reality of the situation in the country. Rouhani is also a very charismatic politician who can help the countries in our region solve their problems, including Iraq, Afghanistan and, of course, Syria.

Fortunately the drums of war are no longer beating, and we can now listen to the song of peace. We need to have this so-called “heroic flexibility.” There is a significant weight on the shoulders of Rouhani today, but I think he can pull it off. Rouhani’s recent article, published in the Washington Post on 19 September, focused on his national support in Iran.

“As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue,” he said.

This means that Rouhani now enjoys the Supreme Leader’s full support, and is also supported by the reformists in Iran. In other words, as he says, he knows what he wants, and that is the key point in these crucial days.