The chattering classes have been working overtime this week to sell Americans on the idea that Hassan Rowhani—the winner of the Iranian sham election for president—is not only a moderate but also the harbinger of a chance for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff between the Islamist government and the West. Even if one were to accept the idea that the moderate in a field of candidates hand picked by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is actually a person worthy of the label, the notion that this post brings with it the power to either liberalize Iran or to end its nuclear program is simply false. But, as a report from our former COMMENTARY colleague Alana Goodman in the Washington Free Beacon points out, there’s more proof that Rowhani is up to his neck in the nefarious actions of the regime. It turns out that, as we’ve previously noted, Rowhani was not only an acolyte of Ayatollah Khomenei but deeply involved in the international terrorist wing of Iran’s Islamist movement. As Goodman writes:
Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani was on the special Iranian government committee that plotted the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, according to an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the case.
The attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) is one of the worst terrorist attacks in recent history with 85 killed and hundreds more wounded. After a lengthy investigation, the evidence uncovered by Argentine authorities pointed directly at the Hezbollah terrorist group and its Iranian masters who made the decision to launch the attack on the Jewish target at a meeting of a committee of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in August 1993. Khamenei was the head of the group, but one of its members was none other than the person that we are supposed to think is about to change Iran against the supreme leader’s wishes: Hassan Rowhani.
Though Iran’s apologists are unhappy about this revelation, there is no serious effort being made to claim that Rowhani is not guilty or that his role in the crime is being exaggerated. But some of those who have been advocating for the United States to embark upon a new round of dead-end diplomacy because of Rowhani’s rise are bound to argue that the evidence of his past should be ignored or treat it as irrelevant to the question of whether we should consider his election an opportunity for another round of engagement with Iran. That would be a colossal mistake. Understanding Rowhani’s background is crucial to the question of whether he is willing to move Iran back from the nuclear brink and what it tells us should put an end to any hope that he is anything like a moderate.
We will be told that Rowhani’s participation in mass murder should not blind us to the fact that sometimes people change and that former terrorists can become responsible leaders. But such examples (which are rare and often misinterpreted) are generally the product of a genuine change of heart and an ideological shift. And there is no evidence that Rowhani has undergone either.
It should be remembered that Rowhani was an original and fervent supporter of the tyrannical Islamist regime. He has served it well over the decades, including a stint as Iran’s nuclear negotiator during which he bought the country’s nuclear program precious time to get closer to a bomb while pretending to be a reasonable interlocutor.
Rather than an independent force seeking to push the government to liberalize its theocratic control of virtually every aspect of Iranian life or to change its foreign policy, Rowhani has been part of its power structure from the start. This means that in addition to his part in keeping the country an Islamist tyranny, he’s also been part of its effort to commit terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world. Operating with its Hezbollah auxiliaries, the long reach of Iran’s terror network has killed domestic opponents and Jews in Europe and South America, with the AMIA bombing and the attack on Israel’s Buenos Aires in 1992 being two of the bloodiest.
The mention of Rowhani in the AMIA indictment not only gives the lie to his pose as a moderate, it brands him as a criminal deserving of being tracked down and punished like the many al-Qaeda operatives that have been either captured or killed by American forces.
We doubt Rowhani will ever be brought to justice but the presence of his name on the indictment ought to complicate matters should he decide to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and visit the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. Rather than being embraced by an Obama administration that is desperate to avoid a confrontation over keeping the president’s promises to stop Iran, Rowhani must be treated as an international pariah who would be subjected to prosecution should he ever set foot on Western soil.
The AMIA bombing may have been forgotten by much of the Western press and foreign policy establishment that is eager to revive the cause of containing a nuclear Iran rather than preventing it from ever gaining a weapon. But an American government that still treats the battle against international terrorism as one of its priorities cannot afford to sweep this piece of intelligence under the rug. Rather than reach out to Rowhani, the United States must shun him as a murderer.