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Jewish Journal

L.A. Iranian Jews pessimistic about new Iranian president

by Karmel Melamed

June 19, 2013 | 4:32 pm

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani gestures to the media during a news conference in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdost

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani gestures to the media during a news conference in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdost

In the wake of the election on June 16 of Iranian cleric Hassan Rohani as the next president of Iran, Los Angeles’ Iranian-Jewish activists not hopeful that the new head of the Iranian regime will be able to transform Iran’s radical totalitarian Islamic dictatorship. 

Local activists called the election of Rohani undemocratic, as he was one of only eight candidates permitted to run by Iran’s hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and because of the Iranian regime’s exclusive club of leading clerics known as the Guardian Council. Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian-Jewish activist who heads the L.A.-based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, said average Iranians in Iran were more interested in greater freedoms and economic improvements than in blind support for Rohani during the election.

“As a selected candidate by the Guardian Council and the recipient of millions of votes from people whose chants of expectations far exceed their chants of the name ‘Rohani,’ he [Rohani] faces a mountain of demands from Iranians as well as from Western countries,” Nikbakht said.

Nikbakht also predicted that Iranians who have long yearned for better living conditions and more freedom will likely turn against Rohani if he is unable to deliver on his promises for reform, as they did on Iran’s previous “moderate” president, Mohammad Khatami, who failed to bring change to Iran.

“Rohani has neither the privilege of all the leeway given to Khatami by the West, allowing him to buy more time and develop the Iranian regime’s nuclear projects, nor the patience of a people who have been tricked more than once during their lives by smiling mullahs,” Nikbakht said.

Other Iranian Jewish activists expressed doubt this week that Rohani will change the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, which has been exclusively dictated by Khamenei.

“Rohani may initiate some domestic reforms, but he doesn’t have the authority, constituency or desire to change course on Iran’s nuclear program,” said David Peyman, a local Iranian-Jewish activist and sanctions legislation adviser to the United Against Nuclear Iran organization based in New York. Rohani, Peyman noted, “is on record that he wants nuclear weapons capability, and he used his position as chief nuclear negotiator to advance the clandestine program by, in his words, ‘creating a calm environment.’ ”

 Other community activists warned that Rohani’s win should not halt the Obama administration from pushing for harder sanctions on Iran as a deterrent to the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“We cannot permit Rouhani’s election to weaken the momentum of crippling economic sanctions,” said Sam Yebri, president of “30 Years After,” an Iranian-Jewish organization based in L.A.. “The Iranian regime must be forced to choose between international legitimacy and its illicit nuclear weapons program. The choice is clear”.


Community leaders from the West Hollywood-based Iranian American Jewish Federation and board members of the Beverly Hills-based Nessah Synagogue did not return calls for comment. For more than three decades the local Iranian Jewish leadership has, by and large, refrained from criticizing the Iranian regime out of fear of retaliation against the 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still living in Iran today.

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