‘Moderate’ Rafsanjani’s death and the end of Obama’s appeasement of the mullahs?

On the evening of January 9, something unusual happened in Iran.  The Iranian people turned the music on until midnight, some others distributed candy in the streets of Tehran, and some turned on their automobiles' flashers.  The news that sparked this was that former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the founding fathers of Iran’s regime, died from a heart attack in a hospital.

The next day, tens of thousands of Iranians filled the streets of Tehran for his funeral procession to voice their dissatisfaction with the regime, chanting slogans "dictator, dictator"; "free political prisoners"; "we demand justice"; "hands off Syria."

State television muted the sound from the funeral.  Fearful of the recurrence of 2009 uprisings, the regime blocked the internet and mobile networks to prevent news of the protests from spreading.

During 37 years of tyrannical rule of mullahs in Iran, Rafsanjani had a pivotal role in constituting the regime’s strategy, especially for state-sponsored terrorism.

Before the 1984 terrorist attack against American Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, Rafsanjani told a group of clergymen, "If in Lebanon one American soldier is killed and goes to hell it's much more valuable to us than the death of 200 members of Hezb'allah."

And in the meeting with commanders of the army, he said, "One bullet from Lebanese people that kill French soldiers is much more valuable for us than an atomic hydrogen bomb."

The myth and illusion about the moderation of Rafsanjani was disproven during the past three decades.

"The notion that betting that this regime is going to temper its behavior in the region because of this nuclear deal, I think, is mistaken," Robert Gates, former U.S. defense secretary, said in an interview published in January 2016.

Iran has a "long history under the revolutionary government," Gates said, noting he was involved in the first U.S. meeting with members of the Islamic Republic of Iran's government just days before American hostages were taken at the American embassy in 1979.  "As I like to tell people, that began my now more than three-decades-long quest for the elusive Iranian moderate," Gates said.

The view that Iran will eventually evolve into a non-theological nation state and abandon its aspirations for nuclear weapons is "unrealistic," he said.

"The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow," said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

On December 21, 2016, Kenneth Katzman from the Congressional Research Service wrote on Iran’s foreign and defense policies, saying,

U.S. officials and U.S. reports assert that there has been no observable alteration of Iran’s pursuit of its core regional activities. To date, Iran has used the JCPOA to ease its international diplomatic isolation and to try to develop itself as a regional energy and trade hub and explore new weapons buys. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and key hardline institutions, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), oppose any compromises of Iran’s core goals, but support Iran’s re-integration into regional and international diplomacy.

Business Insider noted that since the accord was reached last summer, Iran has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions by testing two ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, fired live missiles within 1,500 yards of an American aircraft carrier, and continued its support for Syrian president Bashar Assad and Shiite militias in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

On Wednesday, December 16, 2015, Reuters reported that Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution in October by test-firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, leading to calls in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday for more sanctions on Tehran.

The lesson of Rafsanjani for the West is this: appeasement policy will promote the terrorists and unleash them instead of restraining them.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and social media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.  He graduated from California State University, Sacramento.

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