Rouhani Enlists Iran Jewish Legislator to Woo West; Offset Hardliners

Wednesday, 25 Sep 2013 04:51 AM

By Robert Brothers

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President Hassan Rouhani decided to take Iran’s Jewish member of parliament, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, with him on his trip to the United Nations in New York, according to The International Business Times.

Under the 1906 Constitution of Iran, Jews have been permitted one reserved seat in parliament, a practice continued even after the 1979 Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini.

By taking Iran’s Jewish legislator to the United Nations, Rouhani is attempting to show the international community that Iran is not anti-Semitic, the IBT reported. The action will also help Rouhani undermine the efforts of his conservative rivals who want to keep Iran isolated from the West through Holocaust denials.

Rouhani’s new foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted on September 6 that Iran has never denied the Holocaust. A public attempt by Rouhani and his administration to demonstrate that the era of hard-liners and Ahmadinejad is effectively over.
 
Both Rouhani and Zarif also delivered happy wishes to global Jews for the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, on twitter.

Rouhani’s charm offensive has resulted in backlash from domestic hardliners in Iran. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the hardline Keyhan newspaper, publically condemned Zarif in an editorial published September 8, according to the website Al-Monitor.
 
Shariatmadari described Zarif’s tweet as insulting to former President Ahmadinejad and called on Zarif to “correct his views.”

Rouhani’s hardline rivals have a strong supporter in Khamenei. Starting in 2002, Iran’s supreme leader publically denied the Holocaust. Since then, Khamenei has gone on to question the Holocaust on five other separate occasions.

Rouhani will need to maintain a careful balance between demonstrating to the West Iran’s desire for political dialogue and appeasing hardliners in Iran.

This balance is likely why Rouhani recently changed course in an interview with NBC's Ann Curry. Instead of stating that Iran does not deny the Holocaust, he sidestepped the question by saying he is not a historian.

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