Washington, DC - FDI Board member Ayatollah Dr. Mehdi Rouhani was receivedby a senior State Department official on Jan. 17, in a 90 minute meetingthat focused on U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic and the clericalopposition to the Tehran regime.
The senior official reassured Dr. Rouhani that the United States wasnot in the process of "making a deal" with Tehran, as some pro-TehranIranian exiles have suggested. Instead, he reiterated Washington's long-standingoffer to hold a public dialogue with the regime on subjects including theregime's support for international terrorism, its violent opposition tothe peace process, its nuclear weapons program, and its human rights record.
Dr. Rouhani explained that for most of Iran's senior religious authorities,the regime had definitively "lost its legitimacy" with the deathof Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. "The ruling clerics have betrayed Islam,and they have betrayed the Iranian people," he said. "All ofthe Grand Ayatollahs in Iran today are opposed to this regime, and theyrepresent a powerful, popular force that should be reckoned with."He called Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene'i "a small time preacher,"and argued that the clergy should leave government to more competent professionals."Ayatollah Khomeini was very good at destroying a regime - the regimeof the Shah - but he was totally incapable of constructing a new regime.That job should be left to individuals who have specific competence, notthe clergy," he said.
Dr. Rouhani called on the Clinton administration to maintain a toughU.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic, "to give time to opponentsof the regime both inside Iran and abroad." The opposition was notseeking direct U.S. help, or U.S. intervention, he said, "only moralsupport and a halt to trade that benefits the regime. The Iranian peopleare hoping for a sign from the United States to show its support for freedomand democracy in Iran."
During his brief visit to Washington last week, Dr. Rouhani met withrepresentatives from Congress and the Executive Branch, as well as withjournalists and prominent academics. He also addressed a forum hosted bythe Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a conservative thinktank, and was received by FDI Board member Peter Rodman at the Nixon Centerfor Peace and Freedom.
Dr. Rouhani's older brother, Grand Ayatollah Sadeq Rouhani, is one ofIran's most respected clerics. He has been under house arrest in Qom since1985 because of his opposition to the regime.
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