Iran-US Rapprochement: Where Does the Path to Jerusalem Cross? - Al Jazeera Center for Studies


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Iran-US Rapprochement: Where Does the Path to Jerusalem Cross?

Sunday, 6 April 2014 10:19 GMT





This paper examines trends in Iranian politics on the Palestinian issue through phases of history and analyses the potential impact of Iran-US rapprochement on Iranian political attitudes towards Palestine. The paper argues there is a shift in Iranian policy towards the Palestinian issue which emerged prior to rapprochement and direct negotiations with Washington. This shift is attributable to changes within Iranian society and both internal and external challenges at the social, economic and political levels. The study concludes that Iran would likely support a resolution acceptable to the Palestinians, citing several indicators as proof of this possibility. This issue has been debated several times within the Iranian political establishment but only gathered momentum with the advent of Rouhani to power, particularly after Tehran’s direct negotiations with Washington. However, it is also expected that Iran will attempt to fix its relationship with Hamas and strengthen it given Rouhani cannot simply disregard the opposition’s power and influence with regards to rapprochement with Washington nor its resistance to concessions on the Palestinian issue. It is not inconceivable that Iranian hard-liners towards Israel would cling to their position, especially given their high positions within security forces and the Revolutionary Guards.


This paper examines trends in Iranian politics on the Palestinian issue through phases of history and analyses the potential impact of Iran-US rapprochement on Iranian political attitudes towards Palestine. The paper argues there is a clear shift in Iranian political discourse towards the Palestinian issue, and believes that this shift emerged prior to rapprochement and direct negotiations with Washington and is directly attributable to changes that affected Iranian society as well as internal and external challenges at the social, economic and political levels.

The study argues that trends in Iranian politics towards the Palestinian cause passed through several stages. The first phase took on an ideological dimension with the concepts of solidarity and Islamic unity interpreted in alignment with the broad ideological strokes of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. However, due to the social transformations and political challenges within Iran, the discourse began to take a realist pragmatist turn in international relations, particularly given the Islamic Republic’s growing recognition as a significant international player and its objective of strengthening its regional position. This accords with the “Future Vision” document launched by Iran some years ago which projected that Iran would become the foremost regional power by 2025.

It could be argued that this pragmatic utilitarian dimension emerged during the first Rafsanjani presidency and continued into the Khatami era with a brief resurgence of the ideological dimension during the first presidency of Ahmadinejad. During his second term, Ahmadinejad was impelled to return to the path drawn by Rafsanjani. With the advent of Rouhani, who is very loyal to Rafsanjani’s robust support of Iran-US rapprochement and who has inherited a challenging economic and political legacy, a resurgent utilitarian dimension has become increasingly evident in Tehran’s political strategy.

Revolutionary discourse and foreign policy towards Palestine

The Iranian constitution provides a basis for foreign policy stipulating that protection of the vulnerable is the core function of the state. Article 11 of the Constitution directs that the Islamic Republic should formulate its general policy according to the dictates of the Union of Islamic Peoples and seek to achieve political, economic and cultural unity of the Muslim world. Article 152 provides that the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy must be based on the rejection of any kind of hegemony or acceptance thereof, obliging it to defend “the rights of all Muslims” and Article 154 provides that while the Islamic Republic is committed to non-interference in the affairs of other countries, it is obliged to support and protect the right of oppressed people against their oppressors. (1)

These principles align with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ideological vision, since protection of the vulnerable is a fundamental principle of the Islamic Revolution and an important element of Khomeini’s revolutionary thought and his worldview of skewed relationships between the world of “superiority” and the world of “vulnerability.”  This is viewed as a religious obligation which outweighs the value placed on material interests. Consequently, Iran's support for the Palestinian cause, its depiction of Israel as an illegal entity and its opposition to an unfair peace process are wholly consistent with the theoretical revolutionary foundations of Iran and the significant credibility it officially claims to adopt. (2)

Yasser Arafat was the first major political leader to visit Iran after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. He was received warmly by the revolutionaries who handed him the keys of the Israeli embassy which had operated a centre of Israeli operations during the Shah’s regime. For researchers in this field, the Islamic revolution’s influential role on the path of the Palestinian cause is impossible to disregard.

Following the revolution, the Islamic Republic has undeniably provided extensive assistance to the Palestinian cause, regardless of whether Iran actually achieved the role and position it sought in return. Iranian support encompassed both material and the ideological support. In real terms, practical support for the Palestinian cause within Iranian civil society included fundraising efforts by many non-governmental organizations as well as Iranian hospitals providing free medical assistance to Palestinians wounded in successive uprisings in the occupied territories.

In the early years of the revolution, expressions of support for the Palestinian cause extended across the political spectrum in Iran from Islamic and left-wing orientations to western-educated Iranian intellectuals. Under direct instructions from Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic institutionalized support for the Palestinian cause through adoption of various events, notably “Jerusalem Day” in which the last Friday of Ramadan each year was dedicated to calling for the liberation of Jerusalem.  On this day, mass marches are officially organised in various Iranian cities. “The Road to Jerusalem Passes through Karbala” emerged as a popular slogan which spread through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards and the backing of Basij forces. This political slogan also gained great popularity among religious and political parties, (3) with Khomeini and his supporters playing a major role in its vigorous promotion (4) and in turn determining Iran's foreign policy path. (5)

In the field of political competition and conflict, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to this slogan as one of the most important guidelines of Imam Khomeini (6) during his famous electoral debate with Mir Hussein Mousavi in 2009. This was widely interpreted as a perpetuation of the policy to export the revolution to neighbouring countries.

Nonetheless, in Iranian politics today there is a definite decline in the influence of this particular political stream advocating support for Palestine based on the ideological basis discussed above. With the advent of President Rouhani to power and the breadth of Iran-American rapprochement, Iranian foreign policy towards the Palestinian cause seems to have shifted to “accept what is acceptable to Palestinians.”

Palestinian cause and dilemma of internal debate

In recent years, Iran has witnessed a clash between the so-called “revolutionary constants” and the national interest, with the Palestinian cause exemplifying this clash. The 2009 Iranian presidential campaign exposed the Iranian political scene to overt debate which was extremely rare in Iran prior to that year. In parallel with the formal debates which brought together the four candidates, many other debates were occurring on the streets among Iranian citizens, especially the youth, who exchanged accusations and relentlessly defended their candidates. Iran’s foreign policy and “supporting the resistance” were common themes in street debates.

The followers of the first philosophy - a position defended by many in Iran today - expressed the view that their problems must be prioritized above support provided by the Iranian government for Palestine and Lebanon’s resistance movements. By contrast, the followers of the second philosophy, comprised mostly of mainstream fundamentalist adherents, advocate a position stemming from that of Imam Khomeini: they assert that they “cannot consider the Palestinian and Lebanese fights as an external subject.” (7)

In fact, opposition to Iran’s support for the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon was evident among groups in Iranian society even before the 2009 presidential elections. This issue took various forms ranging from political jokes to the exchange of mobile text messages employing ancient folkloric poetry to discuss “the milk from Hassan's cow which goes to Palestine’. (8)

Perhaps Iranian sentiment was expressed most clearly on Jerusalem Day in 2009, when the slogan “No Gaza, no Lebanon, Just Iran,” appeared for the first time in Iran whereas the slogan “Death to Israel” had been repeated for thirty years. The new slogan was sharply criticised by political figures and members of parliament.  (9) Former President Mohammad Khatami asserted that such speech was a dangerous mistake because Jerusalem Day is ‘a symbol of resistance to the occupation and oppression (as) launched by Imam Khomeini and defended by the Iranian people.” (10)   This resulted in a reformed logo stating “I sacrifice my soul for Iran, Gaza and Lebanon.” (11)

The viewpoints that oppose Iranian ideological rhetoric on the Palestinian issue are based on the following arguments, namely:

- Iran is a priority that comes ahead of other issues, including Palestine.
- The Iranian government gave unduly excessive attention to the Palestine issue accompanied by negligence and disregard for the violation of human rights in other parts of the world.
- The Iranian government exploits the Palestinian issue and supports the resistance to reinforce its grip inside Iran and abroad. (12)

Critics of Iran’s support for Palestine and the resistance say the Iranian government exploits the issue for their own interests. They view it as a cover for internal tyranny and stress that the national interest should have supremacy in determining foreign policy; therefore, they call for “a reasonable defence” for the Palestinian cause that does not conflict with the national interest.  (13)

In fact, to treat Iran as bearing a single unified position towards the Palestinian cause is erroneous and limits assessment and understanding of the Iranian case. Iran is a large state populated by more than seventy million people with a wide spectrum of intellectual currents, elites and research centres that follow diverse streams. Thus, it is short-sighted to consider only one position with respect to any political argument, regardless of its importance. In reality, attitudes within the Islamic Republic of Iran towards both the Palestinian cause and Iran’s rapprochement with Washington cannot be confined to just two opposing orientations; rather several broad trends can be identified, including:

1. Official political orientation:  this reflects the official Iranian position toward Palestine and the resistance characterized by hostility to Israel. However, the most significant development since Rouhani’s rise to power is that the institution of the Presidency has dropped out of this category. The recent rhetoric of the Iranian Foreign Ministry signals a decline in the influence of this front which previously enjoyed pre-eminence for decades.

 Followers of this approach regard the Hamas movement as being most closely aligned with their position against occupation when compared to the Fatah movement, and they believe that this religious and ideological alignment justifies providing extensive support to Hamas. With Ahmadinejad’s accession to power in 2005, Iran returned to the early Islamic Republic’s slogans, namely, ‘This revolution will not be complete until Jerusalem’s liberation.” Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust rhetoric and removing Israel from existence are themes that were first raised by Imam Khomeini.  (14) Given the controversy caused by his statements, the opposition have posed critical questions about the efficiency of Ahmadinejad's government and its foreign policy, accusing him of exposing Iran's interests to risk. (15)

Advocates of this trend strongly defend the protection of Palestine and hostility to Israel. (16) They view their opponents who want to decrease support for the resistance as displaying weakness and indulgence in front of enemies and accuse them of being tools in the hands of the West, occasionally even describing them as internal enemies. (17)

In this respect, it is necessary to distinguish Ahmadinejad's rhetoric during his first term from that of his second presidential term. The latter, though it still maintained commitment to the resistance and the Palestinian cause in its lexicon, also began to focus on the national dimension, and even spoke of “friendship with the Israeli people.” (18)  It must be noted that recent attempts by the Rouhani regime to mitigate the consequences of Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy clearly focus on Iran’s stance towards Israel.

Any analysis of this policy position must emphasise that its followers control the media within the Islamic Republic. The leaders of the media establishment in Iran follow the Supreme Leader, and they also control the decision-making mechanisms in a number of important institutions, such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Shura Council and indeed the whole leadership institution headed by Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution. Consequently, this stream is well-placed to express its position through mass mobilisation for marches and demonstrations such as Jerusalem Day (19) and the Day for Fighting Global Superiority (20)  whereas the same opportunities are not available for other streams of policy orientation.

2. Advocates of realism: This particular political perspective, noting that the Islamic Republic has prioritised the Palestinian issue for thirty years, considers that it should now be re-evaluated in a realistic manner.  They assert that Iran’s traditional position has and will continue to cost Iran dearly and that it conflicts with Iran's national interests. (21) In this regard, critics have raised controversy by maintaining that Iran’s support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad does not stem from any Islamist or humane motive, but instead emerges from regional and international competition for geopolitical dominance with America and the Arab regimes. Conversely, others assert that Iran exploits tensions against America and Israel within the region in order to serve its own interests, especially with regard to Iran’s nuclear file. (22)

Acknowledgement is due here to the foreign policy statements of the reformist movement, and to the reformist press which over time developed and popularised slogans such as “strengthening the realistic perception of the Palestinian cause.” Since Rouhani's ascension to the presidency and his quest to resolve the Iran’s dilemmas, this trend has begun to take on a new impetus after being crushed for years.

3. Internal priority: This policy trend takes a clear economic and social focus. It agrees with the realist position that Iran’s priority must be to direct financial support inside the country based on the principle that Iran’s poor are more deserving of support. (23) They prefer to limit Iranian support at the political level. Based on the idea that “a lamp needed at home is denied to the mosque,” (24) elements within the Iranian public believe there has been excessive support for Palestine and that resources used for external assistance could be put to better use internally. Increasing levels of deprivation and economic challenges have led to public complaints.

An in-depth analysis of Iran’s recent challenges reveals how difficult it would be for the state to maintain its previous levels of support but still meet the demands of a citizenry that has witnessed social transformations affecting multiple generations within a single community and widening socio-economic gaps. This has resulted in a concentrated estrangement between the first and second generations of the revolution on the one hand and the fifth generation on the other.

The first generation demonstrates dynamic, vital and proactive characteristics, with a clear ideological bias towards the Palestinian cause, while the second generation maintains strong enthusiasm towards the Palestinian cause. The third generation witnessed the economic and cultural reconstruction of the Rafsanjani era from 1997, culminating in the 1999 student protests and unleashing suppressed anger arising from years of conflict and limitations on freedoms. With this generation, public demands emerged for internal issues to be given priority above external ones, including the Palestinian cause. The fourth and fifth generations intensified this trend and are the most distanced from the ideological propositions imposed by past governments which put the Palestinian issue at the forefront of its programme.

Iran’s priorities and foreign policy

Despite differences between Tehran and Hamas regarding the Syrian revolution, Iran’s general policy was to avoid attacking Hamas. Influential parties in Hamas also attempted to restore the relationship and bridge the gap, with both sides finally concluding that they need each other. Over the years, Iran has successfully supported the Palestinian issue and has filled the vacuum created by Arab regimes’ bias towards the option of negotiation with Israel. This role cannot continue in its previous form, as Tehran’s successful convergence with Washington will not bear the desired fruit inside Iran without a real shift in Iranian foreign policy. As has been the case with a re-interpretation of Khomeini’s arguments and his speech on the relationship with the United States, it seems the door is open to re-evaluate Iranian foreign policy on the Palestinian issue in light of recent political developments.

Iranian policy toward the Palestinian issue is best described as compound. There is a formal discourse that defends the need to continue providing financial, military and political support to the Palestinian parties engaged in the armed struggle to liberate Palestine, while simultaneously vilifying those who engage in the negotiation process. At the heart of this discourse, different perspectives are emerging to discuss various options of settlement, including the proposed “referendum,” and “accepting what is acceptable to the Palestinians.” Between juggling its national interests and maintaining “revolutionary constants,” the Iranian regime found itself struggling to establish a position which maintains it as a key player on the Palestinian issue while at the same time prioritising its internal imperatives and regional aspirations. It is evident the needs of Iranian society in addition to rapprochement attempts with Washington have created sufficient pressure on the regime to induce notable changes in policy towards Palestine.

Internal policy problems, the challenges of the nuclear issue and Iran’s relationship with the US (dialogue versus conflict), are the three themes which dominated the overall political discourse in Iran during the June 2013 presidential election campaign. The Palestinian cause was not a headline issue in the electoral programme of any candidate except Saeed Jalili. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dedicated much of his electoral platform to a call to codify the rights of citizenship. (25)  Rouhani and other candidates utilised large portions in their electoral manifestoes to focus on Iran’s economic situation, (26) a fundamental reason for revisiting Tehran’s relationship with Washington.

It was clear that a new foreign policy direction would emerge under Rouhani. He sharply criticised what he described as a policy of “concentration on deceptive logos” that lack strategy, alluding to the foreign policy blunders of former President Ahmadinejad on the “Holocaust,” and “removing Israel from existence.”  In Rouhani's opinion, Ahmadinejad’s policy had serious negative consequences (27) such as the designation of Iran as the number one threat to global security as well as exposing Iran's weak strategic options. (28)

During formal debates prior to Iran's eleventh presidential election in 2013, 56% of the questions raised in the second part of the debate between the eight candidates focused on domestic policy. Internal concerns were the dominant focus of both the questions and the answers whereas the less dominant primary foreign policy focus was Iran’s relationship with America. (29)

Of the sixteen questions posed in the debate, seven questions were related to issues of diplomacy and nine to internal affairs. This means that 56 per cent of the questions focused on domestic policy and the system of government while 44 per cent focused on issues of diplomacy and foreign policy. Only 14 per cent of the diplomacy and foreign policy questions addressed Palestine and other Middle Eastern affairs.

End of “bloody feuds” era

For a significant period before the Rouhani era, there were groups that advocated for a politically realistic view of Israel. Although they deem it an aggressor state, they believe in the option of settlement; therefore, they do not view Hamas as the best option for Iranian support unless it accepts the settlement process. This position initially emerged with the advent of the reformists in Iran and matured during the nineties. The newspapers of that period reported quite frankly that Iranians should not be more Palestinian than the Palestinians because even the Palestinians had begun to accept and recognize Israel.

To support their argument, they cite the signing of the Oslo Accord by the PLO in 1993 as well as ongoing negotiations by the Palestinian Authority. This group calls for easing the sensitivity to Palestine and a reduction in hostility towards Israel as a path to reducing international opposition to the Islamic Republic. (30) Reduced sensitivity does not necessarily mean formal recognition of Israel, but advocates of this view recommend that Iran should join the international community in dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  (31) In practice, Iran has embarked on measures aimed at defusing the tension and reducing sensitivity, including the announcement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry that Iran would not take any action that would destroy Israel. An Iranian proposal to perform a referendum in all the occupied territories was also mooted.

Advocates of this position allege that the Palestinian issue and other revolutionary concepts such as “anti-superiority” have been abused by the ruling elites as a means of appropriating influence and benefits to this ruling class while manipulating the emotions of supporters both internally and externally.

In Iran today, the foreign policy discourse has shifted towards the view that “international relations are no longer considered a zero-sum game, but rather a multi-dimensional room in which competition coincides with cooperation.” The era of “blood feuds” has come to an end’ (32) and world leaders have to “turn threats into opportunities” as President Rouhani noted in his Washington Post article published September 2013.

“Constructive engagement,” a term which recently entered Iran’s foreign policy dictionary, signalled a diversion from the pursuit of Rouhani’s “measure and hope” strategy in order to reform the economy, meet the needs of Iranian society and reinforce Iran's international status. Achieving this correlates fundamentally with calming tensions with the United States and the West and is also linked to the Iran's ability to invest in influential affairs as a mediator or through other significant roles.

During the first decade of the Islamic Revolution, Tehran adopted prevailing rhetoric that called for “defending the rights of the oppressed,” and the Palestinian issue naturally appeared at the forefront of this call. Although this call was driven by moral imperatives, it is impossible to disregard Iran's quest for “leadership of the Islamic world.” In subsequent decades this quest has evolved, acquiring various dimensions related to Iran’s international relations role and its search for recognition as an influential actor.

The pertinent question today is whether or not Rouhani represents a coup against these policies. Recent events under the Rouhani regime cannot be described as a coup against the legacy of the past; however, it is impossible to disregard various policy shifts that collectively confirm a concrete policy change which will have significant consequences for the future and in a manner similar the Khatami era. The term “Zionist entity” is now absent from the statements of Iranian officials when discussing Israel. Further, the tone of intimidation and the threat of Israel’s removal from existence are absent from Rouhani's discourse as if he is offering an apology for the tone that prevailed during Ahmadinejad's presidency (2005 to 2013).

Current Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has been speaking about acceptance for a settlement approved by the Palestinian parties. On the recognition of Israel, we find a tone that surpasses the tone of the previous government:

“This is a sovereign decision that Iran will take, but it will not affect the situation on the ground in the Middle East. If the Palestinians are happy with this solution, no one outside of Palestine can stop it. The problem over the past six decades is that the Palestinians have not been satisfied and they are right not to be satisfied because their basic rights are still violated and they are not willing to compromise on these rights.” (33)

Since the revolution’s victory, Iran has continually opposed the establishment of US military bases in its neighbourhood, describing them as a clear threat to its national security, regardless of whether those bases were in the Gulf region or in Central Asia. However, this concern has not prevented Iranians today from discussing“security cooperation” despite this historic opposition which cannot be subtracted from internal Iranian calculations. Rouhani, together with supporters from among the reformers and the Rafsanjani stream, does not negate the quest for full diplomatic relations with the US. It seems that the Chinese model for rapprochement with the US is preferred by the Iranians as it is rapprochement based on mutual interests. For Iran, confronting Al-Qaeda is the most prominent motive for boosting and sharing security-related interests. In the same context, Iran will show clear flexibility on the Palestinian issue to maximize mutual benefits and persuade the US of closer relations.

During the past few months, the political behaviour of Iranian officials has exhibited a conciliatory tone toward Israel. This tone carries messages to reassure the US which is keen to preserve the interests of its Israeli ally in the midst of its negotiations with the Iranians. In a departure from the past when Iranian diplomats would avoid Israeli officials, the Iranian delegation elected to remain in the room while the Israeli Minister of Energy delivered a speech at the Energy Conference held in Dubai in January 2014. Israel reciprocated the courtesy at a security conference in Germany when the Israeli delegation listened attentively to the speech of the Iranian Foreign Minister. Zarif’s statements in Germany garnered attention in the global media because he acknowledged the occurrence of the Holocaust, and termed it a “brutal tragedy.” Following his speech at the Munich conference, Zarif told the German television channel Phoenix, “We have no position against the Jews and hold them great respect within Iran and abroad.” (34)


Many questions have been raised about the delicate margin in which Iran’s policymakers must operate to simultaneously create a balance between the revolution’s legacy and realistic requirements and the national interest and ongoing transformations within Iranian society. Iranian officials recognize that the dynamics of change required and expected of them, especially on the Palestinian issue, will not always be tactical but rather will require concrete and influential steps.

Today, Rouhani and his team adopt a philosophy that is based on the opportunity for his country to “transform threats into an opportunity,” and this will be achieved only by a change in discourse and foreign policy. This is the first step towards opening a new page with the US, then the West, and perhaps even with Israel. The interest in Iran's internal problems by Rouhani’s team, supported by the position of a cross-section of Iran’s public, calls for a foreign policy that serves Iran's relations with the outside world.

The Geneva agreement on the Iranian nuclear file reflects part of the dialogue with the US, addressed in the following areas:

1. Conflicts in the region: While it is necessary for the US to acknowledge the failure of its past policies in dealing with Iran, Iranians also admit the Islamic Republic’s policy toward Washington and the region (implicitly including Israel), especially during the last eight years, was wrong.

2. Cooperation: This area is open to several issues, including confronting Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.

3. Dilemmas and major injustices approach: The Palestinian issue appears at the forefront of these issues, with many references to the possibility of Iran's acceptance of a solution approved by the Palestinian side, a debate which has appeared on the Iranian political scene more than once and has gained remarkable support since the advent of Rouhani to power and afte direct talks with Washington. Hence, the Iranian government has begun to attach greater importance to relations with the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, and arrangements are made for a visit by Mahmoud Abbas to Tehran.

Notwithstanding these advances, rapprochement with the United States will most likely be a political rapprochement and exchange of interests rather than openness at all levels. One reason for this is that Iranian policy planners realize that Iranian openness toward the United States and full normalization of relations would effectively reveal the disconnect between revolutionary rhetoric and slogans and what the community wants. This would in turn expose the fragility of the domestic situation and the divergence between the regime and its citizens in views on this issue.

The power and influence of opponents to rapprochement with Washington cannot be underestimated and opposition to making concessions on the Palestinian issue will not be insignificant. Thus, it can be expected within the Iranian establishment the hard-line attitudes against Israel will be maintained, especially since the hardliners occupy advanced positions in security forces and the Revolutionary Guard. If the “Geneva Accord” falters, and if Tehran fails to achieve significant economic gains and easing of sanctions, the hard-liners may increase in strength and Rouhani may be unable to continue to advance his negotiation agenda. Therefore, it is not inconsistent with “the flexibility of Iran” to see an Iranian effort to repair the relationship with Hamas and significantly strengthen it.
*Dr. Fatima Al-Smadi is a researcher at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies specialising in Iranian affairs.

(1)Iranian Constitution, Ministry of Islamic Information, 68 (1989), 28.

(2) Mohammad Bagher Soleimani, Players of the Peace Process in the Middle East, Tehran, 2000, 204.

(3) Saskia Maria Gieling, Religion and war in revolutionary Iran, (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999), 115.

(4) Mohammad Mohaddessin, Islamic Fundamentalism, (Anmol Publications PVT. LTD, 2003), 126

(5) Farhang Rajaee, The Iran-Iraq War: the Politics of Aggression, (Florida: University Press of Florida), 96.

(6) Full text of the Mousavi and Ahmadinejad debate at

(7) Refer to this article published by a researcher at the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper on June 12, 2009, titled “Iran: Electoral Competition Includes Funding ‘Hezbollah’ and ‘Hamas.’” The article is available at this link:

(8) – اتل، متل، توتوله / گاو حسن چه جوره؟نه شير داره نه پستون شيرشو بردن هندستون.. " is a widespread folkloric Persian poetry verse about Hassan's cow that does not have milk because its milk is sent to India. After the Gaza War in 2008-2009, phone messages were exchanged, including a political joke that said the Ministry of Guidance will change this poetry given ridicule from social implications of the phrase. The new verse was instead, “Hassan’s cow whose milk sent to Palestine.”
(9) The slogan " No Gaza, No Lebanon" caused the Iranian parliament on Sunday, April 4, 2010 to terminate the reformist cleric Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of the Palestinian people's uprising playing a key role in the establishment of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the 1980s. This followed claims by conservative deputies accusing Mohtashamipour (who supported Mousavi in the election) of planning for demonstrations to topple the Islamic Republic’s regime.

(10) Khatami issued statements during a meeting with a student committee for the protection of Palestine. It was  published by the website Jahan News on August 31, 2010 at the following link:

(11) See comments of the reformist deputy in the Iranian Shura Council Abdullah Kaabi about the slogan "Hum Gaza Hum Lebanon Ganem Fdaa Iran" meaning "I sacrifice my soul for Iran, Gaza and Lebanon," published on January 26, 2011 on the Persia News Agency website available at the following link: .
(12) In this context, the writings of Mohsen Kadivar in The Green Movement Strategy: Iran is Priority to Palestine are significant and can be found posted on the official website on June 24, 2010 :
(13) Refer to the interview conducted by Mohsen Kadivar with Voice of America on 22 June, 2010, published on their website:
also available on June 22, 2010 at:
(14) Text of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government’s platform  published August 16, 2005:
(15) This is clear in a comparison conducted by Dr. Mohsen Aminzadeh, former adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the reformist era between the foreign policy of Ahmadinejad's government and the government of Khatami. He gave a lecture on this topic to students at the University of Zahra in Tehran and published by Persia News Agency on May 6, 2010 and available at:
(16) See questions and answers section on the website "Andishe Qom" regarding the duty towards Palestine (undated), available at this link:
(17) See an article of the critic and journalist Faraj Srkohi titled "Palestine Issue: Clear Government Policy and Vague Opposition Handling,” on June 21, 2010 available at:
(18) Mashaei, who heads the Cultural Heritage Foundation, declared in a press conference in Tehran last Sunday "for the thousandth time I declare and in a stronger way than before that we are friends of all the peoples of the world, even in America and Israel," adding, "I am proud of what was stated by me previously and do not feel the need to be corrected, no enmity between us and the peoples of the earth" and expressed regret for the saying  that citizens of Israel are not civilians but soldiers. This has led to angry reactions within the Iranian Shura Council which  questioned Mashaei about the intent of his statements. Details of this case can be found in a news report published by the researcher dated August 15, 2008 on, titled “Deputies in Iran Call for Punishment of  Official Who Described Israelis as Friends,” available at:
(19) Jerusalem Day is an annual event opposing Israel's occupation of Jerusalem. This day is marked by anti-Zionist demonstrations in some Arab and Islamic countries and Arab and Islamic communities around the world. Iran was the first to propose this event after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The call was led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran at the time. In August of that year, he said, “I invite Muslims all over the world to devote the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan to be Jerusalem Day and to declare international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights of the Muslim people in Palestine.”
(20) Anti-Superiority Day, an annual event on November 4 every year in which marches are conducted across Iran to commemorate Iranian students breaking into the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
(21) See an article by Saeed Ghasemi Nejad titled "Israel, Iran and the Democratic Green Movement” dated April 25, 2010 and published at this link:
(22) Farzan Shahidi, “Defending Palestine, Why?” 25 January 2009,
(23) There are conflicting figures in Iran on poverty, with estimates of ten to fifteen million poor persons in the country. According to figures provided by Ali Askari, the economic adviser to the president of Iran during a roundtable session held for student movements in May 2008, 20% of Iranians or up to 15 million people are classified under the absolute poverty line. The reformist Etemad newspaper published a lengthy article on the front page titled "Tsunami of Poverty and Weakened Development" by Dr. Zahedi on April 20, 2008. See
(24) On Jerusalem Day in 2009, Iranian protestors raised placards that read “a lamp needed at home is denied to the mosque.” In the place of “home,” the demonstrators placed Iran's map. In the place of the word “mosque,” the demonstrators placed a picture of the Dome of the Rock Mosque. In other words, money needed at home in Iran should not be sent to Palestine. Refer to the aforementioned article by Shahidi 2009 for more information.
(25) Hassan Rouhani, Government of Measure and Hope, Electoral Platform, (Tehran, 2013), 11.
(26)Hassan Rouhani, Government of Measure and Hope, Electoral Platform, (Tehran, 2013), 21-43. Rouhan’s programme uses phases to help the Iranian economy emerge from what seems to be a chronic economic crisis in the country. Implementation of the government’s "rationalization plan of government subsidies" in 2010 resulted in high prices of basic commodities in an unprecedented manner. Unemployment among young people increased and the economic sanctions imposed by America and the West deepened the crisis, especially with the inclusion of Iranian oil on which the Iranian economy mainly relies. Inflation reached 35 per cent in March 2013 and unemployment approached 13 per cent, with unofficial figures indicating even higher inflation and unemployment.
(27) Hassan Rouhani, Government of Measure and Hope, Electoral Platform, (Tehran, 2013), 93-110.
(28) Hassan Rouhani, Government of Measure and Hope, Electoral Platform, (Tehran, 2013), 96-100.
(29) Observations recorded by the author during a visit to Iran in June 2013.
(30) Shahidi 2009.
(31) Saeeda Lotfian, “Iran and the Middle East: Hard Choices and Realistic Attitudes” (0), 191.
(32) Hassan Rouhani, “Why is Iran Seeking Constructive Engagement?” Washington Post 20 September 2013,
(33) IRIB World Service, “Iran Firm to Boost Ties With Latin America: President Rouhani,” 10 February 2014,
(34) Sky News Arabia, “Iranian Foreign Minister admits Holocaust,” 3 February 2014,

About the author

Researcher at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies specialising in Iranian affairs.