11 Things You Didn't Know About Hassan Rouhani

The new president of Iran has received the approval of the Supreme National Security Council and Ayatollah Khamenei. But the new mysterious chief executive of Iran, a country that has been the ticking time bomb of the international political sphere, seems poised to make changes in the way the Iranian nation interacts with the rest of the world. The following are 11 interesting tidbits about the new head honcho of Iran (with the exception of the Supreme Leader), Hassan Rouhani.

1. Rouhani is Not His Real Name (GASP)

Hassan Fereydoun was his birth name; however, he changed his surname later on in life to Rouhani, which means cleric in Farsi. It is unclear why he chose to change his name, but the name Rouhani may have built creedence for the political figure who was trying to build a reputation within the Iranian government and rise up in the ranks after the end of the Iranian Revolution.

2. Rouhani Was Involved in the Iran-Contra Affair

During the Iran-Iraq war, United States diplomatic officials developed a plan that would later be recalled as the Iran-Contra Affair. The plan called for Israel to supply Iran with weapons, and in return Iran would convince Hezbollah to release American hostages in Lebanon. The plan quickly changed as only one hostage was freed, and the United States decided to sell weapons directly to Iran (using the profits to fund Contra fighters against the Nicaragua's dictator at the time). When National Security Advisor Robert C. McFarlane went to talk out the deal in Iran, Rouhani was one of the two Iranian officials that he would get to speak to in regards to the weapons transfer. Rouhani at the time had been a close aide to Iranian President Rafsanjani, who sent him to negotiate with McFarlane about the weapons transactions. The incident would later rock the Reagan administration.

3. He Has a Twitter #Iran #PresidentiallySocial

Iran's new president tweets in both English and Farsi. Apparently, he has been tweeting about various things, both serious and unserious, from soccer to nuclear debate. His English account is @HassanRouhani, and his Farsi account is @rouhani92. Periodically, the social media sites are banned on Iran's internet servers; so in many ways the new president who has also fought against censorship is taking an active stand against the media filtering taking place within the country, one #hashtag at a time.

4. The Iranian Public Supports Rouhani and Reform

The public not only voted for Rouhani to be their next president, but they support many of the man's goals for the future of the state. Iranians are anxious to have a more progressive government that would not only respond to the needs of the people, but would also provide economic stimulus to create a more thriving economy within the struggling Middle Eastern country. Rouhani seems bent on providing this economic growth by providing more transparency in their nuclear program to stop the sanctions placed on Iran by various countries. Without these sanctions, Iran would be able to take advantage of the global market and open up their doors to the import/export business.

5. The White House Has Big Hopes for Him

The White House announced in response to Rouhani's recent gestures of more transparency and dialogue that Rouhani would find a "willing partner in the United States. The White House report also said:

"We hope the new Iranian government will heed the will of the voters by making choices that will lead to a better life for the Iranian people ... the inauguration of President Rouhani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear programme."

In other words, Rouhani seems to be already drawing support from the West, as more and more leaders around the world see him as a strong leader, capable of compromise and cooperation in the international arena.

6. Rouhani is a Movie Buff

President Rouhani said in an interview, "I prefer historical movies, but in general I like movies and I spend part of my free time watching films."

It seems the leader of Iran likes the silver screen. And especially the historical stuff. I wonder what he thought of Argo?

7. Rouhani is For Equality

President Rouhani has voiced concern about equality among citizens of Iran. In addition, he has promoted equal pay for women as well. Rouhani promised to advance the cause of women's rights in the Islamic country.

Rouhani has also made clear that he wants a country where "All the people ... no matter which ethnicity or tribe they're from, should feel they're the citizens of one country and enjoy equal rights."

These words stand in sharp contrast to the previous historical actions of Iran which has faced backlash from watchdog groups over human rights violations in the past.

8. He Was Politically Involved Early On

Rouhani was born on November 12, 1948 in the town of Sorkheh, east of Tehran. Rouhani was an excellent student, whose interests in the grand ayatollahs helped him on his academic journey, eventually studying law at the University of Tehran. He was a strong protester against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, demonstrating multiple times against the leader. At the age of 16, he was first arrested for his protest actions. Rouhani, it seems, was invested in politics from the get-go.

9. He Was Apparently Misquoted in Anti-Israel Statement

This past Friday, an Iranian news agency claimed that Rouhani stated that Israel was a "wound" that needed to "removed". Apparently the actual statement by Rouhani was: "... In our region there's been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land." The remarks drew swift criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who believed the words to be a revealing of Rouhani's true face. 

10. He's Towing the Line

According to Hossein Shariatmadari, an editor of Kayhan, a conservative Iranian newspaper supportive of Khamenei, Rouhani is facing a variety of issues in his election as president. First of all, Rouhani has to bring about the changes he was elected to bring, pleasing the reformists and the moderates, but he also has at the same time the obligation to follow the will of Khamenei. In other words Rouhani faces a tough road ahead, full of compromise.

11. The Nuclear Debate is a Contentious Issue For Rouhani

Hua Liming, the former Chinese ambassador to Iran, said about the future of Iranian interaction with the rest of the world in ChinaDaily:

"Despite being more flexible, Rowhani is unlikely to fundamentally change the country's nuclear stance, while if the West imposes increasing sanctions to it, the opportunities for dialogue will be more elusive." In addition, the "technocrats" Rouhani selected as his cabinet are poised to be supportive of continued nuclear development by Iran, something that could truly disrupt Rouhani's aims at a stronger economy. If however, he does choose to create transparency within the nuclear program, Rouhani might be able to pull off a nuclear program while also strengthening the economy. Rouhani could strike a fine line between pleasing the contingency in support of the program as well as the international community.

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James Gadea

James Gadea is from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a student at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and he is really interested in the relationship between Eastern Europe and the Middle East. James loves history, the smell of Barnes & Noble, and when movie characters say the title of the film that they are in.

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