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Rouhani Foreign Policy Nominees Spark Concerns Over Extremism, Links to Hezbollah

The Iranian parliament began debate yesterday on the proposed cabinet of newly inaugurated president Hassan Rouhani. A formal vote of confidence is expected to follow.

Western analysts had already described the cabinet as stacked with regime insiders drawn from Iran’s security services. Particular concerns are now being raised, however, over Rouhani’s proposed foreign policy team.

Video published last week showed proposed foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif minimizing the Holocaust, sparking fears that a Rouhani administration will extend the anti-Semitic incitement that had marked the administration of former Iranian hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a report exposing the leadership role played by presumed defense minister Hossein Dehghan in Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of the U.S. marine base in Lebanon:

Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, nominated to be defense minister by Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani, was a commander in Lebanon overseeing Hezbollah operations during the time of the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon… Shapira writes that after Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Dehghan was sent to Lebanon and became responsible for supervising Hezbollah’s military force. Dehghan then took over the command for the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon…

It was from a base in the Beqaa valley where Iran planned along with Hezbollah, attacks against the Multinational Force and IDF soldiers in Lebanon. In 1983, two separate suicide bombings killed 241 US Marines and 58 French soldiers in their respective barracks in Beirut… The orders for the attack on the Multinational Forces were transmitted from Tehran to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, and then to forces in Lebanon… Shapira doubts that such orders could have been carried out without the knowledge of Dehghan.

Ali Hashem, the Al Mayadeen news network’s chief correspondent, sees no hope that Rouhani’s foreign policy team will change Iran’s posture toward Hezbollah:

As for the new government, there are no signs that it has any members who oppose Iran’s support for Hezbollah. Rouhani himself is regarded as a hard-liner when it comes to Israel and Iran’s relationships with resistance groups… when Dehgan was only 25 when he was deployed to the Levant to lead the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Lebanon and Syria contingents, and that means he helped lay the foundation for Hezbollah, and can be regarded as one of the founding fathers of the group. Dehgan is known for his strong relationship with Nasrallah, and previously with the group’s late Secretary-General Sayyed Abbas Mousawi.

[Photo: mingoi313 / YouTube]