News Brief: In a , Ali Younesi, President Hassan Rouhani’s special envoy for minority rights, portrayed all the conflicts of the Middle East as a result of Western plots. “There is no other way but regional cooperation to bring about border security and combat extremism,” Younesi said. He was particularly scornful toward the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. Speaking about “American Sunni Islam” and “British Shiite Islam,” Younesi claimed that a broad Western conspiracy has been unfolding for some time which is aimed at creating tension and division among Islam’s different sects. In arguing that for Iran, Israel remains the key enemy, Younesi said that “Iran will go to Jordan and Saudi Arabia’s aid if they found themselves in a conflict with Israel.”

Comment:

In the Iranian political lexicon, Ali Younsei is often painted in the media as belonging to the so-called moderate camp. His record, however, shows him to be an uncompromising regime loyalist with a troubling political background. He acted as a prosecutor in military courts in the 1980s that had been set up to identify and punish anyone opposed to the Islamic Republic. Accordingly, he was responsible for the execution of many political prisoners. He later became the Intelligence Minister (2000-2005) during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami. As an aide to Rouhani, Younesi has also had a knack for troubling statements. In a statement in 2015, he said “Iran is an Empire, Iraq is our Capital.” Given such statements, Younesi pointing the finger at imaginary foreign plots as responsible for conflicts in the Middle East seem to be aimed at diverting attention away from Tehran’s agenda.