With the real power still wielded by Iran’s Supreme Leader, we analyse if Rouhani can bring about meaningful change.
Iran’s outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that a regional storm was on the way to “uproot” Israel.
Speaking at what is thought to be his last public address on Friday in Tehran, he addressed crowds in the lead-up to Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration on Sunday.
“I will inform you with God as my witness, a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism,” Ahmadinejad said at annual Quds Day rallies.
Israel “has no place in this region”, he said.
Ahmadinejad has been in office for eight years.
“Ahmadinejad hasn’t changed his stance or rhetoric against Israel one bit” since he took office, said Al Jazeera’s Soraya Lennie, reporting from Tehran.
She added that elsewhere in his speech, he “accused medical companies run by Zioinsts of creating viruses and spreading them all over the world so they can drive up drug prices.”
An economic crisis, a disputed election and a tense stand-off with the West over Iran’s nuclear programme marred his time as president.
The yearly Quds Day celebrations in Iran included speeches and sermons supporting the Palestinian cause and condemning Israel.
State television showed hundreds of thousands of people marching across the country, chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.
The demonstrators also denounced any renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Ahmadinejad accused Israel and its Western supporters of fomenting discord in the Middle East, saying “it was their dream to see the will of regional countries bent on destroying [Israel] diverted towards civil war”.
“Who is happy for what is happening in Egypt and Syria?” he asked, charging that Israel celebrating the unrest in those countries.
On Israel, Ahmadinejad’s successor Rouhani has also recently been quoted by state media as saying: “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”
News agencies reported the quote on Friday, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reposnded, saying that: “The true face of Rouhani has been revealed sooner than expected … this is what the man thinks and this is the Iranian regime’s plan of action.”
However, a journalist working for the Fars state news agency tweeted that Rouhani’s statement was misinterpreted, adding that he did not call for Israel to be removed.
Rouhani won a landslide victory in Iran’s June 14 presidential election.
Earlier, the new president pledged to follow a “path of moderation” and promised greater openness over Iran’s nuclear programme.