Following the release, in late December 2013, of a controversial biopic titled I am Rouhani, the monthly appendix of Etemad newspaper in its 44th issue ran a report on the so-called Assembly of the Wise, its formation and the impact it had on the war Iran and Iraq fought in the 1980s. The following is an excerpt of the report:
“‘My friendship with him goes back to the fourth Islamic Consultative Assembly. I always found him a reasonable individual with a distinctive character. Suffice to say that he was a member of the Assembly of the Wise. Back then, all one needed to be regarded as moderate and appreciative of consultation was membership of the assembly.’ Those were the words Iranian President Hassan Rouhani uttered in parliament in August 2013 to secure a vote of confidence from MPs for his proposed interior minister: Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. In that parliamentary session, President Rouhani also characterized Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi, who is now the intelligence minister, as ‘a moderate individual and a member of the Assembly of the Wise. A person who was widely known for his moderation and exactitude’. Back then, very few people paid attention to the wording of the president. He was talking about the Assembly of the Wise which arguably played a major role in the Islamic Consultative Assembly midway through the war. Some have gone so far as to suggest that members of the assembly along with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were the ones who made Imam [Khomeini] drink up the proverbial poison from the chalice. The questions that might arise here are ‘What was the Assembly of the Wise? And who had a seat on it?’ […]
Thirty-something MPs were members of the assembly. They were not into factional politics. Indeed, they represented both factions.
“To develop a better understanding of the Assembly of the Wise and how it was formed, one needs to pay attention to what its members have to say about it. One year before the 2013 election, Hassan Rouhani was quoted by a June issue of Nasim-e Bidari [Breeze of Awakening] as saying, ‘The second parliament saw the emergence of the Assembly of the Wise, which remained active until the fifth parliament. Thirty-something MPs were members of the assembly. They were not into factional politics. Indeed, they represented both factions. We believed membership had to be open to any pundit who held sway and was familiar with the way things had to be handled. The assembly was formed, in the first place, to focus on the war. Mr. Karoubi, Mr. Yazdi, Mr. Bayat Zanjani and Mr. Movahedi Kermani were among first members of the assembly whose meetings continued into the fifth parliament.’ Apparently, the assembly was formed to focus on the war. What others have to say about its meetings is worth mentioning. For instance, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, who serves as interior minister in President Rouhani’s cabinet, in an interview with the special New Year issue of Hamshahri Newspaper had the following to say about his acquaintance with Hassan Rouhani: ‘He (Hassan Rouhani) had a group which was comprised of MPs and experts in a variety of fields at the Supreme National Security Council. That group, of which I was a member, was called the Assembly of the Wise.’ Rahmani Fazli had earlier, during a farewell speech at the Audit Court, mentioned the same grouping. […] The comments of the interior minister suggest that in addition to parliament, the Assembly of the Wise had an active presence in the Supreme National Security Council of which Rouhani was secretary for 16 years. Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the vice-speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, told Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow [a TV program]: ‘I am certain Mr. Rouhani did not merely bring up the question of moderation to win over the electorate. He is moderate in nature. When he was in parliament, he always associated with moderates and organized Meetings of the Wise to get things done.’ Seyyed Mehdi Faghihi had the following to say about the intelligence minister: ‘When Mahmoud Alavi was a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, he and Rouhani formed a group of moderate MPs which was known as the Assembly of the Wise.’ Rasoul Montajabnia, another former MP, said, ‘Between 15 and 20 MPs would attend meetings which were convened in the houses of representatives near the parliament building. Those meetings which were known as Meetings of the Wise were presided over by Dr. Hassan Rouhani.’ Hossein Ebrahimi, another parliament deputy, said, ‘Mr. Rouhani was a moderate individual. In the second parliament, a group bringing together Mr. Anvari, Ayatollah Shabestari, Ayatollah Yazdi, Mr. Rouhani, Esmail Shushtari, Sobhaninia, Qaemi, Mahmoud Alavi and me founded a group which was known as the Assembly of the Wise. […] Mr. Rouhani was instrumental in this grouping. He was moderate and maintained that characteristic throughout our acquaintance.’ The Assembly of the Wise was one of the most important and influential institutions formed within parliament in post-revolution Iran, and Hassan Rouhani was the most powerful member of this group. […]
The foundation of moderation, a platform on which the head of the 11th government ran, was laid in the Assembly of the Wise which represented all factions of the country.
“During the war, the Assembly of the Wise tried to bring the conflict to a pleasant end. A much-anticipated development that came after Iran captured al-Faw, which in turn led to the acceptance of Resolution 598 [of the UN Security Council]. What is important about I am Rouhani is that it takes a closer look at various aspects of the president’s personality prior to the presidential election of 2013. The role Rouhani played during the war is so prominent that independent research is needed to develop a better understanding of it. In conclusion, one can say that the foundation of moderation, a platform on which the head of the 11th government ran, was laid in the Assembly of the Wise which represented all factions of the country. An assembly one can still talk about and develop an insight into the personality of its less-known members.”