WASHINGTON, June 16, 2013 — The victory of moderate reformer Hassan Rowhani in
Western media jumped quickly to note the reformist credentials of Rowhani. Rowhani, the only cleric among the candidates, is considered a pragmatic conservative, credited with reaching a deal with the European Union to suspend uranium enrichment and avoid sanctions in 2003. During campaign rallies, Rowhani promised “constructive interaction with the world,” including efforts to ease sanctions that have severely hurt
Rowhani has also publicly, but carefully, condemned the hard-line policies of former President Ahmadinejad, saying, “We won’t let the past eight years be continued,” and adding, “They brought sanctions for the country. Yet, they are proud of it. I’ll pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace. We will also reconcile with the world.”
The new President also received strong support with his calls to end the “repressive security atmosphere” and promises to allow greater personal freedoms for Iranian citizens.
Rowhani was Secretary of the National Security Council twice. He served in the position under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and under Mohammad Khatami.
However, Rowhani resigned from the position under President Ahmadinejad, after hardliners attacked him as too conciliatory.
Much of Rowhani’s public adulation stems from his close association with Rafsanjani, who was disqualified by
Rowhani retains a close relationship with Rafsanjani and has publicly admitted that he relies on the former president for advice. However, says Rowhani, he ultimately makes his own decisions.
Despite these liberal credentials, at least in the context of
Rowhani started his political career as an outspoken critic of the Shah, which attracted the attention of the Ayatollah Komeini and the conservative movement. He joined Khomeini who was in self-exile in
After the revolution, Rowhani remained in the inner circle of government. His roles included reorganizing the military, overseeing state broadcasts which transmitted information for Khomeini, and serving in parliament.
Even the most reform-minded president has limited maneuvering room in current-day
Candidates must receive permission from
Key policies, including the nuclear program, relations with
Rowhani is likely to first focus on the economy and domestic reforms, where he may have more latitude than in high-profile foreign policy areas.
International reaction to Rowhani’s election amounts to cautious optimism. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted, “We admire the courage of the Iranian people who went to the polls and made their voices heard in a rigidly controlled environment that sought to limit freedom of expression and assembly.” He added, however, “We remain concerned about the lack of transparency in the electoral process, and the attempts to censor members of the media, the internet, and text messages. Despite these challenges, however, the Iranian people have clearly expressed their desire for a new and better future.”
The landslide victory for Rowhani, combined with the respect Khamenei has for the President, may provide at least an opportunity for change and for dialogue with the West. The situation is unquestionably better for both the people of
The reality remains, however, that
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