Hasan Rowhani, a moderate Iranian cleric has been elected to Iran’s next president. The West, and particularly the US, is optimist if not jubilant on his elevation. According to Foreign Policy, there is cautious optimism that popular support for moderation at the polls will translate into concessions at the negotiating table. Rowhani sent some vague signals during the presidential campaign that if elected he would seek to end Iran’s international isolation. His past record, his being branded as working against Iran’s national interest and his offer to suspend uranium enrichment as a confidence building measure are seen by the West as acceptable credentials of Iran’s president to work with him. But will the new president oblige the West. Very unlikely. First reason that West’s optimism is misplaced is that Iran’s president has never been the key decision maker and custodian of country’s nuclear program. It has always been controlled by the Supreme Leader, and the clergy, and there is hardly any room for the president to have his final say on Iran’s nuclear policies. Two, Rowhani is unlikely to yet again risk being branded as soft on the West and defy the Supreme Leader, and Revolutionary Guards, the real establishment. Three, Rowhani’s political strength is just a fraction of his predecessor’s. He may have won popular vote but preventing a backlash if he defies the Supreme Leader will be too massive for him to handle.
Four, the US has to shift its anti-Iran posture from coercion to incentives. If that is not forthcoming, there is hardly any chance that Rowhani would be any different from his predecessors. Five, the West and particularly the US, has misread Rowhani’s past statements which sound conciliatory. He was secretary to the National Security Council for 16 years and top nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. What he has been saying was the public posture of Iran’s establishment. He was the face of Iran’s diplomatic duplicity, often publicly pledging cooperation with nuclear inspectors even as the nation continued its intransigence. It may, therefore, be unwise to take Rowhani at his word when he speaks for Western consumption.
Six, there is no chance that Iran, under Rowhani, will scale back its assistance to present regime in Syria. Practically, the US with its allies and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Syria. Tehran has been providing different levels of support to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, which has been brutally fighting the opposition since March 2011. The Syrian opposition has accused Iran of providing weapons and technology, while dispatching fighters through Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other volunteers. Iran is preparing to send 4,000 Revolutionary Guard soldiers to Syria, according to a recent report released by the Independent.
- Israeli analysts see Rowhani win as a shock, not a revolution, for Iran (timesofisrael.com)