We should be optimistic about the new Presidentby Menzies Campbell / July 18, 2013 / Leave a comment
President Hassan Rouhani: it is “wise to be optimistic” about his election
When the west started to impose economic sanctions on Iran, it argued that the object was to punish the Iranian regime in the hope of forcing it to respond to international demands over its nuclear programme. It was asserted confidently that it would not affect the ordinary lives of ordinary civilians. But if that was the purpose, sanctions have failed. Iran’s economy is collapsing. There is mass unemployment and shortages in food and medical supplies. The civilians are desperate but Iran’s nuclear programme is still booming and its regime implacable.
The inherent problem is that Iran and the west have diametrically opposed interests. With a history of profound mutual distrust, it is no wonder we have reached the 10th anniversary of almost futile negotiations. Each side is making demands that the other finds impossible to accept. The maximum concessions that Iran has been prepared to offer in exchange for the removal of sanctions have so far been less than the minimum that the international community is prepared to accept.
Before Iran can be welcomed back in to the international community, deals must be struck that help to solve the problems of Iran’s nuclear programme and its support for the Lebanese Shia party Hezbollah. Despite initial excitement at the recent election of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran, sceptics have been quick to dismiss a supposed moderate as incapable of bringing about significant change to the current stalemate. The effectiveness of his presidency has been dismissed from the start, on the grounds that he will merely be the smiling and acceptable face of a theocratic regime run by ultra-conservative clerics. But, on the contrary, this is someone who is capable of understanding these conflicting interests and has the skills to achieve balance.
In reality, electing Rouhani was a message from the disillusioned Iranian people, but it was also a message from those who did not seek to block his path to power. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council chose not to oppose his candidacy or back a particular candidate, in striking contrast to the elections of 2009. The Iranian people gave Rouhani a landslide victory but it was Khamenei and his inner circle that let them do so. For over 30 years, Rouhani has worked closely and…