August 26, 2013


Rowhani the Decision Shaper (Mohammad Ali Shabani, Mahsa Rouhi | August 26, 2013, National Interest)

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to influence nuclear policy because he couldn't use these same "action channels" to build consensus and shape decisions in the national-security council.

In contrast, barely three weeks into his term, Rowhani has already taken practical action that evidences his resolve to, in his own words, "hammer things out with the sheriff." Javad Zarif, a former UN envoy who's repeatedly dealt with Americans, has been appointed as foreign minister and is mulled as the next chief negotiator. A pragmatic, MIT-educated nuclear physicist has been returned as head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. And Tehran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency has been recalled.

But getting the right people onboard doesn't only have to do with correcting the perceived errors of the past eight years. Negotiations on the nuclear issue face more than political pitfalls; Rowhani has first-hand experience of bureaucratic incompetence and dysfunction disrupting negotiations. He saw how divergent reporting of the situation by various Iranian institutions repeatedly triggered clashes over their competing recommendations to senior authorities.

Yet, perhaps more than anything, Rowhani's ability to shape decisions on the nuclear issue will be founded on his general approach to politics at home. He has fervently argued that negotiations will only bear fruit when there's national cohesion. In his memoir, he frankly states that "at times of internal differences, it will be hard for our officials to make decisions and for the foreign side to trust the negotiating team."

Rowhani is certain that Iran cannot be ruled by a single faction. This conviction got him elected - not the sanctions.

Not everyone the new Iranian president will appoint or hire will completely agree. But if he is successful in building internal consensus, he will have the necessary base of power to confidently enter negotiations with external counterparts.

Posted by at August 26, 2013 5:34 AM

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