July 18, 2015


Iran Nuclear Deal Is a Win for Rouhani. What's Next? (HALEH ESFANDIAR, 7/17/15, WSJ)

Cynics said President Hassan Rouhani would turn out to be yet another bombastic politician who fails to deliver. The deal is a considerable achievement for Mr. Zarif and Mr. Rouhani, who staked his presidency on the negotiations' success. During his first two years in office, President Rouhani spoke about the need to rein in Iran's morals policy and security agencies, give more freedom to students on university campuses, stop official interference with the Internet, and reduce the Revolutionary Guards' outsize role in the economy. But these issues took a back seat. While prioritizing the negotiations, he has failed to secure freedom for numerous journalists, female activists, and other political prisoners. He has left the Revolutionary Guards to pursue their economic activities. Leaders of the opposition Green Movement remain under house arrest. Talk of easing tensions with Saudi Arabia went unfulfilled. President Rouhani's approach has been to get crippling sanctions lifted as part of a nuclear deal, revive Iran's economy, create jobs, and build confidence in the West-all as a basis to address the other issues.

Mr. Rouhani remained determined, and he was adept at outmaneuvering critics. He defended the framework agreement announced in April against fierce opposition. He managed to transfer authority for approval of the final agreement from parliament, where he faces much opposition, to the Supreme National Security Council, where he has greater control. He faced down hard-liners in influential right-wing media outlets such as the newspaper Kayhan and the Web site Raja News, which faulted the Lausanne framework and deemed the final accord no cause for celebration. He understood when to reply to naysayers and when to ignore them. He took on serious critics in parliament, but he ignored one of his predecessors, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who reacted to the deal by quoting a hadith from the seventh-century Imam Ali that one should be "deeply afraid of your enemy when s/he reaches out to you in peace and compromise." [...]

President Rouhani still has much to do. He needs Iranians to be patient: Sanctions will be lifted only gradually, and it will take time for oil production and exports to increase, for Iran's foreign assets to be unfrozen, for foreign investment to flow in, and for the economy to improve. Perhaps, after those issues are in motion, he will fulfill his other election promises and find ways to rein in the security agencies and judiciary, to ease political controls, to give more freedom to Iranians, and address other issues generating friction between Iran, its Arab neighbors, and the West.

Posted by at July 18, 2015 8:08 AM

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