Iranian Support For Moderate Unlikely To Change Government’s Radical Posture
Iranian Electorate Opt For Moderation In Election
Measured. That is the word which best describes the reaction of the Obama administration to the victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s elections.
“We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard,” said a statement issued by the White House.
The statement went on to add that it is the hope of the US “that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people” and that the “United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Foreign and political analysts were more openly positive in their analyses of the election results.
Shaul Bakhash, a professor of history at George Mason University, sees Rouhani’s victory as “a reaffirmation by a majority of Iranians of the desire for a more moderate, more sensible course in both domestic and foreign policy,” which is a posture somewhat at odds with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
Bakhash is careful to point out that the last three presidents also have differed on policy with Khamenei to varying degrees, but Iran continued moving forward in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“But in each instance, Khamenei, backed by the conservatives, was able to neutralize the president, and even to reverse his policies, in the second term,” says Bakhash, adding that Rouhani did win “with something of a popular mandate and commitment to a different set of priorities than have characterized Iranian government policy over the last few years.”
Democratic political strategist Doug Schoen voices a similar opinion in Forbes magazine that it represents a “clear rebuke of the current regime.”
“As I argued on the day of the election, Rouhani’s importance for America lies not in his liberal-mindedness (he is both a cleric and a Khamenei insider), but in his reasonableness. During his tenure as chief nuclear negotiator he proved that he had the fortitude and clout to halt Iran’s enrichment program in order to secure negotiations. After Friday’s dramatic show of popular support, it is not unreasonable to think that he could accomplish the same today,” Schoen says.
However, he adds, while the victory is a positive sign, it signifies “an opportunity to solve” their problems, not a solution in itself.
Religious Influences Make Change Unlikely
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, president of the International American Council, cautions against too much optimism noting the immense challenges facing Rouhani, including increasing isolation from the international community and deciding how Iran will respond to the developing crisis in Syria.
While Rouhani has adopted a “softer” rhetorical tone, Rafizadeh is clear to note that he “has not called for an overall sweeping shift in Iran’s foreign policy,” nor has he “asked Assad to step down from power nor pressed to halt the Islamic Republic of Iran’s military, intelligence, financial, and advisory support to Damascus.”
Furthermore, he argues, the president’s limited control and the strong influence of Iran’s clerics in determining the nation’s foreign policy makes change unlikely.
He concludes: “[I]t is more likely that Iran will continue implementing its current strategies towards Syria to preserve Iran’s regional and international balance of power, its political and economic national interests, and the survival of the ruling clerics.”