Hassan Rouhani’s surprising first round victory in the presidential elections represents a significant shift in the Iranian political landscape. In a field of candidates dominated by conservatives, Rouhani ran as a moderate. He questioned the necessity of the expanding security state and the constant oversight of student and civil society associations by the security agencies. He spoke of the need for greater freedom of press and speech, and devoted attention to women’s rights issues. Whether he will succeed, or whether he will initiate a change of direction only to be blocked by yet another rightwing backlash, remains to be seen.
Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kennan Institute Occasional Paper Series #122, 1981. PDF 26 pages.
Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kennan Institute Occasional Paper Series #105, 1980. PDF 15 pages.
The complexity of Arab attitudes toward Iran before and after the start of the Arab uprisings is reflected not only in the gap of perception between the Arab people and Arab governments, but also in important differences on Iran across those governments. Even among Arab governments most threatened by Iran and most inclined to see it weakened, their sense of threat and how to address it differs substantially from Israel’s sense of threat.
After several months of uncertainty, the Iranian government finally agreed to meet again with the P5+1 group in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26 for negotiations over its nuclear program. Iran’s economy is suffering the effects of the severe sanctions imposed by the West, but the government is not yet prepared to change course on the nuclear issue. Iran needs to be certain of a positive outcome from the negotiations before it commits itself to meeting the West’s concerns over its nuclear intentions.
The pronounced role of sanctions in creating shortages of life-saving medical supplies and drugs in Iran may have been unintentional, but it is also irrefutable. Iran’s own mismanagement of the situation has aggravated the problem, but it is not the root cause of it. While the list of issues leading to the supply crunch is long and complicated, at the heart of it all are the obstacles that sanctions have created in denying Iran the necessary banking operations and limiting its access to hard currency. Namazi presents findings based on a recent study that he and a number of Iranian consultants carried out.
Iran's presidential elections will take place in June against a background of crisis. The ruling elite is deeply divided, reformist leaders remain under house arrest, economic problems are mounting and the stand-off with the West over Iran's nuclear program remains unresolved. Shaul Bakhash discusses the potential candidates, the major issues and vexed question of electoral freedom that are likely to dominate the election campaign.
Although Iran’s mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle presents an inherent option for creating a bomb, the Tehran regime has no urgent incentive to build nuclear weapons. Current U.S. policy, which emphasizes coercive sanctions and diplomatic isolation to compel Iran to comply with its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), would fall squarely under the rubric of containment, even as the term has been eschewed and delegitimized in the U.S. policy debate. As long as Iran does not overtly cross the U.S. “red line” of weaponization, U.S. policy will likely remain containment in form, if not in name.
In the wake of President Obama’s reelection, senior Iranian officials close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei are speaking publicly of direct talks with the United States over Iran’s nuclear program. But it remains unclear if Khamenei is ready. His deep suspicions of the United States and reservations regarding the utility of negotiations with Washington remain in place.
Hezbollah’s main strength in Lebanon is not its weaponry. Its real backbone is its popular support, which guarantees Hezbollah’s control over state institutions. Iran may be prepared to lose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but it is certainly not ready to lose Lebanon. Now that Hezbollah’s popular support in Lebanon is waning, Iran will do whatever it takes to overcome the results of Lebanon's parliamentary elections in 2013.