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Rohani. Owes his landslide victory to promises to restore relations with US
Photo: AP
Rohani's only way is up
Op-ed: Iran's higher authorities won't restrict new president, as long as he doesn't cross red lines

Upon learning of the election results in Iran, the main question hanging in the air is who will take up the gauntlet. Will it be the administration in Washington, which is updating intelligence documents about Hassan Rohani on his way to the president's bureau in Tehran, or will it be Rohani, who owes his landslide victory to his promises to restore relations with the United States?

 

In the eyes of the millions of people who favored Rohani over Mohammad Ghalibaf, Tehran's popular mayor, resuming relations with America will not only prevent the military strike on the part of the "big devil" (the US) and the "little devil" (Israel) – but will mostly weaken the economic sanctions.

 

Rohani's declaration of intent on the American issue plays in favor of the Revolutionary Guards, supreme leader Ali Khamenei and commanders of the army and intelligence organizations. As far as they are concerned, he can sweat and work hard. They won't bother him as long as he doesn't cross the red lines. If he manages to get President Obama's attention, the winds of war will calm down.

 

Rohani's victory is not a dramatic surprise. As soon as he gained the support of former Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami, the young people began following him blindly. In Iran there is no longer a confrontation between a conservative camp and a reformist camp. There is a moderate reformist, like Rohani, and there is a more radical conservative, like Ghalibaf, and they both despise Ahmadinejad.

 

In Rohani's sophisticated campaign appeared a woman innocently holding a green tool. A sort of sly wink at the opposition's green movement which was brutally eliminated and whose two leaders, Mousavi and Karroubi, have been under house arrest for the past three years.

 

Will Rohani insist on keeping the promises he gave ahead of the elections, succeed in releasing thousands of political prisoners and reduce the security pressure at universities? How long will be the rope he receives from the high authorities? That remains unclear.

 

Under the definition of his position, the Iranian president is the one who travels to market Iran in the wide world. As part of his promises, Rohani vowed to improve the Islamic Republic's image and use his capabilities to remove the global isolation. If he acts shrewdly, his powers will be wider than the pessimistic estimates voiced by expert on Iranian affairs. After all, Ahmadinejad left scorched earth of mismanagement, suspected corruption, a big mouth in terms of Israel and alienation between the street and government institutions. Up to now, Rohani has been cautious not to say any unnecessary words about Israel, neither good nor bad.

 

Under such circumstances, he can only go up from here. Thanks to his affinity with the leader, his long career and religious background, he won't be restricted – at least not during the first 100 days' grace period. We must also remember that the leader Khamenei is 73 years old, is in poor health, and if he disappears in the next eight years, Rohani is expected to upgrade his status in the circle of decision makers.

 

There is no doubt that his interesting figure will turn into quite a difficult challenge. Iran is going to conduct itself on the world stage on two parallel paths.

 

 

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