Recent presidential elections in Iran have proven every prediction wrong.
While it was expected that a considerable portion of the electorate (50 million people) wouldn’t vote and that the most radical and conservative candidates would once again win, around 80% of the electorate cast their ballot and elected Hassan Rouhani, a man described as “the most moderate candidate” in the race, as their new president.
In what looks like an urgent call by the population for a new way of handling both local and international affairs, Iranians chose a candidate that, despite having strong links to the clergy, presented a more poised and rational demeanor, with talks about improving the economy, Iran’s relations with the western world (especially the US) and the suggestion to create a Ministry of Women to enhance female civil rights and liberties.
At the same time, the rest of the world is cautiously (but unrealistically) waiting for a sign suggesting that the situation in Iran will evolve drastically overnight. And that obviously includes Argentina.
After an extremely heated debate (in the media, that is) the Argentine Congress recently approved an “agreement of understanding” with the Iranian Government in order to create a bilateral “Truth Commission” that will investigate whether the theocratic nation had any involvement in the AMIA bombing that left 85 people dead in 1994.
This agreement raised lots of unanswered questions, most of them asking what the real motive was for the National Government’s strong support – and expedite approval – of the accord. Also, everyone is still wondering how the hell we would be able to get the Iranian government to interrogate and prosecute the alleged perpetrators of the attack when they are indeed part of the Iranian government. And did I mention that in Iran the agreement was approved via by a presidential decree instead of going through Congress? For an accord that could potentially send a member of the cabinet to jail, the Government seem eager to make it happen.
So with Rouhani taking the presidential seat in Iran, great expectations have been placed on him as many hope that the agreement will now be validated by the congress or even put into practice.
An I hate to burst your bubble (no I don’t) but I just don’t think good ol’ Rouhani will busy himself with this accord. Humor me and keep reading, will you? I think I can persuade you to join my half-empty glass:
- Out with the old, in with the new?
One thing is certain: Rouhani’s election eliminated any possibility of the agreement falling in the hands of some of those accused of being responsible for the AMIA attack. Among the presidential contenders were former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alí Akbar Velayati and former Commander of the Guardians of the Revolution Mohsen Rezaei, both of them accused of being directly involved in the bombing by the Argentine justice. Can you imagine if any of them became president? It would have been a joke.
However, one of the keys to Rouhani’s victory (along with the fact that both moderates and reformists decided to support the same candidate) was that he was also supported by former President Alí Akbar Rafsanjani, who – guess what – was also accused of the bombing attack. Funnily enough, Rafsajani is one of the most popular politicians in Iran, but his candidacy was vetoed by the Ayatollah Khamenei.
So Rouhani’s candidacy was not only supported by one of the alleged perpetrators of the bombing, but he himself had to go through the process set by the Ayatollah and the Council of Guardians (which I’m guessing is the Justice League of Iran) to even be allowed to run. This process establishes that a mix of twelve theologians and jurists evaluate if the candidate has the conduct and orthodoxy of principles needed to maintain the status quo. So Rouhani will have no choice but to be a good boy and not mess with the powers that be.
- Let’s be friends but don’t mess with my toys
Rouhani has said he is open to improving relations with the western world by improving Iran’s perception beyond its borders (to this day, there are only a few countries in the whole world for which Iranians don’t need a visa to travel to).
Even more so, Rohuani has expressed his desire to enhance relations with the United States. Iran is currently facing huge economic constraints due to the sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear program. Improving relations with the western powers can be seen as perhaps the most pragmatically smart movement in Iranian diplomacy in a long time. But he is not willing to compromise the very essence of their nuclear program in order to gain new besties.
“First, America must not interfere in Iran domestic affairs based on the Algiers Accord. They have to recognize our nuclear rights, put away bullying policies against Iran. And if such, and they have good intent, then the situation will change.”
A more pragmatic approach to the rest of the world in the hands of a moderate president will most likely have a positive impact on Iran’s economy and will bring a healthy debate on civil rights that will hopefully benefit Iranian women.
But a man from the clergy, supporting an agreement approved by decree by a president of an opposing political party and in order to take those who supported his candidacy to trial?
Good luck with that.