US-Middle East relations — NRT Focus

Cheryl Sanders
May 26, 2017

The 68-year old re-elected President also picked on Washington arguing that it failed in all its attempts to isolate Iran.

On 17 May 2017, the US Department of State announced that the US Government would renew waivers of certain sanctions necessary to continue to implement US commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ("JCPOA").

Rouhani was a younger man in this speech, in his early 40s. Previous landslide victories in Iran - those of the reformist Mohammad Khatami in 1997, of the little-known populist firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, and, arguably, even of Rouhani four years ago - were also largely unexpected outcomes. With Khamenei having served as president before rising to Iran's highest political and religious leadership position, it is easy to see that the conservative candidate Raisi, had he been elected, could have become Khamenei's successor.

This was during President Rouhani's first term.

"We should bring peace and stability back to the region". A lot of this has been documented by the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

In a bid to revitalize the country's economy, Rouhani in 2015 struck a deal with the US and Europe in which most economic sanctions against Iran were lifted in return for the country's limiting its nuclear program.

There's limited hope for greater domestic political freedoms either. After all, despite significant weakening of the sanctions regime, reached under Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian economy has been under serious strain because of a long period of low energy prices. A moderate cleric, incumbent Rouhani was pitted against hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, who was reportedly backed by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani faced an uphill battle for re-election.

In response to another question, Rouhani said violence and extremism posed serious dangers to the Middle East and the entire world, adding, "The era of meddling in others' internal affairs, the era of war against other countries and the era of giving money to terrorist groups has come to an end". Iranian officers were helping to direct the ground campaign against Aleppo, Syria, this fall, when rebels finally lost control of a city the dictator had starved. "But the foundation of power is national strength and this only happens through elections", Rouhani said. After all, every Iranian president since 1981 has served two terms in office.

The Iranian leaders remarks support recent comments by senior military leaders in the country, who have repeatedly declared that Iran will "never stop" developing ballistic missiles, a program that has raised concerns with the US intelligence community, which assesses that Iran's missile program could be used to carry a nuclear weapon. It's true that turnout for the vote was high.

Rouhani's triumph was likely, but the vote was no mere formality. His electorate has noticeably expanded compared to the results of 2013 elections: if in 2013 he gained just over 50%, this time he was supported by 57% of voters. What is the benefit of pandering to wishes of the kingdom, if Pakistan's narrative is so easily dismissed, especially at the cost of damaged relations with our much more immediate neighbour?

Furthermore, although Rouhani's most important achievement was drastically to lower inflation, this had the bad side-effect of skyrocketing the unemployment rate.

Rouhani won because he gave Iran a face of negotiation with the world.

Western journalists and analysts are hardly alone. In his 2015 message to Iranians for the Nowruz holiday, Obama said, "My message to you, the people of Iran, is that together we have to speak up for the future that we seek". That was during another election. Unfortunately, resistance to those changes will remain equally entrenched: Iran's conservatives continue to be a powerful source of resistance.

I came to know by some reports that more than 30 CEOs of major USA companies were on hand for the summit, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh. Congratulating Iran for its fake elections only legitimizes a system where real elections are not possible.

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