Iran’s President on a High Wire

Manthorpe B&WInternational affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe writes in today’s column that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is performing a dangerous high wire act. An excerpt:

As talks resume in Vienna today for a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, it is increasingly apparent that only political and social reform will deliver the ultimate guarantee that Tehran does not build atomic weapons.

And that outcome depends almost entirely on the skills of Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani. He undoubtedly has reformist instincts and has the support of many Iranians who want to see a lifting of the political and social repression orchestrated by the conservative and puritanical religious Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, backed by the security apparatus of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

For the moment, Rouhani has the backing of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards. They see him as the best man available to do a deal over the nuclear program that will get crippling international sanctions lifted, and someone who can restore Iran’s stature among nations after it was made a laughing stock by the embarrassing antics of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So Rouhani needs a deal on the nuclear program, and all that flows from that, in order to get the leeway to pursue reforms and the loosening of Iran’s social and political straightjacket.

And what is more, and more evident as negotiations proceed during the six months slated for doing a deal, is that success will ultimately depend on political evolution in Iran that produces administrations whose word can be trusted.

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