Not sure Iran's president-elect Howsani can make his own foreign policy decisions

The wild celebrations that broke out in the streets of Iran (Saturday, June 15) following the landslide victory of reformist Hasan Rowhani in that country’s presidential elections may be a little too presumptuous. The expectation is that Rowhani will cause a loosening of the ruling clerics’ grip on power in that Islamic republic.

Rowhani declared “a new opportunity has been created . . . for those who respect democracy, interaction, and free dialogue.” In a state TV comment immediately after his proclamation as winner, Rowhani said “I’ve never been an extremist. I’ve always supported moderation.” Throughout his campaign, Rowhani expressed a strong stance against the international policies of the outgoing government led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,

Rowhani has somewhat of an edge in his new role. He is not exactly an outsider to the political establishment, having served in the government and as the country’s nuclear negotiator. But because he has taken strong positions against the international policies of outgoing president Ahmadinejad, he could no longer be trusted by the ruling clerics.

And there are other problems up ahead for the victorious moderate and his allies. All policy – and decisions – with respect to defense and foreign affairs are made exclusively by the ruling clerics who are protected by the country’s Republican (Revolutionary) Guard. We have yet to forget the repression of the massive protests that took place after the 2009 elections which the protesters claimed had been rigged to deny the reformists a victory.

Although his declarations could improve the relationships between Iran and the West (including Israel) Rowhani will have to work hard within his own political orbit to control (or moderate) the ruling clerics. Hopefully he does not inherit the political fate of his ally, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had been banned by the ruling clerics from running in this last election.

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