Huffpost WorldPost
Milad Jokar Headshot

9 Things to Know About Hassan Rouhani's Victory in Iran

Posted: Updated:

First, we should give the Iranians some time to enjoy this beautiful victory (first round with 50.68% with a turnout of 72.7%). There was a bit of a disconnect between some Western governments' communiqués and the joy of the Iranian people. Indeed, only a few hours following Rouhani's victory, too many governments directly tackled the nuclear issue within the few lines of their communiqués. The Iranians just got out of an election, Rouhani won: congratulations!

Domestic politics

Second, it is through the ballot that the Iranians expressed their voices. The Green Movement born in 2009 has showed a remarkable patience and intelligence. This is the evidence that Iranians want change through evolution, not revolution. For all those who have been cynical and were saying a few days earlier that it was not worthy for the Iranian people to vote have been definitively proven wrong. Patience and perseverance paid off, the Iranians think in terms of cost and benefits and they don't want this Western idea of a brutal regime change. With the current context, no one would win since the destabilization and the risks of disintegration of the State would be significant.

Third, as in many countries today, the economy is what matters for the Iranians. This election is a new breath and a new hope for the Iranians whose living conditions have been tough during Ahmadinejad's presidency (Ahmadinejad who is by the way already summoned by justice over many scandals). The news of Rouhani's victory showed direct positive signs. The Iranian stock exchange has climbed and the value of the Iranian rial rebounded 5 to 6 percent against the dollar only within a few hours after the final results of the election. A moderate president will encourage investments, new oil and gas, and other contracts; hard currency will come back more easily and reduce economic instability and hardship. It will take time but the perspectives of growth are less somber for a population whose potential is tremendous.

Fourth, one should not expected things to change overnight. Iran, like any other country, has politics. The Majles (Parliament) is conservative and the economic, social, women's rights or university reforms will need to be voted on. However, the outcome of the election is a landslide victory and it will be difficult for the conservative to oppose popular demand. Rouhani's program is based on the return of confidence, prudence and serenity-- which is something very important regarding Iran's economy - to help the return of investors.

Fifth, it is necessary to get rid of this simplistic idea that Iran is a "regime of the Ayatollah". The Islamic republic has become a securitarian power more than a theocracy and during the campaign, Rouhani committed to relax the "securitized atmosphere" in the country. It is a big task that will take time and require compromise. The encouraging signs are that Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guards and the other candidates all welcomed Rouhani's victory.

Foreign policy

Sixth, Ahmadinejad was a gift for the conservatives always eager to impose more and more sanctions against Iran. Indeed, Ahmadinejad invited more pressure and isolation with his discourses that eliminated the need to justify politically these crippling sanctions. His diatribes have disturbed the regional balance of power. On the one hand, his political discourse positioned the isolation of Iran at the US and the EU foreign policy agenda's top priority (instead of more sensitive issues such as Pakistan's instability, Afghanistan or Iraq). On the other hand, catching attention in such a way allowed Israel to get more military and defense systems from the US. Consequently, the victory of a moderate in Iran is the defeat of Israeli conservatives eager to consolidate their position through tensions and confrontation. In Israel, Netanyahu's conservative government has already announced many times that the outcome of Iran's election does not change matters and that more sanctions are needed. Whoever expressing such views shows solving the nuclear issue is not a priority and that the will to talk is not there. Instead, the priority for the current conservative government is to maintain pressure to isolate Iran. The risk for Netanyahu is a rapprochement between Iran and the US (and the Arab Gulf states, as announced by Rouhani) since it would challenge the balance of power in the Middle East. And if the nuclear issue calms down, the issue of the Israeli colonies will come back again to the forefront of Washington's agenda.

Seventh, sanctions will not be lifted overnight. The positions will remain the same and Iran will not give up its right to enrich uranium. However, the ball is now in the US' court (and the P5+1 - the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Russia, the UK, France and China) plus Germany in charge of negotiating with Iran). They will now face a new negotiator, a new foreign minister more willing to engage negotiations in a serious spirit of compromise based on mutual respect.

Also, it is important to note that the presidential debates have showed some willingness to change the negotiations. The greatest sign was when Khamenei's foreign policy adviser Velayati criticized on State TV the way current chief negotiator appointed by Khamenei, Saeed Jalili, conducted the negotiations. All the conservative candidates (and the moderates) isolated Jalili, which is a positive sign for the future of the negotiations since there is a consensus as far repudiating his negotiating line is concerned.

Eighth, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Yes, he is indeed the one who takes the final decision concerning international affairs and the nuclear issue. However, if he is the one who announces the guideline, there are many different ways and tactics to implement them. One must not believe that he takes the decisions on his own. There exist many circle of influence (the popular demands, the government, businesses - the bazaaris - lobbies and different other political and security institutions) and the final decisions on international issues have to be negotiated. One must not under estimate their weight on the country's decisions and orientations.

Ninth, Syria. Rouhani's election (and Ahmadinejad's exit) has changed the political lines. François Hollande just stated at the G9 summit that he would "welcome" the new Iranian president for a peace conference on Syria. This change between a confrontation and escalation approach on one side, and moderation and dialogue on the other is a real positive perspective. It is a great opportunity to finally depoliticize sensitive issues and find compromises.

To conclude, I will quote Ahmad Salamatian: "The international community could then use Iran to stabilize the Middle East, which suffers from strong turbulences, by finding a solution that would get the support from the majority of the Iranian population. The Iranian middle class can be the international community's best geopolitical ally..."