One year ago, President Hassan Rouhani was elected to pick up the pieces of the country, a tremendous challenge that both the nuclear deal and the future of the sanctions weigh upon. In this kind of emergency, democracy is the least of people's worries, though some attempts have been made -- like when the president said that the Internet shouldn't be censored. But the truth is that it isn't Rouhani who gets to decide. It's the state powers, such as the judiciary, that seem to have but one goal: limit the government's actions. Vultures, conservatives and the Revolutionary Guards watch the new president's every move, in silence, ready to raise their voices in case of signs of failure.
June 12 is the fifth anniversary of the birth of Iran's democratic Green Movement. Though the open resistance of this popular movement has been suppressed, it has been morally vindicated in the intervening years and remains as a constituency imbedded in Iran's body politic, ready to emerge once again when the opportunity arises. And the opportunity will surely arise. The Islamic Republic of Iran is not your usual authoritarian state. As a hybrid of religious dictatorship and competitive elections, the regime generates its own opposition, see-sawing back and forth between conservatives and reformists. One day, the balance of power will shift decisively toward democracy and against the Ayatollahs. It is precisely because democratic elections within a religious dictatorship are so meaningful that the election five years ago in 2009 was so passionately contested.
While it is not wise to use one interview as a basis to form an opinion or policy, one point of view is better than no point of view. I am fortunate to know someone from Iran briefly studying in the U.S. that is willing to talk about this issue from an Iranian point of view before he returns to Iran.