Once again the Iranian people used the limited available democratic process, combined with unconventional tools and creative methods, to take another step towards political change. A slow process that started with the election of President Khatami and the birth of the reform movement in the 1990s continued through the 2009 election and post-election resistance, re-emerged in the 2013 election of moderate President Rouhani and again showed up in the two important elections last week. Iranians have been on a slow path to democracy and continue to progress -- with patience and with hope.
Iran can still surprise. Voter turnout has surpassed 60 percent. Victory by candidates aligned with President Rouhani already exceeds expectations. This begs the question: What just happened? Perhaps above all else, these elections reflect Iranian society's continued desire to bring about change through gradual evolution rather than radical upheaval.
Despite the recent achievements on Iran-U.S. relations, which have been unprecedented since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the wall of mistrust between Washington and Tehran remains thick. It is of critical importance for the pragmatists on each side to ensure they stick to fully implementing the nuclear deal.
To address all of its self-created problems, the House of Saud has pursued one solution: blaming Iran. But the reality is that Saudi Arabia has overstretched itself in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, supporting terrorist groups and totally breaking down its ties with Iran. If it continues with its traditional policies, sooner or later it will collapse.
Qassem Soleimani, Iranian military leader, ideologue, and commander in chief of the Quds force- a branch of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guard Corps that conducts extraterritorial military and clandestine operations- has been coming out of his shell and becoming more vocal in stating his opinions.
Unlike the interim nuclear deal, the extension appears to lack any clear key terms upon which prospective nuclear talks would be anchored in, or a final nuclear would be reached. By extending the nuclear negotiations, the Obama administration can save face, add to its questionable Middle East achievements.