The swearing in on August 4 of reformist cleric Hassan Rowhani as the seventh president of Iran since the revolution of 1979, marks a possible turning point in that country’s recent history. President Rowhani, who swept unexpectedly to power in presidential elections in June this year, replacing the hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has spoken already of improving Iran’s troubled relations with the rest of the world, and also of ushering in change within his own country by moving towards progress and empowering women. The change of guard in Tehran has been greeted in Washington with hints of a possible change in the antagonistic relations between the two countries, though as yet, the words used in greeting President Rowhani have been unsurprisingly cautious.
The key question for the US and other nations will be the extent to which President Rowhani can ease concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear programme and if he succeeds in doing so, the foreign relations dynamics of the world would change considerably. This would be immensely significant with a particular impact on the Middle East, where the bitterness between Iran and Israel adds to tensions at many levels. President Rowhani, who is backed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, himself seen as a reformist, has already said that he seeks less acrimony with other nations. Pakistan, too, would benefit if Iran can move out of its international isolation, especially given its recent endeavours to cooperate more closely with its neighbour — a move that has brought wrath from Washington.
Beyond the international sphere, too, it will need to be seen what impact President Rowhani has within his own country. Politics in Iran is dominated by a tussle between reformists and those pursuing a more orthodox school of thought. Women in the country, in particular, will be hoping that the 64-year-old president can deliver on his promise to grant them more rights and also take Iran towards change. Developments will then be closely watched as what is widely expected to be a new order, begins to unfold in a country that has been pushed to the sidelines of the global community in recent years.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2013.
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