Originally published February 5, 2014. Archived October 2016.
By Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D.
The most important influence President Rouhani may have on foreign relations is deescalating rhetoric between international key players—especially with the United States and Israel—presenting an opportunity for Iran to be viewed as the victim of Western-led oppression through continued sanctions that adversely affect Iran’s populace. A part of deescalating tensions with the West and regional states will be making good on his promise as Iran’s nuclear negotiator to bring transparency to Iran’s nuclear program—a major hurdle in Iran’s international relations.
To achieve this strategic goal, Rouhani will have to address domestic oppression—this will be his first real challenge to demonstrate his moderate approach garners support and is effective. Like Iran’s nuclear program, issues of domestic oppression—against religious groups, the media, and political opponents—will require transparency and engaging international press and human rights organizations.
Demonstrating intent toward greater transparency through smaller actions would be a bargaining chip for relaxing sanctions—this would be a major domestic victory for Rouhani, with Iran’s economy in a recession due, in large part, to material and financial sanctions.
The wild cards for Rouhani? His relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and what role former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may play.