- Hassan Rouhani has formally begun his second term as Iran’s President in especially challenging circumstances.
Pressures on Rouhani
- Conservatives at Iran are pushing for a hard-line agenda, Sunni states in the Gulf are consolidating a regional alliance against Shia-majority Iran, and the U.S. is turning up the heat on the Iran’s missile programme.
- Rouhani, who won the election on a moderate platform, drew hope during his campaign that he would build on the momentum his first term had generated and initiate social reform.
- The situation seems challenging as given the resolve of the clerical establishment to push back any major attempt to change the status quo.
- In Iran’s complex, multipolar political system, the security establishment reports directly to the Supreme Leader, who can override the government on critical issues.
- The expectation from Mr. Rouhani would be to expand the reform agenda into domestic politics.
- However, one of the first decisions Mr. Rouhani has taken in the new term raises questions about his resolve to initiate meaningful reforms.
- Rouhani nominated an all-men cabinet, which needs to be approved by Parliament.
- The chances of women nominees getting through the parliamentary process were high this time given that reformists and moderates make up a majority in the Majlis.
- Still, Mr. Rouhan preferred not to take the risk of antagonizing conservatives.
- The nuclear deal, the signature achievement of Mr. Rouhani’s first term, is under attack, with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to cancel its certification.
- With the U.S. imposing more sanctions on Iran over the missile programme and joining hands with its regional rivals such as Saudi Arabia, conservative sections find their hard-line views vindicated and would like Tehran to reciprocate in the same tenor.
- Rouhani seems to have preferred to avoid a clash within the system over his cabinet nominations.
- It is unclear to what extent he may sacrifice the reformist agenda under pressure from hardliners.
- His supporters hope that he will come around to simultaneously chasing a pragmatic reformist agenda at home and a realistic foreign policy that doesn’t succumb to external provocations.
- Only then would Hassan Rouhani live up to the expectations of the millions of Iranians who re-elected him.
India – Iran relations