Monday, May 22, 2017

Eye on Iran: Decisively Re-Elected, Rouhani Defies Hardliners, Pledges To Open Iran

View our videos on YouTube


President Hassan Rouhani pledged on Saturday to open Iran to the world and deliver freedoms its people have yearned for, throwing down a defiant challenge to his hardline opponents after securing a decisive re-election for a second term. Rouhani, long known as a cautious and mild-mannered establishment insider, reinvented himself as a bold champion of reform during the election campaign, which culminated on Friday in victory with more than 57 percent of the vote. His main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, received 38 percent. In his first televised speech after the result, Rouhani appeared to openly defy conservative judges by praising the spiritual leader of the reform camp, former President Mohammad Khatami. A court has banned quoting or naming Khatami on air.  "Our nation's message in the election was clear: Iran's nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism," Rouhani said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday he hoped newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will use his second term in office to end Tehran's ballistic missile programme and end what he called its network of terrorism. Speaking at a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh, Tillerson also said that Washington intends to intensify its efforts to deter Tehran in Syrian and Yemen, countries in which Washington and Tehran side with opposing sides "I'm not going to comment on my expectation. But we hope that if Rouhani wanted to change Iran's relationship with the rest of the world those are the things that he could do," Tillerson said. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iran's presidential election was an internal matter and called on Tehran to adhere to United Nations resolutions on its ballistic missiles and to stop supporting "terrorism".

As voters in Iran danced in the streets, celebrating the landslide re-election of a moderate as president, President Trump stood in front of a gathering of leaders from across the Muslim world and called on them to isolate a nation he said had "fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror." That nation was Iran. In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests. At the same time, he rejected the path taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama engaged with Iran to reach a breakthrough nuclear accord, which Mr. Trump's administration has acknowledged Iran is following.


As Donald Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as US president, formal security agreements, a counterterror plan, boosting the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and expanding economic ties are expected to top the agenda of his meetings. Trump's arrival comes at a high point in US-Saudi relations, according to analysts, and follows preparatory work and visits to Riyadh this year by US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo. Senior Saudi political and economic delegations went to Washington in the last three months, starting with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's meeting with Trump in March; Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir's meetings with his counterpart Rex Tillerson on different occasions; and a US-Saudi economic summit at the US Chamber of Commerce last month. Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador and CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran, told Arab News that Trump's visit is aimed at "improving relations with Saudi Arabia after they were strained because of the Obama administration's pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran." Wallace described strengthened US-Saudi ties as a "win-win for both countries. Washington is able to receive more support in its effort to combat terrorism, while Riyadh and other countries in the neighborhood are able to more thoroughly defend their territorial integrity."


Iran has sanctioned nine more U.S.-linked businesses, organizations and people over America's sanctions over its ballistic missile program. Iran's Foreign Ministry published a new sanctions list online Saturday, which added nine targets. The sanctions means Iran could seize local assets of the companies targeted and bar its employees from the country. Those targets include Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Virginia; shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries of Newport News, Virginia; cyber-security firm Kingfisher Systems of Falls Church, Virginia; and DynCorp International, also of McLean.

Iran accused the United States on Monday of selling arms to "dangerous terrorists" in the Middle East and of spreading "Iranophobia" aimed at encouraging Arab states to purchase arms, state television reported. "Once again, by his repetitive and baseless claims about Iran, the American president ... tried to encourage the countries of the region to purchase more arms by spreading Iranophobia," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump ended a visit to Tehran's arch-foe Saudi Arabia where arms deals worth almost $110 billion were signed. Sending a tough message to Tehran shortly after pragmatist Hassan Rouhani was re-elected president, Trump had urged Arab and Islamic leaders to unite to defeat Islamist militants, and said Iran had for decades "fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terrors".

The landslide re-election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatens to put the Trump administration on a collision course with Europe over future policy toward Tehran. European officials hailed the news of Mr. Rouhani's win as heralding a more moderate path for Iran over the next four years. But President Donald Trump, speaking to Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, sought to rally the international community behind a new campaign to push back Iran's influence in the Middle East. Indeed, Mr. Trump signaled a significant hardening of the U.S. position toward Iran, suggesting only the removal of its theocratic leadership could stabilize the region. "Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran...and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve," Mr. Trump said.

Saturday night, Iranians poured into the streets by the hundreds of thousands to celebrate the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, whose message of opening up to the West helped him to trounce a hard-line challenger. On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on the world to isolate Iran. Nothing could better highlight the challenge the pragmatic Iranian cleric faces in his second term. Trump's uncompromising line on Iran was enthusiastically welcomed by his Sunni hosts, Iran's bitter regional rival Saudi Arabia. On Sunday, Saudi King Salman described the Shiite regime in Iran as "the spearhead of global terrorism.'' Trump appeared to agree.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for sealing an arms deal and other investments worth hundreds of billions of dollars with Saudi Arabia, Tehran's arch-rival in the Middle East. Zarif's comments came hours after Trump, who is visiting Saudi Arabia, urged Arab and Islamic leaders to unite and defeat Islamist extremists. Trump singled out Iran as a key sponsor of militant groups, sending a tough message to Tehran the day after Hassan Rouhani won a second term as Iran's president.  "Iran - fresh from real elections - attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation. Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?," Zarif wrote in a Twitter post, referring to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday in Saudi Arabia that the focal point of President Trump's visit to the Gulf nation is to curb the threat of neighboring Iran, while putting much of the burden on recently reelected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "Rouhani has a new term," Tillerson said at a press conference in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. "And he could use that term to dismantle a network of terrorism. ... That's what we hope he does." Tillerson, well known in Saudi Arabia for his visits as ExxonMobil's chief executive, said the United States also hopes Rouhani puts an end to ballistic missile testing and restores freedom of speech in his country.

Donald Trump has launched a fierce attack on Iran, just a day after the country re-elected its moderate president on a platform of re-engagement with the outside world. Speaking to an audience of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, the US president singled out Tehran for fuelling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror" as he called on Gulf nations to "drive out terrorists and extremists". Mr Trump's stance contrasts starkly with that of his predecessor Barack Obama, who two years ago struck a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and whose administration had a strained relationship with Tehran's Sunni rivals in the Gulf. During a trip that has sought to bolster ties with Arab countries - and step up arms sales - Mr Trump called the fight against terrorism a "battle between good and evil".


The United States said on Friday it believed forces in a convoy targeted by U.S. military aircraft in southern Syria on Thursday were Iranian-directed, in a possible sign of increased tension between Washington and Tehran in the Syrian war. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. strike was defensive in nature. It was condemned by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has the backing of Iran and Russia. A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces told Reuters on Thursday the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian-backed militias and was headed toward the garrison in Syria used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces around the town of At Tanf. The United States determined that the convoy posed a threat.


A senior United Arab Emirates official said on Sunday the re-election of moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could be a chance for Tehran to reset "its troubled relations" with its neighbors. Relations between Gulf Arab states, including the UAE, have been strained over fears that Tehran was interfering in their affairs, including in Syria and Yemen, fomenting unrest and sectarian tensions. Tehran denies these allegations.  Rouhani beat his main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, in presidential election on Friday, garnering more than 57 percent of the vote. It was not immediately clear if the comments by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash reflected any change in Arab states' views of Iran. U.S. President Donald Trump's criticism of Tehran was well received at a summit of Arab and Islamic leaders with him in Riyadh on Sunday.

The yawning gap between Tehran and Washington has grown even wider with US President Donald Trump's latest efforts to isolate Iran, which accused the United States of "milking" Saudi Arabia for petro-dollars. Trump's choice of Saudi Arabia, Iran's bitter regional rival, for his first official foreign visit reflects the deep antagonism of his administration towards the Islamic republic. The US president signed a giant list of deals, worth a total of $380 billion, including $110 billion for weapons that will invariably find their way into the numerous conflicts of the region - including Syria, Yemen and Iraq - where Riyadh and Tehran often find themselves on opposing sides. Trump also vilified Iran as the greatest source of instability in the Middle East, though many observers noted the irony that his claims came on the same day that 41 million Iranians enthusiastically took part in elections, with a sizeable majority backing President Hassan Rouhani and his policy of engagement with the world.


Iran's ruling powers represent the "tip of the spear" of global terrorism, Saudi King Salman said in a speech on Sunday during a visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to the kingdom. "Our responsibility before God and our people and the whole world is to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism wherever they are ... The Iranian regime represents the tip of the spear of global terrorism." The king also said in a televised speech that Saudi Arabia would not be lenient in trying anyone who finances terrorism. "We will never be lenient in trying anyone who finances terrorism, in any way or means, to the full force of the law."


Iranians yearning for detente abroad and greater freedoms at home have handed President Hassan Rouhani a second term, but the hard-line forces he defeated in elections Friday will remain defiantly opposed to his plans. Rouhani built his resounding win in Friday's presidential election by promising more economic opportunities for Iran's youth, as well as social justice, individual freedoms and political tolerance. He also picked a rare public fight with hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, angrily criticizing their favorite in the race, Ebrahim Raisi, a judge seen by reformists as representing the security state at its most fearsome. The Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), the country's most powerful security force, is unlikely to forget his attacks, which played to widespread frustration with a state that controls how Iranians speak, gather and dress.

A decisive re-election win for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is likely to fuel his push for foreign investment and better relations with the West, but it will also likely mobilize conservative forces that have resisted rapprochement and advocate domestic development. Mr. Rouhani has called for more foreign investment and trade as part of his plans to ease unemployment and raise living standards. And he has pledged to continue efforts to get sanctions on Iran lifted, as some were under the 2015 deal with six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Yet going down that path could lead Mr. Rouhani, who captured 57% of the vote in Friday's election, into confrontation with some of Iran's most powerful interests, concentrated around Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in most matters of state.

Iranian hardliners indignant at President Hassan Rouhani's re-election vowed on Sunday to press their conservative agenda, with some saying his caustic campaign trail attacks on their candidate would bring a backlash. Rouhani won decisively with 57 percent of the vote on Friday, with promises of more engagement with the outside world, more economic opportunities for Iran's youth, as well as social justice, individual freedoms and political tolerance. The president, known for decades as a conciliatory figure, remade himself on the campaign trail as a reformist political street fighter, accusing hardliners of brutality and corruption in language that frequently strained at the boundaries of what is permitted in Iran. At one point, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called rhetoric in a TV debate "unworthy".

Iranians came out in force to dance in the streets this weekend, breaking Islamic rules, to celebrate the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani by a large margin. Emboldened by the election results, others gathered in the capital, Tehran, to begin demanding what they hope a second term for Mr. Rouhani will bring: the release of opposition figures, more freedom of thought and fewer restrictions on daily life. Mr. Rouhani's supporters also expect the victory to bolster his outreach efforts to the West and the pursuit of more foreign investment in Iran's ailing economy. His win, with 57 percent of the vote, came the same weekend that President Trump was meeting with Saudi and other Arab leaders to discuss, in part, a strengthened alliance against Iran.

Candidates backing reform of Iran's clerically overseen government swept municipal elections in Tehran, taking all 21 local council seats in the country's capital while moderate President Hassan Rouhani won a second term in office, authorities said on Monday. Their win in Friday's election marks the first time reformists have gained total control of Tehran's municipal council since such votes began in the Islamic Republic in 1999. Iranian media also reported similar big gains for reformists in other major cities. While their powers are limited to local affairs, the councils represent direct control of governance by Iran's 80 million people. Having reformists take control signals a groundswell of support for slowly changing the way government works in Iran, while also reflects growing discontent with the country's hard-liners.

Iran's defeated hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi denounced numerous "violations" in the conduct of Friday's election that saw the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani, and called for an investigation.In a letter to the Guardian Council, which oversees elections, Raisi called for "the investigation of certain violations committed before and during the election", according to the Fars news agency. It said Raisi, a 56-year-old jurist and cleric, had sent hundreds of pages of documents supporting his allegations. "I cannot keep quiet in the face of the injustice committed against the rights of people," he said in his letter.


President Trump made a bold move by including Israel and Saudi Arabia on his first international visit. His predecessors, dating back to President Ford, chose the safer political confines of Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom when making their first international jaunts. By selecting Israel and Saudi Arabia, the trip not only symbolizes a chance to reset relations with these countries after a rupture over the Iran nuclear deal; it also shows America's allies and the rest of the world that Trump's administration is serious about confronting the extremist forces that threaten the region. While there are a wide variety of issues expected to be discussed when the president sits down with his counterparts, there are three in particular that should be at the top of his agenda: Hamas' rapprochement with Iran, Hezbollah's war drums, and bolstering relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Hassan Rouhani, the newly re-elected president of Iran, is a creature of the Islamic Republic's establishment, an apparatchik with much guile and little imagination. And yet Rouhani's subversive political campaign may do lasting damage to the Islamic Republic In the process of reclaiming his office, he shed light on the regime's dark past and made fantastic promises that he has neither the ability nor the intention of keeping. Rouhani's campaign alienated the regime's powerbrokers and his tenure will inevitably disillusion his constituents. The Rouhani presidency will once more remind the Iranian people that the theocratic state cannot reform itself.

In the days before President Hassan Rouhani's re-election victory in Iran this weekend, a video of one of his old speeches circulated on social media. Speaking at Iran's parliament, Rouhani says dissidents against the new regime should be publicly hanged during Friday prayers as a message. Rouhani was a younger man in this speech, in his early 40s. The revolution was also young. And many Iranian leaders of that era have taken the journey from revolution to reform. The reason Rouhani's speech though is so relevant to Iran today is because, in public at least, the president of Iran has changed his tune. During his campaign, he told voters that he would be a "lawyer" defending their rights. He criticized his main rival, Ebrahim Raisi, for his role in ordering the executions of political dissidents. He promised gender equality and a freer press.

Iran's elections do matter. The president determines the direction the country will take in the four years that follow. He sets economic policy and manages relations with the different factions in Tehran, which has considerable impact on how much freedom Iranians will experience in their daily lives. But why should that matter to those watching from outside Iran? In Iran, the president's mandate is limited But his relationship with the supreme leader, and his ability to play the political game and balance between the different factions in Tehran, potentially give him considerable influence in areas that are traditionally outside his mandate. President Hassan Rouhani demonstrated that he had Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's ear during the nuclear negotiations. And as a regime insider, he was adept at balancing the interests of competing groups within the system even when they were slinging mud at him.

A few weeks ago when the government in Tehran dispatched a team of journalists to Syria the idea was that they would report on "the historic victory" achieved by the Islamic Republic, Russia and their protégé Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo. For more than six years, that is to say since Iran threw its weight behind Assad's beleaguered regime in Damascus, this kind of journalistic missions had been routine.  The mission pursued two major gals. The first was to reassure the Iranian public about the Syrian adventurer by creating the impression that the side backed by Tehran was wining. The second was to tell part of the Syrian population that is still under the control of Assad that his regime was not as isolated as it appeared. The journalistic mission would visit a number of locations and film its comings and goings for screening on television channels in Tehran and Damascus. There would be reports about deeds of derring-do by Iranian "volunteers" and their companions from the Lebanese "Hezbollah," and, more recently, Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries.

Despite President Trump's reluctance to get deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, the United States now finds itself in the middle of an escalating battle in the country's south that last week led to a clash between the U.S. military and Iranian-backed pro-government forces. If he can seize the opportunity, Trump could deal a blow to Iranian regional influence and help save Syria in the process. To hear the Trump administration tell it, the coalition airstrike May 18near the al-Tanf base on Syria's border with Jordan and Iraq was a one-off event. A statement from U.S. Central Command said that "pro-regime forces" had crossed into an "established de-confliction zone," posing a threat to opposition forces and the U.S. troops who are training them.

President Trump visited Saudi Arabia on his first trip abroad this weekend even as Iran re-elected Hassan Rouhani in a sham presidential vote. The timing may have been coincidental but the symbolism is potent. Mr. Trump is reviving the traditional U.S. alliance with the Sunni Arab states even as Tehran reaffirms its intentions to dominate the Middle East. The timing comes full circle from the start of Barack Obama's eight-year tilt toward Iran. That tilt began with Mr. Obama's silence as Iranian leaders stole the 2009 presidential election while arresting and killing democratic protesters. He then spent two terms courting Iran in pursuit of his nuclear deal while downgrading relations with the Gulf Arabs, Israel and Egypt. Mr. Trump's weekend meetings and Sunday speech show he is reversing that tilt as he tries to revive U.S. alliances and credibility in the Middle East.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment