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Iran's next challenges

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Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran.
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NORMAN, Okla. – After the recent re-election of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for a second mandate, Red Dirt Report has interviewed three Iranian experts on the matter for a better understanding of Iran’s situation.

Mateo Mohammad Farzaneh, a Professor of Iranian History at Northeastern Illinois University, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, an Iranian policymaker and scholar who served on Iran’s nuclear diplomacy team, and Kaveh Afrasiabi, an Iranian-American political scientist.

International policies

Mousavian rejects the accusations of Pres. Donald Trump that Iran supports terrorism in the Middle East, arguing that they are both fighting the same enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same two countries have accused Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, respectively, of sponsoring terrorism.

“You remember that former US Vice President Joe Biden blamed Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, all the US allies in fomenting instability,” Mousavian said.

Mousavian also disagrees on the supposed threat of Iranian military power saying, “Saudi Arabia’s, Israel’s and other Persian Gulf Arab countries’, while its population is greater than all of them combined.”

Mousavian added the recent $300 billion military equipment deal signed between the US and Saudi Arabia represent a bigger threat to the Middle East.

For Mousavian the success of the "Nuclear Deal" is proof that Iran is looking for stability in the region, but the continuous increase of sanctions by the US, through various excuses including violation of human rights and sponsorship of terrorism, could undermine the previous effort.

“The Iranian nuclear deal is the most powerful and comprehensive agreement during the history of nonproliferation,” Mousavian said.

Economic situation still fragile

The actual Iranian market that is today too dependent on the oil sector, which is not able to provide enough job to the numerous young population coming each year on the market. Afrasiabi believes the best way to decrease unemployment is to prioritize its resources and attract more investors into Iran.

“There is to be a delicate balance of protecting domestic products while at the same time continuing a new liberal approach,” Afrasiabi said, adding besides job creation continuing to keep inflation low is important.

However, Farzaneh believes Iran's economic situation will mostly depend on the improvement (or not) of the relation between Iran and the Persian Gulf Arab countries.

“If they don’t change their way it is going to be very difficult to get more investment in Iran,” Farzaneh said, noting Trump’s administration is also a problem for Iran’s economy.

Afrasiabi said the few economic contributions of the Nuclear Deal into the Iranian economy due mostly to the US, has motivated the Iranian government to start looking east. A view reinforced by the new project of Silk Road by China that will pass through Iran.

But the breath of fresh air could come from tourism that has greatly increased during the last few years, with more tourists coming from the West.

“You could see the tourists all other the place in Isfahan and also in Teheran and at the airport,” Farzaneh said. “It would affect a lot of people.”

Personal freedom and human rights in progress

Concerning the high rate of the death penalty (almost 1,000 executions in 2015 according to Iran Human Rights), due mostly to the war on drugs, Afrasiabi said Rouhani has no real power on the judiciary system.

Both Farzaneh and Afrasiabi are optimistic of the increases in personal freedom, particularly women's rights. Afrasiabi sees the result of the local election such as in Teheran where the moderates have won the mayor seat toward the conservatives as a positive sign.

“We have all the reasons to be optimistic,” Afrasiabi said.

Farzaneh, who just came back from a three-month sojourn in Iran, observed that less pressure was put on women’s dress.

“It is going to be little by little,” Farzaneh said. “It is a long, long process.”

Attacks in Teheran

Farzaneh said the recent attacks that killed 17 people on June 7 has weakened the image of Rouhani in Iran, prompting the conservatives, especially the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to openly criticize Rouhani’s governance.

“They keep challenging each other's authority,” Farzaneh said.

Rouhani unlikely to be the next Supreme Leader

Both Farzaneh and Afrasiabi believe it is too early to say if Rouhani can become the next Supreme Leader in the case of death of the actual Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei aged 77 years old. Farzaneh said the Revolution Guard will mostly be opposed to Rouhani candidacy as Supreme Leader.

“I am very skeptical that Rouhani will be the next Supreme Leader of Iran,” Afrasiabi said, adding the future Supreme Leader needs to have some religious credits rather than political.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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