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New Man for Iran
Cover Stories Series 2013> New Man for Iran
UPDATED: August 12, 2013 NO. 33 AUGUST 15, 2013
The Rouhani Era
Iran's new president promises to lift struggling economy and improve ties with the outside world
By Yu Lintao

Rouhani, who has served as Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, was considered a shrewd and pragmatic negotiator over the country's nuclear issue with the West. During his term as Iran's top nuclear negotiator in 2003, Iran agreed to suspend its controversial enrichment of uranium. Criticized by some conservative hardliners as a compromising diplomat, Rouhani insisted that "we must have our nuclear program, but not at the cost of great suffering."

Two days after he was sworn in, Rouhani said to reporters that "we are ready to enter negotiations [with the world powers] seriously and without losing time," insisting that he will not negotiate on what he referred to as "the nuclear rights" of his nation.

After the inauguration of the new president, Washington reached out to Tehran. White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement that, "Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to [Iran's nuclear program], it will find a willing partner in the United States."

However, it seems the United States is playing a double-sided game. Just days before Rouhani's entry into office, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill imposing fresh sanctions on Iran's energy sector and put Iran's new presidency into a further quandary.

Although Rouhani said in his inauguration speech that dialogue is the proper way to settle the issues between Iran and the West, he stressed Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power and nuclear enrichment.

Wang said it is unlikely any big breakthroughs on the nuclear issue will be made in the short run. "The nuclear program concerns the security of the current Iranian regime, to which the United States is very hostile."

Many observers, including Hua, believe that Iran's supreme leader has the final say in formulating the country's foreign policy and its pursuit of nuclear power.

Though Rouhani describes his policy as moderate and pragmatic, and could bring certain changes to Tehran's relations with Washington, the fundamental stance of Iran's foreign policy will change little, said Hua.

More open to the outside

For the first time in the history of the Islamic republic since 1979, representatives including state leaders from about 55 countries were invited to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iran's newly elected president.

Iran's gesture aimed to show the world both the internal solidarity of the country and its openness to the outside, noted Hua.

In his inaugural speech, Rouhani alluded to Iran's problematic relations with the West and spoke of building mutual trust. "Transparency is the key to opening a new chapter in mutual trust," said the new president. "And the transparency we are talking about cannot be one-way," he added.

Wang noted that, unlike his predecessor Ahmadinejad, the new president would adopt a slightly moderate attitude toward Israel.

"The tough talk of former Iranian President Ahmadinejad over Israel aimed to draw support from the Islamic world, but actually failed to bring Iran any practical benefits. Rouhani seems to take a comparably moderate stance toward Israel," Wang said.

Indeed, Rouhani has been openly critical of the outgoing president, saying President Ahmadinejad's "careless, uncalculated and unstudied remarks" have cost the country dearly.

Both Wang and Hua also believe that China and Iran would keep a stable and friendly relationship under the administration of the new Iranian president.

"China is committed to developing a friendly relationship and conducting mutually beneficial cooperation with all countries," said Wang. "President Rouhani is very pragmatic; he will undoubtedly continue to develop good relations with China."

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

Rouhani's Profile

1948: Born in Sorkheh in northern Iran; began studying religion from an early age

1973: Received a bachelor's degree in judicial law from the University of Tehran, and a master's degree in public law and a PhD from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland in 1995 and 1999, respectively

1979-June 2013: Held multiple positions, including secretary and representative of the Supreme National Security Council, member of the Assembly of Experts, member of the Expediency Discernment Council, president of the Center for Strategic Research, and multiple roles in parliament

June 15, 2013: Declared the winner of Iran's 11th presidential election

(Source: Chinese Academy of Press and Publications)

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