Arash Aramesh
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on : Sunday, 30 Jun, 2013
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Between Two Fires

Rouhani walks a tightrope between reformists and conservatives, Obama between neo-cons and leftists

SAFFRON blog: A highly prized spice native to Iran, historically used in ancient Persia to medicate, dye, weave, and beautify. Today it gives Iranian cuisine its distinctive yellow pigment. ‘Saffron’ flavors the discussion of all things Iranian.

Iranian women hold an anti-US sign, bearing a cartoon of US President Barack Obama, outside the former US embassy in Tehran on November 2, 2012, during a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of seizure of the US embassy. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian women hold an anti-US sign, bearing a cartoon of US President Barack Obama, outside the former US embassy in Tehran on November 2, 2012, during a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of seizure of the US embassy. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

In his first press conference as president-elect, Hassan Rouhani said that he did not intend to use a “sickle” to weed out his rivals. Instead, he was going to bring a “key” to solve the country’s problems. Yes, the Iranian people elected Rouhani with the hope that this seasoned politician could fix the country’s ailing economy, end Iran’s diplomatic isolation, and even ward off possible military strikes. At this early stage, ability to achieve Rouhani’s success in these goal is, of course, not clear. In the meantime, many among interests groups and ideologues in the US that concern themselves with all things Iranian have already made up their mind, and their analysis is colored with by their existing prejudices and agendas. From the far right to the radical left, they all would like to blame Iran’s successes and failures on President Barack Obama!

The neoconservatives in the US dismiss Rouhani’s victory and claim that nothing has changed in Iran. In fact, some even go as far as to attribute Rouhani’s victory to a well-orchestrated plan by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to bring to power a moderate who can help lift some of the sanctions on Iran, while continuing to enrich uranium at the same time. They have criticized President Obama’s efforts to reach out to Iran, and believe that finding a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear dossier is wasting time while the clock is ticking. One does not have to dig to deep on the pages of the analysis offered by the American Enterprise Institute, or watch a few minutes of FOX News to see it.

On the other hand, anti-war liberals and certain interest groups in the US have applauded Rouhani’s victory as if Iran has found its Nelson Mandela, and assert that the United States is now obligated to reach out to Iran and extend an olive branch. Like their neocon foes, they have consistently criticized President Obama’s policy towards Iran—when reaching out to Tehran’s leaders failed, the president formed an international coalition and imposed unprecedented sanctions on the Islamic regime. This crowd, mainly represented by interest groups such as the National Iranian American Council, purposefully fails to acknowledge the Iranian government’s role in bringing about such backbreaking sanctions, and goes out of its way to blame the United States for the humanitarian crisis that such sanctions can cause. Sadly, this crowd has learned a thing or two from the neocon propaganda manual—they have learned how to make up facts and fabricate numbers as it serves their message.

The former fails to recognize the risks involved in attacking Iran and bringing about regime change through brute force, while the latter expects the West, and the US in particular, to bend over backwards and to negotiate with a regime that has killed thousands of its own citizens, is actively waging war in Syria, and has become the largest patron of global terrorism. And I almost forgot: it is secretly pursuing nuclear capabilities.

It is not clear how President Obama is going to deal with a Rouhani administration. And it is even less clear whether Rouhani will have any real power to reach out to the West or to implement meaningful reforms. After all, the supreme leader and his allies in the military/security complex comprise an unrivaled powerhouse in Iran. But what is clear is that the Americans can neither invade Iran, nor can they bestow gold upon its leaders. Talks will take place when the time is ripe, and pressure on Iran will continue as Iran refuses to adhere to the demands of the international community. In the meantime, regardless of what happens, and no matter who is at fault, you can bet that the far right and the radical left will not fail to blame their favorite target: President Obama.

Arash Aramesh

Arash Aramesh

Arash Aramesh is a national security analyst and Juris Doctor candidate at Stanford Law School. He has been published in the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times online, the Huffington Post and the Diplomatic Courier, among others. His can be found on Twitter at @ArameshArash

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