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The challenges ahead for Iran’s new President | www.sipri.org

The election of cleric Hassan Rouhani as the seventh president of the Islamic Republic of Iran confirmed both the unpredictability and the enduring adaptability of Iran’s political landscape. Rouhani, who will be officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 3 August, faces a number of immediate challenges, including bridging the gap between Iran’s political factions and addressing the impact of sanctions.

The return of pragmatism?

After eight years under the hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it would seem that the votes of those Iranians who preferred a more moderate leader and an end to the country’s international isolation were recognized by the Iranian Government.

Based on his background and connections, Rouhani seems to be in a stronger position to engage more constructively than Ahmadinejad and has the potential to endorse dialogue with the international community on Iran’s nuclear programme, increase pragmatic engagement with countries in the region and pursue cooperation with the United States on converging interests such as security in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet, existing conservative political coalitions in the Iranian leadership remain divided and highly factionalized and it is not clear how much traction Rouhani can expect for a more cooperative approach to engagement with Western countries, in particular the USA, or in dealing with the economic problems and future direction of the Islamic Republic that were likely prime drivers for voters.

For more on this story, visit: 29 July 2013: The challenges ahead for Iran’s new President — www.sipri.org.

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