Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

A New Iran, A New Middle East

By Usamah AndrabiPublished October 11, 2013

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Although President Hassan Rouhani is a leader who may not be as well-known to Americans as his infamous predecessor, the moderate who replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the President of Iran is a more American-friendly leader than the public could ever imagine for the country.
Although President Hassan Rouhani is a leader who may not be as well-known to Americans as his infamous predecessor, the moderate who replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the President of Iran is a more American-friendly leader than the public could ever imagine for the country. For the first time since the American-backed Shah Mohammad Pahlavi, an Iranian leader may even meet the leader of the free world.

President Hassan Rouhani won the fierce competition to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June. Immediately, Rouhani has made strides to better the possibility of an existent  relationship between Iran and the United States of America. This more productive relationship stems from Rouhani's various attempts to  reconcile both domestic and international differences.

In a possible deal with international powers, Rouhani has agreed to close down the possibly integral nuclear plant Fordo in exchange for international powers lifting economic sanctions. Rouhani seems convinced that the domestic care-taking of his country comes as a priority to creating international conflict, something Western powers should take as relevant advice.

The new moderate president has already planned to pass a "civil rights charter" to ensure a more equal Iranian society and hopes it will mitigate "discrimination" in the country. Iranian human rights have long been compromised by an oppressive conservative government.  Minority populations are arrested in hoards in Iran including many Baha'i and Christians and are often "barred" from "jobs" and going to college.

Critics of the new moderate president have questioned the legitimacy of his intentions, fearing Rouhani's comments were empty promises. However, opposition groups should not be so quick to start accusing the leader of foul play.

Iran has taken more steps towards increasing civil liberties through Rouhani's comments than during Ahmadinejad's entire presidency. Rouhani has additionally spoken against internet regulations and gender inequality during his campaign, comments which in it of themselves are monumental progress for the country.

Rouhani's incessant talk of expanding freedoms in Iran characterize someone with a legitimate intention to further human rights and reform the country for the better. This progressive move is a positive move towards stability for the entirety of the Middle East. If the once volatile Iran can decrease domestic oppression while simultaneously improving relations with Western countries, then other once turbulent Arab countries may follow suit.

Despite such domestic strides, the Iranian-Israeli relationship does not seem to be improving as quickly as the Iranian-American relationship. In a recent NBC News interview, President Rouhani came out alleging Israel as a source of "instability" in the region, acting as an "occupier" oppressing Arab people.

Few of Rouhani's comments about Israel can actually be challenged, because Israel has clearly committed numerous human rights violations in Palestine.   Nevertheless, Iran has not made any attempt to frame Israel positively. Iran has repeated their assertion that they seek to secure peace in the Middle East and do not plan to pursue nuclear weapons.

It seems that American media and war hawks must find another collective 'American' enemy as Rouhani is slowly attempting to reconcile a long-overdue Iranian-American relationship. Iran's proposed new ideology is a necessary shift in power for the future of the Middle East that should be followed by a shift towards a similarly less-antagonistic leader of its enemy, Israel. However, having that much confidence in a possibly stable Middle East is knowingly foolish. This shift towards the center is a step in the right direction, domestically and internationally for Iran.