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What Hassan Rouhani's Bad Bargain Means for Iran, and the West

Author: Ray Takeyh, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies
April 29, 2014
Los Angeles Times


The tragedy of Iran is that it may not be able to reach an agreement over its nuclear program even when it knows it needs one. The Islamic Republic's political class knows its hold on power depends on sustained economic growth, and that in turn requires a resolution of the nuclear issue. But the men who rule Iran still want the leverage of nuclear power.

The Islamic Republic was thought to be different this time around. The world was hopeful that the presidential election of 2013 would put to rest the sham of the 2009 election. After all, in this telling, the forces of moderation that were denied the presidency finally reclaimed the office when Hassan Rouhani was elected to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The system had managed to rehabilitate itself and regain a measure of its credibility. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, proved his flexibility and thus managed to preserve his teetering republic.

But this view ignores the lasting effects of the fraudulent 2009 election. Once millions of Iranians poured into the streets claiming that Ahmadinejad had stolen the election, the right and center political factions closed ranks. The challenge to the system came as much from the protesters as it did from leftist reformers, many of whom chose to separate themselves from the government. The repression that followed was swift, and the reformers excised from the body politic. The prisons are still filled with those who have chosen to "live in truth" rather than join the lie.

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