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What Will Iranís New President Do? His Memoir Offers Clues

Author: Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
July 7, 2013
Washington Post

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For Western officials trying to determine what kind of leader they'll face in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, his thoughtful 2011 memoir reveals much about the man who will lead the Islamic republic.

Published in Iran and available only in Persian, the book covers Rouhani's time as the country's chief negotiator on nuclear policy, from 2003 to 2005. The man who jumps out of these pages is an establishment figure with a deep commitment to the Islamic republic and its nuclear aspirations, a man who will beguile the West and preserve as much advantage as possible for Iran.

Historians often suggest that Iran's clerical regime resurrected the shah'satomic infrastructure after Iraq invaded the country in 1980. In this telling, deterrence and self-defense are at the core of the Iranian nuclear calculus. But Rouhani says the revolutionaries' attraction to nuclear science actually began when they were still lingering in exile. In 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his disciples appeared certain to assume power, an Iranian scientific delegation journeyed to Paris and implored the aging mullah to scrap the nuclear program, which was exorbitant and inefficient. The cagy Khomeini ignored such pleas. A year before Saddam Hussein's armies attacked Iran, Khomeini had decided to preserve his nuclear inheritance.

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