Stephen Kinzer writes: The election of Hassan Rouhani, who will be inaugurated today as Iran’s seventh president, opens intriguing possibilities. Since 2005, the world has known an Iranian president who spoke the language of provocation and seemed to delight in keeping his country isolated. That is about to change.
Finding a way to bring Iran back into the world’s mainstream will be Rouhani’s principal challenge. His power is limited, though in the fluid world of Iranian politics, he is likely to accumulate more. His adversaries, most notably supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and the United States, ridicule him as a puppet of repressive mullahs.
In public statements following his election, Rouhani has spoken in terms far more conciliatory than those his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, liked to use. He has pledged to walk more on the path of transparency and boost mutual trust between Iran and other countries.
President Obama told an interviewer in reply that he was open to “a whole range of measures” if Iran would “show the international community that you’re abiding by international treaties and obligations, that you’re not developing a nuclear weapon.”
That was an encouraging exchange, but far more will be required to thaw an icy relationship that has been disfigured by passionate emotions. [Continue reading…]