Akbar Ganji writes: Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s president in June 2013 based on his promise of reaching a nuclear agreement and improving the relations with the West. He delivered on his promise, and in the process a close working relationship developed between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry. The two diplomats have been discussing various issues, including the cease-fire in Syria. On March 6, President Rouhani said, “We can authorize our negotiation team to discuss other issues [with the West] in the world [that are of mutual interest]. We are sure that we will reach agreement similar to the nuclear negotiations.”
The Iranian people support these efforts and wish for improved relations with the United States. Under the leadership of former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as well as Rouhani, Iran’s reformists and moderates want to pursue such goals. Leaders of the Green Movement who are under house arrest, namely former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi also support the policy of détente with the West.
Since the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was signed in July 2015, the main problem in Iran has been national reconciliation. In other words, just as Iran and the P5+1 resolved their long-held and difficult differences diplomatically, Iranians from all walks of life also want to resolve the issues that are dividing their nation. Iranians call the nuclear agreement Barjam, the Farsi acronym for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The reformists and moderates are now talking about the second Barjam, or Barjam 2, which they hope will lead to the release of all political prisoners, an end to the house arrest of the Green Movement’s leaders, freedom for political parties, independence for the universities and colleges and the resolution of other important issues.
These were also Rouhani’s promises during his campaign for the presidency, which have been opposed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who favors controlling cultural affairs as well as the universities. [Continue reading…]