Ali Vaez writes: The inauguration of Hassan Rouhani on Saturday as president of Iran for a second term may be a bittersweet moment for him.
He appears at once stronger and weaker: His 19-point margin of victory in May after a bruising campaign against hard-line opponents surely increased his confidence. Yet, perhaps for that very reason, the conservative establishment, led by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is trying to stymie his efforts to translate his electoral mandate into policies aimed at opening Iran economically and politically. This augurs trying times, made more difficult by the belligerent stance of President Trump toward Iran.
History suggests that Mr. Rouhani has reason for concern. All his predecessors over the past three decades suffered gradual obsolescence in their second terms. Without the option of a consecutive third term, they all followed the same script: an initial forceful push of their agenda, followed by a clash with the Iranian system’s custodians and the frustration of becoming premature lame ducks.
In some ways, though, 2017 seems different. This is no ordinary moment in Iran’s history. The men who led the revolution to victory in 1979 are dying off, and Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 78, has suggested that he may soon need a successor. Two competing visions are vying for the Islamic Republic’s future: that of the principlists, who seek to preserve its revolutionary nature, and that of the more pragmatic elements, who want the revolution to mellow. [Continue reading…]