Hassan Rowhani’s second term and the US elections

The US presidential elections hold immense significance not just for the Americans but for people all over the world. With so much trouble in our region, the crisis in Syria, and the ongoing fight against a terror outfit such as ISIS, people in the Middle East have a genuine interest in the elections this year. This also applies to the Iranians.

A year after the implementation of the nuclear agreement, which has immensely benefited Iran, the country still needs to work with the United Sates regardless of the routine anti-US rhetoric of the political leaders in Tehran. Fully aware that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump would pursue the same soft approach toward Iran as President Obama did, it seems that precautionary measures are already being put in place.

President Hassan Rowhani, who is a moderate and even semi-conservative to a degree, appears best suited to tackle this situation. He has done his best to open up to the West in order to settle a decade-dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Rowhani succeeded in getting the deal and in improving the economy to some extent. However, there is still a long way to go on the economy and ensuring that the benefits of the nuclear agreement reaches most Iranians.

It is possible that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, doesn’t care whether the benefits of nuclear deal are tangible or not but he definitely cares about his legacy and the future of the Islamic Republic. Perhaps, despite his personal wish of a conservative government replacing Rowhani, the way the US elections are shaping is telling Khamenei to prepare for a cold winter.

There have even been speculations that Hassan Rowhani may become the first president in the Islamic Republic not to serve a second term. Rowhani’s chances had diminished because of his government’s questionable performance in dealing with the West, particularly with the United Sates. But then his lucky stars became bright again. Iran’s Supreme Leader realized that it is more beneficial for Hassan Rowhani to remain in power despite the disagreements between the two.

Khamenei hasn’t shied away from admitting publicly that he wants to avoid emergence of two power centers even as the ground is prepared for Rowhani’s easy victory in May 2017

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Preparing the ground

In order to prevent the rise of any popular candidate, who could jeopardize Rowhani’s reelection or cause public excitement, Khamenei acted promptly to save Rowhani from any such potential threats. This was the case with the former president Mahmoud Ahamdinejad when he was advised to stay away from the next presidential race for the sake of the nation.

Khamenei hasn’t shied away from admitting publicly that he wants to avoid emergence of two power centers even as the ground is prepared for Rowhani’s easy victory in May 2017.

Perhaps Ayatollah Khamenei anticipated clashes between Ahmadinejad supporters and his opponents bringing back the memory of the 2009 election, which divided the nation into two camps. This was a major embarrassment for the Islamic Republic and also proved to be damaging.

It was a questionable election which ended with the house arrest of opposition leaders such as Mehdi Karobi and Mir-Hussain Mousavi. The several deaths and imprisonment led to widespread unrest. It took years for that pain to heal.Rowhani’s performance may not be totally approved by the public or the conservative leadership but he continues to be the best option, especially considering the way the US presidential elections are going.

Most potential competitors are announcing, one after another, that they are not interested in running for elections. First it was Commander Qasim Solimani, the leader of the Quds Force, who put an end to rumor about his candidacy.

Ahmadinejad’s name was ruled out by the Supreme Leader himself and then Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the Parliament, announced that he wouldn’t run for the election. With no major challenger for Rowhani, the ground has been prepared by for his smooth and easy re-election.

The goal is to counter a possible threat that may come from the United Sates’ next president and Hassan Rowhani has the skill and the ability to manage it alongside his foreign minister who happens to be popular in Western countries.

It may not be constitutional for the Supreme Leader to decide who enters into the presidential race or not, but it gives us a sense that despite Khamenei’s public anti-US sentiment, he doesn’t want to ruin the achievements made by Rowhani.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.