There is no longer a reason to keep the two reformist leaders Mir Housain Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi under house arrest.
In a very smooth and ostensibly democratic manner, the newly elected president Hassan Rowhani will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within 47 days and the process, as well as the Supreme Leader’s nightmare, is over. The continuation of Mousavi and Karoubi’s house arrest will no longer be necessary with the presence of the newly elected semi-reformist president.
Furthermore, Ahmadinejad’s government will soon leave office and there will no longer be any more reason to hold their actions hostage since the questionable government will be gone.
The release of Mousavi and Karoubi at the beginning of Rowhani’s presidency will lift his image not only in the public sphere, but also among the international community. Of course he can’t lift a finger if the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, disagrees and doesn’t approve. Still there is long way for Rowhani to go to solve many internal and international issues if the Supreme Leader agrees.
Rowhani’s next moves
First and foremost is the economy, which will test whether his campaign promises of economic reform prove true. Being willing to tackle the economy and lift sanctions will require him to meet the P5+1 and the United States.
Will he be able to meet the parties and use his strong diplomatic skills to convince them to lift at least part of the sanctions in the beginning of the negotiations?
Of course sanctions will not be lifted simply because Rowhani was elected with 18 million votes, or because he spoke of improving relations with the international community. The international community needs to see action.
Perhaps the P5+1 will wait to meet the next president of Iran and his representative in order to gauge the extent of which he is able to hold out an olive branch. Nuclear negotiations and Iran’s readiness to take initiative to solve existing problems will be key to helping the EU members lift the sanctions.
When Rowhani speaks of changes and new diplomatic approaches toward Iran’s neighbors, the international community and the nuclear file, does that mean he is confident of his power and the support he expects from Ayatollah Khamenei?
As much as Iranians are waiting to hear and see changes that will improve their lives, the international community has been waiting for their relations’ improvement with Iran.
Of course the role of the president is important in that he chooses the head of the National Security Council and this person automatically will lead the nuclear negotiations too. Saeed Jalili, the current nuclear chief negotiator, who failed to pursue successful negotiations, was appointed by Ahmadinejad. Jalili replaced Ali Larijani in 2006 when Larijani resigned after being unable to work with the president. But it remains unclear whether Ahmadinejad chose Jalili freely or under pressure by the Supreme Leader.
Until a week ago, many thought Jalili was Ahmadinejad’s secret candidate in this election and favored by the Supreme Leader. And so it came as a surprise when during the presidential campaign Jalili criticized and attacked Isfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s top advisor and his openly endorsed candidate. Ultra-religious conservative Jalili had nothing to do with Ahmadinejad.
Jalili left voters wondering if the Supreme Leader and his supporters in the militia had plans to make him the next president or not.
But in a surprise twist of events Ayatollah Khamenei quickly reacted and publicly admitted repeatedly that he did not have any favorites and that no one, including his closes relatives and children, knew whom he would vote for.
Khamenei’s election aims
Khamenei did his best to convince voters that he is not the one choosing the next president, and like them he has only one secret vote to cast.
Washing the dark memory of the previous election from public’s mind—a public who remained upset especially with Ayatollah Khamenei for four years—was one the main aims of this election.
Khamenei successfully managed to steer the sharp edge of people’s swords away from him towards Ahmadinejad. The Supreme Leder has been called a dictator and people have chanted “Down with Khamenei,” blaming him for the fraudulent 2009 election. Could all this be forgotten?
Ahmadinejad stayed away when the Supreme Leader confronted the nation. Khamenei’s reputation was damaged and in this case he recovered it at the expense of Ahmadinejad.
In essence, no one is anyone in this system with out the Supreme Leader. He makes them and breaks them!
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