Can Rouhani really change Iran's foreign policy?
June 18th, 2013
10:52 AM ET

Can Rouhani really change Iran's foreign policy?

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with CNN about the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president, how he compares with outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and who really holds power in the country.

Beyond the rhetoric, how different are these two as far as their actual beliefs and approach to the nuclear program that Iran has launched?

They’re quite different. They're different in tone – you can see that. They're also different in that Ahmadinejad was a layperson, whereas Rouhani comes out of the clerical establishment. It makes him probably more capable of navigating.

The problem, however, is there's a deep structural contradiction within the Iranian system. The president doesn’t have much power on these core foreign policy and national security issues. Those are held by the supreme leader. Remember, the last two presidents of Iran have, by the end of their terms, fallen afoul of the supreme leader completely. Mohammad Khatami did start out as a reformist. He's now under a form of house arrest.

Ahmadinejad started out in some ways as an opponent of the clerical system. He's discredited. The supreme leader doesn't like him. So the real question is will the supreme leader look at the results? And now you have 20 years of polling where the Iranian people are basically saying, we want conciliation, we want reconciliation with the West, we want to join the modern world.

Will he look at that data and say, I'm going to give this president, who has the right credentials, some leeway to try to negotiate with the Americans, or will he do what he has done for the last 10 years, which is he lets them make these statements, he even lets them explore some things, but at the end of the day, the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guard pull back the chain when it seems as though there is an actual concession about to be made?

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Topics: Elections • Iran

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. exepodcast

    Reblogged this on Hayastan.

    June 18, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
  2. Towel Heads

    Not until he takes off that stupid towel.

    June 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • Amin

      Right after you pull up your underwear.

      June 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  3. herupyuda

    Reblogged this on Journal and Journey.

    June 19, 2013 at 3:18 am | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Would the supreme leader soften his stance on the West?

    June 19, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      It could be a daunting task for Rouhani. Yet give him a chance.

      June 19, 2013 at 6:17 am | Reply
  5. omid

    Khatami is under house arrest? I like what the author is trying to say but please do not spread lies here. Read a book, or even use wikipedia: Mousavi and Karroubi are under house arrest... Khatami isn't.

    June 20, 2013 at 1:10 am | Reply
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  7. Rick McDaniel

    The Ayatollah is in power. Rouhani is only going to have so much rein, before the bridle gets jerked in.

    June 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  8. In Home Personal Training

    Can Rouhani really change Iran's foreign policy? No! They will still push ahead till they reach there nuclear goals and they still will jail
    and kill people who are free thinkers.

    April 15, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Reply
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