Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, about Hassan Rouhani, who will be sworn in as Iranian president Sunday. Rouhani wrote an essay for TIME in 2006 that can be read here.
Let me ask you, Professor Dabashi, about the supreme leader and Rouhani’s power within this very complicated Iranian system that, at least from the outside, very few of us understand. Because the president, if you look at Ahmadinejad, if you look at Khatami before him, the president of Iran does have power, but not ultimate power and not enough, apparently to get his way entirely. So what should we make of that? Will Rouhani have the power to make a deal with the West?
Not entirely on himself. The fact of the matter is, Iran is a very complicated regime consisting of security, intelligence, military and clerical establishments and a network. And it is that network that has to be considered at one and the same time.
However, it is not that Rouhani doesn’t have any power. He is a consummate insider. He is far more powerful, he would be [a] far more powerful president than Ahmadinejad would have ever dreamt, or even before him anybody else, even Rafsanjani.
Well, why do you say that?
Because his revolutionary credentials are absolutely impeccable. He’s very close to Khamenei. And he doesn't have to prove – if you were to follow the course of the presidential debates over the last two or three months, he was constantly talking in a language that means that he's very close to not only Khamenei, but also to the security and the military establishment.
And also, he talks from that confidence, because we have to keep in mind that regionally, Iran is in a very delicate position. Iran is in trouble in Iraq. Iran is both involved and in trouble in Syria. The region is in turmoil. So one should shift, Fareed, the context of the nuclear negotiation. In the context of the region and the readiness of Iran, and the fact that even somebody like Rouhani was suggested to become the next president. In order to understand the readiness of the situation as we have now for a resolution, rather than laser beaming whether or not there would be a power struggle between him and Khamenei, one has to look at the larger regional issue, which is now ripe, in my judgment, for a direct negotiation and a resolution.