The honeymoon that Iran’s hard-liners extended to President Hassan Rouhani after his June 2013 election is coming to an end. As they have in the past, particularly during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the conservative factions within the state are reasserting their power against a perceived reformist threat.
The verbal warfare among political elites in Iran centers on the interim nuclear deal Tehran signed with Washington and other world powers and the ongoing negotiations that have already come to define Rouhani’s presidency. Not since Khatami’s two terms in office, from 1997 to 2005, has an Iranian leader made such significant overtures to improve relations with the West and the United States in particular.
At first it seemed Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, through his public support for the nuclear negotiations, was restraining public criticism of Rouhani. But a series of recent events indicate that either Khamenei’s support is waning or his hard-line supporters feel they can take a stand independent of Khamenei, who has endorsed Rouhani’s presidency for now. A third possibility is that Khamenei may be allowing attacks against Rouhani so he does not appear to betray his base of support. For example, last week conservatives in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting blocked the new president from delivering a live address to the nation. Rouhani immediately turned to Twitter – part of his social media channels that have gained him a wide following – to announce this censorship by the state network. An hour later, he was allowed to speak.
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This op-ed appeared in Aljazeera America on February 18, 2014.
Photo by World Economic Forum via Flickr