Will Iran's New President Defuse the Nuclear Crisis?

White House Diplomatic Approach May Still Pay Off

Change?: Rowhani’s election in early July might signal a shift from his bellicose predecessor.
Getty Images
Change?: Rowhani’s election in early July might signal a shift from his bellicose predecessor.

By Laura Rozen

Published July 21, 2013, issue of July 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

With Syria peace talks on hold, and John Kerry’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations uncertain, the most positive development to emerge from the Middle East this summer may be the surprise election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s next president.

Even as Washington takes a cautious, wait-and-see attitude to prospects for a nuclear deal under the more moderate Rowhani, American policymakers say his election victory against more hard-line rivals is a sign that President Obama’s policy of diplomacy plus sanctions is working. The question now is how best to seize the diplomatic opening Rowhani’s election presents to advance prospects for a nuclear deal, given the history of deep mistrust and hostility that has plagued Iranian-US relations for over three decades.

According to a senior American administration offical who provided a background briefing in mid-July to a small group of journalists, the part that sanctions played during the presidential campaign — and particularly the public debates — offered proof that, “sanctions do matter, and played a significant role” in Iranians voting for Rowhani.

Rowhani, 64, a cleric and lawyer, served as Iran’s nuclear negotiator under the more moderate Iranian presidency of Mohammad Khatami, during which time Iran suspended its uranium enrichment from 2004 to 2005. Running on a campaign slogan of prudence and moderation, Rowhani pledged to try to ease Iran’s standoff with the international community and to improve the country’s sanctions-strained economy. Among the candidates he defeated was Iran’s outgoing nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, a hard-liner who ran on a campaign of “resistance” against Western economic pressure over Iran’s nuclear program.

As a journalist who has covered the past two years of international nuclear negotiations with Iran in far-flung locales — Kazakhstan, Baghdad, Moscow, Turkey — and sat through many of Jalili’s tedious press conferences where no progress in closing the gaps between the two sides was made, I found myself idly hoping only that Jalili would not win the election. I did not begin to hope that Rowhani, the most moderate of the eight candidates permitted by Iran’s Guardian Council to run, would win, and be permitted to win. Rowhani’s words since his election victory have also given hope that a diplomatic resolution may be found to one of the most pressing security challenges the United States and its ally Israel face in the coming year.

At a press conference after his election victory in June, Rowhani said that Iran would not give up enrichment for the country’s energy program, but he also said he was prepared to find other ways to address the international community’s concerns that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons..

“Our nuclear program is transparent, but we’re ready to take steps to make it more transparent,” Rowhani said at the June 17 press conference.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.