If they fail to convince the Iranian public and political groups that their approach is capable of sustainably reviving the economy, the incumbent moderates might be replaced by politicians who do not favor rapprochement with the West. Of note, in the days before the May 19 presidential election, there was a discernible sentiment among voters that Rouhani’s main hard-line rival would reverse the incumbent’s foreign policy achievements if elected. As such, unless Rouhani seriously revives the economy during his second term, there is a danger of a bitter setback for both the country and the world.
The Iranian government is actively seeking to expand trade and economic relations with Europe, but it expects its European partners to maintain a reasonable balance between pressure and incentives. Foreign investment in Iran’s petrochemical, green energy, environment, transportation and automotive sectors is seen by many Iranians as not only a win-win proposition, but also a potential crutch for the country’s fragile young democracy.
In other words, more than ever, European leaders ought to recalibrate their approach to doing business with Iran, adopting a longer term vision that looks beyond the immediate policy changes that are sought and focuses on the fruits of entrenched moderation within the Iranian political system.
Perhaps more importantly, European leaders should also consider how their actions might affect who is selected as Rouhani’s successor, should their pressure for change in Iran’s foreign policy behavior not square up with offered incentives, thus undermining the president.
(Image credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)