Rouhani breaks his Silence on US Presidential Race

By Rohollah Faghihi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

For the first time, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani spoke about the US presidential election, which is a hotly debated issue in the Iranian media.

On Oct. 23, Rouhani, while on a provincial trip to Arak in Markazi province, told the crowd, “The America that claims it enjoys more than 200 years of democracy and [holding] more than 50 presidential elections is now a major and industrial country that is devoid of morality, and this issue we witness in the [presidential] candidates’ debates.”

He continued, “At the United Nations, one of the leaders asked me which [US presidential candidate] I prefer, to which I replied, ‘Should I prefer bad over worse or worse over bad?’ We have seen the way of speaking, accusing, talking and mocking [each other] by the candidates, and this is the democracy and elections of the Americans.”

In an interview with Sobh-e-No newspaper on Oct. 23, which is close to conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, conservative analyst Fouad Izadi described Hillary Clinton as the worst choice for Iran.

“During Obama’s tenure, the toughest sanctions with global consensus were imposed on Iran — sanctions that hawkish [former President] George Bush could not impose on Iran. Clinton believed that these pressures were not adequate, and [thus] she definitely will be stricter on Iran. But [Donald] Trump and Clinton are both the enemy of Iran, however. In my view, Clinton can be more successful than Trump in [providing] a global consensus against Iran, and therefore Clinton is the worse choice for Iran,” Izadi said.

However, former Iranian diplomat Fereydoun Majlesi wrote in Reformist Noavaran newspaper Oct. 24, “Donald Trump has no chance of winning the US presidential election. Because about 50 years ago and during the Vietnam War, a senator like him ran in the presidential election, but encountered the biggest defeat.”

Nonetheless, Rouhani’s reaction to the US election did not get coverage in hard-line newspapers and media outlets. Rather, his criticism of hard-liners for their mounting attacks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in 2015 angered them.

“In the past, if we wanted to walk or move, shackles of the sanctions obstructed our way. But today these chains do not exist. We should move, because the main obstacle has been lifted, and our banking relations with the world have been established and will be expanded day after day,” Rouhani told a crowd of people in Arak.

He then took a swipe at hard-liners, saying, “We threw the occupier out of our garden and the garden door is open for the people. Some children have come to the door and asked where they can find the apples and pears they want to eat. Today this garden with its seedlings planted recently is ready for fertilization, but to [eat] the fruit, patience is necessary.”

Rouhani’s audience are those critics who constantly slam him for reaching a nuclear deal with the West — a deal that, according to the hard-liners, has no benefit for Iran.

Annoyed by the moderate president’s remarks, hard-line Vatan-e-Emrooz published an article Oct. 24 with the headline, “Promising a Pear.” It read, “After comparing the JCPOA to the shining sun, Hassan Rouhani has now brought up a new metaphor for justifying the JCPOA.”

Referring to Iran’s foreign minister and the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s complaints over the US commitment to the JCPOA, conservative Fars News argued Oct. 23, “It is not bad if the president pays attention to the remarks of these officials of his own administration and thinks over this issue, for they are [also] the children who are looking for apples and pears.”

Moreover, hard-line Kayhan newspaper compared Trump’s releasing his agenda for his first 100 days in the White House to Rouhani’s 2013 election promise of solving the economy’s problems in the first 100 days in office. “It turns out that releasing a 100-day plan is not restricted to presidential candidates of countries in Western Asia. In keeping with this tradition, Donald Trump has announced his 100-day plan after winning the US presidential election,” Kayhan wrote Oct. 24.

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