Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, sworn into office on Sunday, is fast becoming a symbol of hope for Iran’s reconciliation with the wider global community. The country has effectively endured diplomatic isolation over its controversial nuclear programme, yet both Iranian citizens and other nations have expressed their optimism concerning Rouhani’s ability to reach a peaceful agreement.
The nuclear program adopted by Iran has been deemed unacceptable by major global powers, most notably America and the European Union, both of whom have imposed sanctions as a result. It has been estimated that Iran lost on average $133 million a day as a result of an oil embargo instigated by the USA in 2012. These sanctions were imposed due to a belief that Iran was in the process of developing nuclear weapons, findings drawn from an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued in November 2011.
However, shortly after Rouhani’s inauguration, he stated that he wished to partake in “serious and substantive” negotiations with the rest of the world concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, in turn demonstrating belief in a peaceful resolution and an end to the current conflict. This is a marked difference from Iran’s previously hostile approach to world affairs and is extremely encouraging for other nations. He also stated that an agreement should be reached through “talks, not threats”, highlighting his desire for a solution.
The United States is particularly hopeful that Iran’s new president will bring about an end to the hostile climate between the two countries. In a statement concerning Rouhani’s new presidency, the US stated that “should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue; it will find a willing partner in the United States.”
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, is also amongst those willing to undergo negotiation talks with Rouhani. Whilst talking to reporters in Rome, Lavrov said that “We absolutely agree with what he said. Resolving this, like any other issue, must be not on the basis of ultimatums, but based on a respectful attitude to a partner.” This once again echoes the entirely conceivable chance of a peaceful solution to the problems currently facing Iran.
Alongside international issues facing Rouhani, he has also inherited a difficult internal situation regarding high inflation, high youth unemployment rates and possible food shortages. Despite this, the new president is also invoking high hopes from the youth within the country. He has spoken about desegregating gender-divided universities, allowing young women to wear their hijabs as they wish and stopping internet filters on Western news agencies websites, all issues that the younger generation feel need to be addressed.
Rouhani has, therefore, initiated a diplomatic journey for Iran that could ensure that conflict is resolved and international tensions are reduced, alongside promising national reforms in order to ensure the country is modernised and appeases the young Iranian civilians that make up more than sixty percent of the population. A promise of cooperation on an international level is a landmark step forward for Iran towards a harmonious future.