Among Juan Cole’s initial observations:
Those who believed that Khamenei would try to fix this election for Jalili as he is accused by the Green movement of doing four years ago were mistaken. Either the Leader feels that he has sufficient control of the country to risk a mildly reformist candidate like Hasan Rouhani winning, or the turmoil the country faced in 2009 chastened him and he decided to let the public blow off steam by giving him a president he isn’t entirely happy with.
Suzanne Maloney believes that Rouhani could improve relations with the West:
Today, despite the campaign antics, Rouhani is an ideal candidate to spearhead a new initiative to wrest Iran from its debilitating battle with the international community over the nuclear issue. His credentials for this assignment are clear: as a member of the religious class, he offers the prospect of clerical continuity; as a long-time consigliore of Khamenei, he harbors no intentions of pushing the constraints on the presidency; and as the author of Iran’s previous dabbling in nuclear concessions, he can be the fall guy, yet again, for a deal that the Leader wishes to disavow. Rouhani is tested and nothing if not pragmatic. Though his supporters have crashed the gates of theocratic restrictions on debate, Rouhani has remained mostly cautious in his own statements, his campaign embodying its slogan of prudence as well as hope.
Bob Dreyfuss is optimistic:
[A] former nuclear negotiator for Iran under President Khatami, and as President Rafsanjani’s top national security adviser before that, Rouhani will have a chance to “reset” relations with the United States. Just as important, the emergence of Rouhani as president of Iran gives President Obama a tremendous opportunity to re-start talks with Iran on a new basis, and the fact that Iran’s next president won’t be named Ahmadinejad means that all of the efforts by hawks, neoconservatives and the Israel Lobby to demonize Ahmadinejad are now for naught.
Before the election, NIAC’s Trita Parsi predicted what a Rouhani win would mean:
First, it’s not just about Rouhani; it’s about the personnel that would follow him into government and populate key ministries and institutions and reconfigure the political makeup of the regime’s decision-making table. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power, within months he fired 80 of Iran’s most experienced ambassadors and foreign policy profiles. Many of these were Iran’s most pragmatic and competent foreign policy hands, often key players in Iran’s more conciliatory decisions, such as the collaboration with the United States in Afghanistan and the suspension of enrichment in 2004. They were replaced by inexperienced ideologues hired not for their capabilities but their loyalty to Mr. Ahmadinejad. A reversal of this trend can prove quite valuable.
Second, Mr. Rouhani and his entourage hold a different world view than those close to Mr. Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader. While still suspicious and distrustful of the West, and while still committed to Iran’s bottom line on the nuclear issue, the elite that associates with Mr. Rouhani does not see the world in Manichean black and white. The outside world may be seen as hostile, but common interests can still be found. Collaboration is still possible. Rather than emphasizing ideology and resistance, they pride themselves on being pragmatic and results-oriented (of course, within the context of the political spectrum of the Islamic republic).
Parsi believes both the West and Iran should now take this opportunity for a reset.
(Photo: An Iranian woman flashes the sign for victory as she holds a portrait of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani during celebrations for his victory in the Islamic Republic’s presidential elections in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. Iranian Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said Rowhani won outright with 18.6 million votes, or 50.68 percent. By Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)