Green To Purple


More tweets from the celebration in Iran, going into the wee hours:

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency has a gallery up here. One from BBC Persia here. Mackey has been rounding up videos and tweets as well. Meanwhile, Thomas Erdbrink steps back (NYT):

[I]f the election, which electrified a nation that had lost faith in its electoral process, was a victory for reformers and the middle class, it also served the goals of the supreme leader, restoring at least a patina of legitimacy to the theocratic state, providing a safety valve for a public distressed by years of economic malaise and isolation, and returning a cleric to the presidency. Mr. Ahmadinejad was the first noncleric to hold the presidency, and often clashed with the religious order and its traditionalist allies.

The question for Western capitals is whether a more conciliatory approach can lead to substantive change in the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program. A willingness to talk does not mean a willingness to concede.

But this was no win for Khamenei either:

The election results put the supreme leader under pressure to allow changes to take place, or allow him to make the kind of changes that might be opposed by hard-liners if they controlled all the levers of power. For the supreme leader, a weak loyal president might be less threatening that Mr. Ahmadinejad, who over time alienated the ayatollah as he spread his own power throughout the bureaucracy. The ayatollah had exhorted Iranians to exercise their right to vote. Analysts are predicting at least some change. “There will be moderation in domestic and foreign policy under Mr. Rowhani,” said Saeed Laylaz, an economist and columnist close to the reformist current of thinking. “First we need to form a centrist and moderate government, reconcile domestic disputes, then he can make changes in our foreign policy,” said Mr. Laylaz, who, in a sign of confidence, agreed to be quoted by name.

Omid Memarian thinks the president-elect now has some debts to pay:

Rowhani could have never found much reception within the different layers of the society if two reformist and popular figures, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian presidents, had not supported him.

The popularity of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami themselves has soared over the past few years, particularly after they put distance between themselves and Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, following the intense crackdown on the people in the aftermath of the 2009 elections….

That Rowhani’s 18 million votes were followed by a 12 million-vote margin between him and the next candidate showed that Iran’s silent dissidents and suppressed civil society continues to own a very powerful voice. The urban middle-class vote, as well as the blue-collar vote, were cast in favor of Rowhani following the political and social suppression for which the supreme leader is responsible. Not to mention the public realization that the Iranian nuclear program could have continued without sanctions, and that Saeed Jalili, the supreme leader’s representative, has brought economic sanctions to Iran due to his incompetence.

In fact, the Iranian presidential election became a public referendum on the Iranian nuclear program, which for the past several years has been defined as an issue of national security. As such, the Iranian civil society and media have been unable to address and discuss it in their articles and analysis. The election results indicate that the Iranian people have strongly rejected the way the nuclear negotiations, led by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, have been taking shape.

But as Arash Karami reminds us, if Rouhani pursues reform, success won’t come easy:

Rouhani will be facing a litany of domestic and foreign issues, and on many fronts his efforts will be restrained by [the Supreme Leader], who not only controls foreign policy and the nuclear file but has increasingly interfered in the appointment of key cabinet positions under the administration. …

[S]enior policy analyst at Rand Corporation, Alireza Nader, believes that the cards are stacked against Rouhani in implementing meaningful reform. “It remains to be seen how the ultra-conservatives among the Revolutionary Guards and Basij react to Rouhani. There was a lot of hope that Mohammad Khatami could also solve Iran’s problems when he was elected in 1997. But Khamenei and the Guards managed to constrain him again and again. A key question is whether Khamenei will trust Rouhani … Rouhani is very closely associated with Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from the race [by the Guardian Council which is directly and indirectly appointed by the Supreme Leader]. This may not sit well with many of the Iranian hard-liners.”

Our ongoing coverage of the Iranian election, in reverse chronological order, is here.

(Image: Dish mashup of today’s Instagrams from Iran. Clockwise from the upper left – credits to: sh4hrz4dardalankaashkangiplasihommaa, ashkangiplasipedramveisi)

Email Of The Day

An Iranian reader writes:

What happened in the last 72 hours of this campaign is one for history books. It was as if the sleeping beauty woke up at the last minute. Over 20 million Iranians have a voted for a guy who Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 3.00.06 PMwas the last man standing. He is not a Mousavi, but he is the one they knew voting for would be interpreted as a message of disapproval for the Supreme Leader – a big “no”, if you will. The humiliating third place for Jalili, the chief nuclear negotiator, was also a direct rejection of the handling of the nuclear file and the foreign policy of the leader and AhamdiNejad.

Until three days ago, no one would have guessed that we could have a centrist/reformist president with the full backing of former presidents Khatami and Hashemi, who will make the freedom of Mousavi and Karoubi very likely, who will bring back the experienced technocrats into the management of the government and insert some sanity into our foreign policy and day-to-day managing of the economy. But here we are.

Rouhani needs the boost that Khatami never got from the West and the neocons. Flexibility, lifting of sanctions and ultimate normalization of relations will now directly help a president that has to fight the hardliners and the massive economic problems all at the same time. Let’s hope Washington realizes that and doesn’t listen to likes of Josh Block who is already attacking the newly elected president and saying he is not “moderate” by AIPAC’s standard. Those guys will miss AhmadiNejad. It won’t be easy to use Rouhani for fear mongering.

Iranians know hope.

(Photo by Instagrammer nene_negin)

Face Of The Day


An Iranian woman holds her purple scarf, the campaign color of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani, as she celebrates along Valiasr street after he was elected as president on June 15, 2013, in the capital Tehran. Rowhani, the cleric who won Iran’s presidential election, has pledged to engage more with world powers in hopes of easing crippling economic sanctions. By Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images.

Iran Votes For Change: Tweet Reax

Iran Votes For Change: Blog Reax


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)

Iran’s Election Surprise?

Here are the voting results as of 5 pm Tehran time, as tracked by


With the votes still be counted, reformist-backed candidate Hassan Rouhani is currently winning yesterday’s election in a landslide. We’ll have reax soon but in the meantime here’s a selection of tweets following the news as the results trickled out over the past 12+ hours:

Face Of The Day


An Iranian woman displays her ink-stained finger as she casts her vote in the first round of the presidential election at a polling station in Tehran on June 14, 2013. Iranians are voting to choose a new president in an election the reformists hope their sole candidate will win in the face of divided conservative ranks, four years after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. By Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images.

Iranian Election Update

Voting ended at 11 pm in Iran. Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports that a second round seems likely:

Election officials at Iran’s interior ministry were yet to announce final results but a high turnout after a last-minute excitement caused by the reformists’ endorsement of a moderate candidate boosted the chances of a second round next Friday. Hassan Rouhani, the moderate cleric backed by reformists and many opposition figures, and Tehran’s pragmatic mayor, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, looked likely to emerge on top, with the chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, thought to be the favourite candidate of the clerical establishment, falling behind.

He also points out:

In a strange paradox, the state is so keen during elections to showcase a country ostensibly united despite it differences that normal stringent rules do not apply. Thus a picture published by a conservative news agency showed a young woman with virtually no head-covering, her headscarf loosely tied at the back of her head. Iranian women voting abroad reported that they were able to vote without wearing the hijab despite normally strict rules imposed by embassies.

The BBC, meanwhile, complained that Iran had launched a new campaign of intimidation against staff working for its Persian service in London. Relatives of 15 journalists have been harassed, summoned for questioning and threatened.

Regardless of which candidate is ultimately declared the winner, Reza Aslan thinks we might end up missing Ahmadinejad and how extensively he took on Iran’s clerical establishment:

In his second term, Ahmadinejad steadily chipped away at the clergy’s religious, economic, and political control. First, he started questioning the mullahs’ self-proclaimed status as the arbiters of Islamic morality — and especially its obsession with proper Islamic dress. He condemned the actions of the country’s dreaded morality police, saying, “it is an insult to ask a man and woman walking on the street about their relation to each other.” Ahmadinejad’s media advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was even arrested for printing articles criticizing the law forcing women to wear veils.

The president then began repeatedly criticizing the clergy for their enormous wealth, which stood in stark contrast to most Iranians’ economic suffering under international sanctions. In a surprise move, Ahmadinejad curtailed the amount of money that the government pays to religious institutions, which have ballooned over the past three decades into a source of tremendous personal enrichment for many in the clerical elite.

Ahmadinejad also took a number of bold steps to wrest political power away from the mullahs. He ceased attending meetings of the Expediency Council, one of Iran’s many Orwellian committees whose purpose is to protect the political interests of the clergy. When Iran’s oil minister stepped down, Ahmadinejad took over the ministry himself until a permanent replacement could be found, establishing an extremely significant presidential precedent in the process. … But Ahmadinejad’s challenge to the clerical regime goes beyond any single skirmish with the supreme leader. Perhaps more important is his very public questioning of the foundation of the Islamic Republic’s political and religious authority. “Administering the country should not be left to the [supreme] leader, the religious scholars, and other [clerics],” the president said in 2011.

Aslan adds that “the one thing that the top contenders to replace [Ahmadinejad] have in common is their comical obeisance to the supreme leader”. Mackey and Enduring America are still live-blogging. Our earlier coverage from today is here.