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Following a long hiatus after leaving office in Aug. 2021, moderate former president Hassan Rouhani (2013-21) has resurfaced on the Iranian political stage. In late December, he emerged to forcefully respond to hardliner criticisms of his government’s political and economic performance. He also spoke of the incumbent conservative Ebrahim Raisi administration’s failures in respect to the unrest sparked by the Sept. 2022 death of a young woman in the custody of morality police. To hardliners in the conservative camp, Rouhani’s maneuvering signals that the ex-president may be testing the waters ahead of the parliamentary elections in Feb. 2024. Sensitivities have been further heightened by speculations about possible constitutional reforms next year to return the previously abolished position of prime minister.
Rouhani speaks out
Speaking before a group of former provincial governors in a Dec. 26 meeting, Rouhani defended the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The nuclear deal signed with the P5+1—Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany—was a signature foreign policy achievement of his administration. However, the accord has been in tatters since former US president Donald Trump (2017-21) unilaterally left the deal in 2018, reimposing all sanctions on Iran in the process.
Addressing his attempts to revive the deal after Trump’s withdrawal and thereby reduce sanctions on the Iranian economy, the former president stated, “If it wasn’t for some obstacles, we could [have] put an end to the sanctions in [Feb. 2021].” Rouhani was likely referring to a Dec. 2020 law passed by the conservative-dominated parliament that, among other escalatory responses to the US exit from the JCPOA, obliged Iran’s government to raise levels of uranium enrichment which...
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