Matt Duss and Lawrence Korb write today that we should be restrained about what the election of the "reformist" Hassan Rohani means for the future of U.S.-Iranian relations:
One shouldn’t have any illusions about what the election of Rohani represents. He is a dedicated member of the Iranian regime, and a strong supporter of Iran’s nuclear rights. Negotiations between the Iran and the P5+1 will not suddenly become easy. But the fact that the most moderate choice prevailed in Iran’s presidential election reveals that there is an important debate taking place amongst Iran’s ruling elite over the nature of Iran’s relations with the world. Given the level of distrust that still exists between the U.S. and Iran, there’s little the U.S. can do to empower its favored interlocutors. But, as the past has shown, there’s a lot the U.S. can do to empower those most opposed to conciliation and compromise. Given the high stakes, the U.S. should be as careful as possible to do no harm, as a heightened Congressional debate over the use of force against Iran would almost certainly do.
For obvious reasons, this inspired me to modify Duss and Korb's paragraph slightly:
One shouldn’t have any illusions about what the election of Barack Obama represents. He's a dedicated member of the bipartisan mainstream consensus on national security, and a strong supporter of America's intelligence community. Foreign military interventions will not suddenly be abandoned, nor will intrusive surveillance programs be shut down. But the fact that the most moderate choice prevailed in America’s presidential election reveals that there is an important debate taking place amongst the U.S. ruling elite over the nature of America's relations with the world.
Hassan Rohani is, more or less, the Barack Obama of Iranian politics: better than the alternatives, but not likely to represent any kind of sharp, fundamental change. Nor should that come as any suprise. People who truly represent sharp, fundamental change are very rarely elected national leaders. Not in America, and not in Iran.