Early Saturday vote counting in Tehran has revealed that Hasan Rowhani has become the newly elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a moderate, Rowhani's election could make for dramatic changes in Iran's foreign policy as well as the rest of the world's mentality towards the country. Increasing international sanctions have placed significant strain upon Iran and the citizenry is in desperate want of substantial change.
The rest of the world, and especially Washington, has long been wary of fears that Iran has been developing a nuclear weapon. While the United Nations has been led to believe the opposite on the matter, the rest of the world is not convinced, leading to many break-offs of diplomatic ties with Tehran. The negative effects of Ahmadinejad's eight-year presidency is something that Rowhani is desperately seeking to move away from. Rowhani has made it clear that he hopes to strengthen diplomatic ties with the world once again. He said, "They brought sanctions for the country. Yet, they are proud of it. I'll pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace. We will also reconcile with the world."
Due to the structure of Iran's government, the ruling clerics under the direction of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are charged with national security decisions. Therefore, Rowhani will not have direct influence over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Despite his limitations, Rowhani is seeking to ease rising concern over Iran's nuclear program, claiming that the nuclear program's primary pursuit is power for the country as well as medical benefits. In so doing this Rowhani hopes to ease and lift the current international sanctions that have devastated Iran economically.
"We won't let the last eight years be continued," Rowhani stated to a crowd of supporters while on the campaign trail. Prior to his election, Rowhani was chief nuclear negotiator for Iran and was responsible for diplomatic talks with Britain, France, and Germany from 2003 to 2005. The talks were successful and led to Iran suspending all nuclear fuel-enrichment activities.
The rhetoric coming from Rowhani appears to be both positive and promising. While Rowhani refuses to bring an end to Iran's nuclear program he is vehement in wanting to show the world that the program is for peaceful ends. It will be curious to see if Iranian rhetoric towards Israel changes during Rowhani's presidency. Yet the quote from British former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw shows that Iran is finally starting to step in the right direction: "What this huge vote of confidence in Doctor Rowhani appears to show is a hunger by the Iranian people to break away from the arid and self-defeating approach of the past and for more constructive relations with the West."