Thursday, July 04, 2013

Iran New President: Breaking Hard diplomatic Moves of the Past

by Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr.*

Recent development in Iranian presidential election demonstrate that socio-economic forces in the country were invisibly making serious efforts to make sure that a newly- elected president will address the pressing economic hardship being experienced by Iranian people.

Such an economic hardship was a result of both Iranian previous government misguided economic policy and Western economic sanctions which targeted the Iranian economy. Therefore, the new administration in Iran must not only revisit previous economic policy and institute reform in its economy but also and most importantly should use a more moderate language in its foreign policy.

With  a newly -elected president, Hassan Rohani, Iran will once again need to prove her worth in the community of nations. Rohani’s moderate tone has been welcomed by many countries in the world and should be the guiding instrument of the Iranian foreign policy in the coming years. Such moderate tone will no doubt bring domestic political reconciliation and economic opportunities for Iran. In addition to this, it can also strengthen social-cultural ties with other nations in the world and hopefully bring about an opportunity for Iran, USA and Europe Union to re-start nuclear talks.

Rohani’s major priorities during his term should include but not limited to,

* Setting a moderate tone of the Iranian Foreign Policy and continue dialoguing with other nations particularly with Iran’s neighboring countries. In response to the congratulatory remark of the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayep Erdogan, Rohani emphasizes the need to ‘expand all-out ties with regional and neighboring countries.’ Such statement brings positive signals to other countries in the Middle East region that the Islamic Iran is ever ready to establish and maintain good ties with other friendly and peace loving nations. In his first press conference, Rohani also cited that Iran will engage in a “constructive interaction” with Britain to ease tensions in their diplomatic relations. Britain suspended diplomatic ties with Iran in 2011 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by hardliner demonstrators.

Rohani’s administration will no doubt focuses on but not limited to the following items mentioned below:

*Fixing economic problem in Iran. Rohani has inherited a falling oil economy due to series of international sanctions which have resulted to increasing inflation, currency collapse, and enduring unemployment. Iranian’s current economic problem is directly connected to its foreign policy particularly on nuclear issue by which Iran was under the pressure primarily from Washington and the member countries of the European Union (EU). The Iranian Minister of Economy in December said that Iran’s oil revenue dropped fifty percent due to the sanctions. In addition to this, Iranian currency lost more than half of its value in the past year which triggers an official inflation rate to 23. 3 percent in April 2013 from 14 percent two years ago. Rohani has to revisit the economic policies of his predecessor and address the root causes of the problem; and

* Resuming immediately the nuclear talks with global power. The nuclear issue can be said to be the center of all diplomatic efforts of the United States through the imposition of sanctions against Iranian Islamic government. Although sanctions have not deterred nor changed the behavior of Iran political elites in the past, they have produced deleterious impacts on the lives of ordinary Iranian people.  Thus Rohani’s election gives a fresh opportunity for both the United States and the Iranian government to work closely for the resolution of their long standing conflict to prevent more suffering of many Iranians.

There had been opportunities in the past where neither the United States nor Islamic Republic of Iran was able to take advantage. The case of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime (on various issues such as drug and human trafficking) and the Iraqi reconstruction period were just some of these opportunities they have failed to cooperate.

 If both governments are serious in bringing about solution to their constrained relations, then it is the proper time for them to start advancing once again the ideas of accommodation, talks and negotiations. Although changing the tone of diplomacy to a moderate one does not guarantee an immediate economic transformation towards a better one, it however opens door for diplomatic talks and hopefully reconciliation and better economic opportunity.

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*Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr is an Assistant Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Tehran, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Shahid Behesti, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran and Bachelor of Science in International Relations at the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies, Mindanao State University, Marawi City, Philippines.

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