US President Trump’s arrival in Riyadh during his first foreign visit since taking office, coincided with the election of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for a second term.
Eyad Abu Shakra, long time editor at Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK wrote in his article for Al Arabiya, “There are many smart and cultured individuals in the Iranian regime who are skillful political and tactical operators and understand the limits of adventures and open hostilities, thus, never hesitate to bend before the storm.” He adds that with a Republican administration is in charge, the US “is less convinced of Tehran’s leaders’ ‘moderation’, and more doubtful that their policies of sectarian incitement, military intervention, and direct hegemony adopted towards the Arab world are the best way to fight terrorism.”
Now that the American-Iranian honeymoon has ended, “Tehran’s political ‘kitchen’ felt in need to balance out the two Iranian power blocs, although they are nothing but the two sides of one coin,” Shakra writes.
Still, the Supreme Leader remains the real ruler of Iran.”This actually means that the election campaign, just like ‘Iranian democracy’ itself, is flawed and self-contradictory; since the president does not rule … and the real ruler is neither the president nor a candidate to be chosen through elections,” writes Shakra, and adds, “Despite this fact one has to accept that Iran has gained in political savviness since 1979 with the emergence of ‘pragmatists’ like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami, and later Hassan Rouhani, who have mastered the policy of taking a few steps forward and one step backward. And although ‘conservative’ hawks remain the real mainstay of the regime and the honest reflection of its true nature, those infrequently described as ‘reformists’ and ‘moderates’ are much closer to the pulse of people, millions of whom do not agree with the regime’s political priorities.”
The question remains, what will Rouhani’s policies entail during his second term?
Trump’s visit to Riyadh and its effect on the new Middle East, sends a clear message to Rouhani, and to the Supreme Leader. New alliances are forming. Shakra writes, “It may be beneficial for him (Rouhani) if follows Washington’s new approaches in the Arab ‘arenas’ that Tehran managed to penetrate during Obama’s presidency. So far one of Washington top goals is undoing the Russo-Iranian alliance with all its consequences in the Region.”