Iran’s election wasn’t about moderation or democracy. It was about how Iran will re-engage with the world

The Washington Post- March 3, 2016

Seyedamir Hossein Mahdavi is a researcher at the Crown Center.

Iran’s elections last week made this clear: Politics have changed in the Islamic Republic – and it was the nuclear deal with the West that made the difference. Since the beginning of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency in 1997 until last week’s parliamentary election, the Iranian political landscape was divided between reformists and conservatives. While reformists tended to be more liberal and advocated more cultural and political freedom, conservatives supported an extreme enforcement of sharia law and a more limited circulation of power. Now, these two groups are working together.

With Iran’s nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, structured politics in Iran has changed. President Hassan Rouhani’s election was not a surprise. The biggest issue in the 2013 presidential election was over the costs incurred by Iran’s nuclear program — Rouhani was the only candidate who promised to work out a compromise with the United States if elected.

In Iran now, the main debate has not been over democracy or human rights, but over the Rouhani government’s purchasing of Airbus airplanes. Opposition candidates emphasized the application of “resistive economy” (a national economic structure that is resistant to any external sanctions) and warned against Western economic influence. Proponents of internationalization defended the purchase of Airbus airplanes and dismissed denunciations of the excessive economic influence of the West as amounting to “conspiracy theory.” This exemplifies the new terms of political division.... Read the Full Text