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Candidate Profile: Hassan Rouhani - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iran's former nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rohani, a potential front-runner in the presidential race speaks during an electoral rally in Tehran, Iran on Thursday, April 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rouhani speaks during an electoral rally in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, April 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Though he has held a number of official posts in the power structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran over his lengthy political career, Hassan Rouhani has come to be seen by many of Iran’s beleaguered reformist movement as their best hope in 2013.

The only cleric in the race, Rouhani is nonetheless seen as a pragmatic and moderate figure, mainly known inside and outside the country for being a shrewd negotiator and an important part of the pragmatist faction that was in power in Iran during the presidencies of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. In his public statements to date, Rouhani has emphasized his commitment to a less belligerent approach to international relations, and more respect for civil rights at home.

Political career

As an active follower of Ayatollah Khomeini, the young Rouhani was arrested many times in the years leading up to the 1979 revolution for speaking out against the rule of the shah.

Although he left the country two years before the revolution, he was actively involved in politics and made various public speeches to Iranian students living abroad. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Rouhani was elected to the Iranian Parliament (Majlis). He served for five consecutive terms from 1980 to 2000, and held several other posts. including deputy speaker of the Majlis and the head of the defense and foreign policy committees. He was also a member of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Supervisory Council from 1980 to 1983.

During the Iran–Iraq War, Rouhani held many positions related to the military and was appointed as deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces in 1988. He was appointed to the Supreme National Security Council by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, after its formation in 1989, and has held the position ever since. He has been a member of the Expediency Council since 1991, also by the appointment of the supreme leader.

Nuclear negotiator

Hassan Rouhani led the first round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program from 2003 to 2005. This period proved to be a stormy one, marked by leaks and revelations about Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

In September 2004, the Board of Governors of the IAEA called for Mohamed El-Baradei, the director-general of the organization, to report on Iran’s implementation of IAEA board requests expressed in several resolutions. The board had requested that Iran fully account for previously undisclosed nuclear activities and suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

Under Rouhani’s leadership, Iran’s nuclear negotiating team took a conciliatory approach. As a first step, Rouhani and his team of negotiators sought to prevent further escalation of the accusations against Iran, to avoid having Iran’s case referred to the United Nations Security Council. In order to build international confidence in Iran, certain parts of its nuclear activities were voluntarily suspended at several junctures.

However, this approach was criticized in later years by many conservatives—or, as they wish to be called, “principalists”—including Ali Larijani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and their supporters.

After 16 years of working as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Rouhani resigned his post on August 2005, following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president of Iran. He was later replaced as Iran’s chief nuclear negotatior by Ali Larijani, who was succeeded in turn by Saeed Jalili.

Response to 2009

Rouhani openly supported the protests in Iran after the controversial 2009 presidential election and criticized the government for suppressing nonviolent marches. In an article in the Iranian reformist daily Mardom Salari (“Democracy”) in February 2010, he said that not only do people have the right to protest if they feel their votes have been stolen, but that such protest is a beautiful thing because it shows that people value their vote.

He wrote: “Not only is political protest permissible; it is a political and social duty of everyone to do so.” Stressing that it is the people’s duty to protest against what they perceived to be the theft of their votes, he added: “If they are right, you have to accept their views; if wrong, you should show proof that they are wrong—not use violence. But some people do not have the tolerance to listen to opposing views.”

A Moderate candidate?

On April 11, 2013, Rouhani announced he would run for the presidency in the June 2013 elections. His decision was welcomed by most moderate and reformist figures, who were looking for a moderate and pragmatic candidate in the absence of ex-presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.

He has told a campaign rally that he would seek “constructive interaction with the world.” Many have taken this to mean that he intends to attempt to defuse tensions with Western states and ease their concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, reducing the extra pressure they have imposed on Iran by several rounds of sanctions.

Domestically, Rouhani has emphasized two priorities if elected. First, he has promised to make improving the Iran’s economy his main objective, saying: “My goals will be restoring the economy and promoting morality and relations with the world. I will build a government of prudence and hope.”

Second, he has said he will do more in the sphere of civil rights, promising to draw up a new charter. In recent debates with other candidates, he has emphasized the rights guaranteed by Iran’s constitution.

Timeline

• 1948: Born November 12 near the central Iranian city of Semnan.
• 1980: Elected to the Iranian Parliament (Majlis).
• 1989: Appointed member of the Supreme National Security Council.
• 1989–2005: Served as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.
• 1991: Appointed member of the Expediency Council.
• 1992: Appointed head of the Center for Strategic Research, which is affiliated with the Expediency Council.
• 1999: Elected a member of the Assembly of Experts.
• 1992–2000: Deputy Speaker for the 4th and 5th terms of the Iranian parliament.
• 2003–2005: Served as head of Iran’s former nuclear negotiating team and the country’s top negotiator with the EU troika of the UK, France and Germany.

This article is part of a series of Asharq Al-Awsat profiles of the Iranian presidential candidates

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Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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