How can Iran&’s newly elected President live up to the people&’s will expressed in the presidential election? We hope the new leader will first tackle the task of mending relations with foreign countries.
Hasan Rowhani, a conservative and moderate candidate, emerged victorious in the election held last week at a time when Iran has become increasingly isolated internationally due to its nuclear development. Rowhani, a cleric, won overwhelmingly after calling for improved relations with the United States and Europe. He garnered more than half of the votes cast to score a stunning victory over a conservative hard-liner who had been billed as the leading candidate.
In acknowledging his win, Rowhani said it was “a victory of wisdom over radicalism”. He appears to be willing to follow a line that maintains a distance from that of the current administration.
It will be desirable for the international community if Rowhani shifts from the hard-line diplomatic policy pursued by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who caused alarm by making provocative statements such as calling for Israel “to be wiped off the map”.
Behind Rowhani&’s resounding victory is a sense of stagnation that is enveloping Iranian society.
During Ahmadinejad&’s two terms over eight years, tight controls were placed on reformist politicians and freedom of speech. The United States and Europe have imposed economic sanctions in response to Iran&’s continued nuclear development. This led to decreased crude oil exports and skyrocketing domestic prices of goods, which has stung people&’s livelihoods. Iranian voters, it may be said, have given Rowhani a mandate to break the stalemate. A focal point is how he will deal with the nuclear issue.
Iran has been pressing ahead with uranium enrichment in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Tehran has enriched some uranium to 20 per cent, far exceeding the 3.5 per cent of nuclear fuel used at nuclear power plants. This unavoidably has stirred suspicions that Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have placed highest priority of having Iran stop production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent. It is natural that the United States and European countries have urged Iran anew after the election to quickly resolve the nuclear issue diplomatically.
During the Iranian administration led by reformist President Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005, Rowhani showed flexibility as he conducted nuclear negotiations with Britain, France and Germany. Nevertheless, little optimism can be warranted at this time.
In Iran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei holds the reins of power, including diplomatic decisions. Under the union of religion and politics in Iran, there can be no change in nuclear policy unless it is approved by Khamenei. Can such a key person change Iran&’s policy stance?
Israel has not ruled out the option of a military strike to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. Military tension in the region will heighten if Iran continues its nuclear development.
Japan&’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed hope that Iran&’s change of President will bring about concrete progress toward resolving the nuclear issue. Japan will lean on the new administration to achieve that goal by utilising their “traditional relationship of friendship” as leverage.
Japan relies on the Middle East for most of its crude oil imports, so ensuring stability in the region is a matter of life and death. The Iranian situation demands constant vigilance.

the yomiuri shimbun/ann