Flush from his decisive re-election victory, Iran’s president struck back on Monday after a weekend of verbal affronts from the Saudi-American summit meeting,
describing Trump’s visit to Riyadh as empty theatrics and mocking his support for a monarchy that has “never seen a ballot box.”
At a news conference in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has sought to open up Iran, said
his victory on Friday over a hard-line conservative challenger showed that Iranians had exercised a democratic choice.
Rouhani suggested that he remained open to dialogue with the United States.
But he did not waste the opportunity to exploit the contrast of Trump’s visit with Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchs
at the exact moment Rouhani’s smashing and legitimate electoral victory was confirmed.
Guided by Rouhani and Obama, Iran and major world powers reached an agreement on a landmark deal in 2015
that relaxed economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear work.
That agreement alarmed the Saudis, who consider Iran their main rival for influence in the Middle East,
and detest it for being both Shiite and Persian, rather than Sunni and Arab.
Trump repeatedly denounced that agreement as a giveaway to Iran, but his administration is still abiding by its terms.
Rouhani, asked if he had a message for Trump, appeared to signal that he was still interested in a dialogue,
despite the increasingly hostile posture taken by the new American president toward Iran.
“Iran and America have gone through lots of ups and downs in the past 39 or 40 years.
They have used numerous measures against Iran, all leading to failure,” Rouhani said.
“Americans were only successful in their engagement with the Iranian nation during the nuclear talks.”
He also suggested that the leaders of Iran, like many leaders elsewhere, were still trying to understand Trump and his policies.
“We are waiting for the government to be well established so we can pass judgment,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani-Allied Realists Winning Elections Throughout Iran
Rouhani gained further momentum from local election victories on Friday by fellow reformists and moderates in at least eight major cities, according to newly posted results.
Those cities include Tehran, where supporters of Rouhani are now in position to oust its hard-line conservative mayor of 14 years.
While Rouhani’s re-election was not necessarily a surprise,
his margin of victory was unexpectedly strong.
The victories by reformists and moderates in Iran’s urban areas also seemed to signal
a further weakening of the hard-line conservatives who hold much of the power in Iran.
The election was the first time that reformists and moderates gained full control over the Tehran municipality council.
This will allow them to remove Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf,
a hard-liner who had originally entered the presidential race to challenge Rouhani but withdrew a few days before the vote.
The top vote-getter in the Tehran municipal ballot appeared to be Mohsen Hashemi,
the oldest son of the late Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
which makes it likely that he will become the next mayor.
The victories are expected to allow Iran’s more moderate political factions to ignore or ease
some social restrictions enforced by Shiite Muslim clerics, for instance in organizing concerts.
In the eastern city of Mashhad, the moderates took all the seats in what appeared to be an answer to unelected clerics
who had ignored government orders to allow concerts in the city, which is home to Iran’s most important Shiite shrine.
Shargh, a reformist daily newspaper, said the reformists were also leading in other major Iranian cities
like Isfahan, Kerman, Semnan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Zahedan.