Rouhani Triumph A Decisive Rejection Of Shiite Political Islam AND Trump … Saudis / Israelis Now Confront Shared Nightmare Of “Reasonable Iran”… 45 Trip Already An Epic of US Confusion

He badly needs to demonstrate progress on overhauling the moribund economy.

While he accomplished his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with the US and Western powers in his first term,

that has not translated into the economic revival he predicted because of lingering American sanctions.

Trump / Saudis Hostile To Rouhani Moderation

He must also deal with an unpredictable and hawkish Trump administration,

that this week only reluctantly signed the sanctions waivers that are a central element of the nuclear agreement.

At a summit meeting this weekend in Saudi Arabia between President Trump and leaders of predominantly Muslim countries,

Iran was pointedly not invited.

The Trump administration’s national security officials are on record as considering Iran the source of most of the Middle East’s troubles,

while the Republican-controlled Congress is not about to loosen the unilateral sanctions that are frightening off foreign banks and businesses.

Rouhani, who has managed to mend ties with the European Union, is undaunted, saying only last week that,

“We will break all the sanctions against Iran.”

He has some cards to play with the United States.

Iran provides crucial support to the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq — an American ally —

and any effort to roll back Iranian influence there and in Syria

could jeopardize efforts to retake the cities of Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State extremist group.

Raisi Represents Trump-Like Elements In Iran Political Economy, Society

Raisi, a hard-line judge who leads one of the wealthiest religious foundations in the Middle East,

campaigned as a corruption fighter and called on Iran to solve its economic problems without help from foreigners – just like Trump.

He appealed primarily to poor and deeply religious Iranians, many of whom felt left out of Rouhani’s vision for the future.

While he was soundly beaten, analysts said Raisi fared well enough to maintain his status as a potential successor to Ayatollah Khamenei —

which shows how similar theocratic Iran is to the Electoral College.

Iranians lined up on Friday in Qum to cast their ballots in municipal and presidential elections. Voting hours had to be extended, unlike in RPB-controlled areas of the US, where polling places were closed early.

Elements of Reason And Reaction Struggle In Iran

In defeating Raisi, Rouhani proved once again that Iran’s electorate prefers the moderate reformist path

over the rigid ideology and harsh social restrictions favored by the conservative clergy and security establishment.

Despite controlling most unelected councils, the conservative clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders —

backed by state television, Iran’s version of Fox News —

have suffered a string of political defeats, starting with Rouhani’s election in 2013.

That led to direct talks with their archenemy, the United States, and ultimately to the nuclear deal, which they opposed.

Then moderate and reformist candidates made strong gains in last year’s parliamentary elections.

Supreme Leader Khamenei

Nevertheless, as supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei remains the ultimate arbiter in Iran’s opaque political system,

and he must approve any further changes sought by Rouhani.

Yet, the supreme leader has demonstrated a surprising flexibility in recent years.

While he publicly defends the hard-liners, he has permitted Rouhani to break some decades-old ideological canons when public pressures grow too intense.

Thus, most Tehran residents have satellite dishes that enable them to watch foreign news broadcasts and entertainment,

and couples often walk hand-in-hand through the city’s parks without fear of arrest or harassment.

A Victory for Urban Iran

As much a victory for Rouhani and his team, the election result also reflects the political coming-of-age of urban Iranians,

who voted in high numbers to thwart the candidacy of Raisi,

whom they viewed as a second coming of the Holocaust-denying former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Progressive Iranians had vowed not to repeat the mistake they made in 2005,

when many of them boycotted that year’s election out of disillusionment with the hard-liners’ thwarting of the reformist agenda of the outgoing president, Mohammad Khatami.

That allowed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and conservative clerics to elect Ahmadinejad, who poisoned relations with the West.

This time, prominent intellectuals, actresses, Instagram stars and sports figures waged social media campaigns to urge people to go out and vote for Rouhani.

Reihane Taravati

One of those, Reihane Taravati, 26, who has 175,000 followers on Instagram, achieved a measure of fame in 2014

when she and some friends were arrested after making a video of them dancing to the song ‘Happy’ by the American rapper Pharrell.

She was sentenced to 91 lashes and jail time, though the rulings were later suspended.

“At the time, Rouhani tweeted saying the country needed happiness,” she said.

“That was a great help.”

This year, she decided she wanted to help Rouhani win re-election.

“I looked at what he has achieved for us in the past four years and decided I had to do something”,

she said in an interview over the messenger app Telegram.

The nuclear deal has been hugely important in bringing Iran with all its talented young people out of its isolation, she said.

“But what he has done for the internet has been revolutionary.

He increased the speed and now we no longer need state television as a platform.

We are our own media now.”

Iranians at a polling station on Friday in Tehran. Credit Behrouz Mehri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So Ms. Taravati opened up her Instagram account and started posting pictures in support of Rouhani.

“We do not want to lose what we have gained and his win is a big victory,” she said.

Ideological Divisions In Iran

Over the past week of campaigning, streets in Iranian cities were filled with supporters of both candidates,

often friendly but at times arguing over the future of the country.

The election campaign emphasized a split between those favoring an overhaul of the quasi-socialist economy and expanded personal freedoms

and those wanting to adhere to the ideological precepts of the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

“I am voting for Raisi because he is a ‘seyed,’” said Fazlolah Bahriye,

using the honorific given to those believed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

Bahriye, who said he thought he was in his early 70s (many in Iran are unsure of their birth dates),

then offered a diatribe against politicians, saying that they promised many things but never delivered.

Other voters, especially younger ones, said they favored Rouhani.

“I want more freedom, a relaxation of the strict rules,” said Muhammad Badijan, 19.

He was wearing bright blue contact lenses that matched his shirt.

“I just want to live a normal life,” he added.

In the end, analysts said, the biggest impact of Rouhani’s victory will be felt

when Ayatollah Khamenei, who has had some health issues in recent years, should die or step down.

“A big margin victory, and god forbid the supreme leader passes in the coming four years,

Rouhani will, at least temporarily have a better command to run the country,”

said Fazel Meybodi, a Shiite cleric from the city of Qum, and a supporter of Rouhani.

“Of course in the long term it is the Expert Assembly that will decide,”

he said of the 86 member council that will choose the next leader.

“But Rouhani will be more influential there, after this victory,”

Source: Rouhani Wins Re-election in Iran by a Wide Margin – The New York Times