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Remaking Iran

TEHRAN – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently marked the end of his first year in office not only with smiles, but also with further evidence of his efforts at domestic reform and geostrategic reorientation. In Iran’s case, these two imperatives have long gone hand in hand.

Rouhani now says that Iran would be willing to work with the United States in Iraq. The dire threat to both Iranian and US interests posed by the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has, evidently, brought the two countries closer together. In the days since the anniversary of Rouhani’s election, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, overcame his earlier reservations and expressed optimism about reaching an international deal on his country’s nuclear program by the original deadline of July 20.

If rapprochement with the West can be achieved, the removal of the international sanctions stemming from the nuclear program would give a tremendous boost to Rouhani’s economic policy. And it is here that Rouhani has invested much of his energy and political capital.

Coming into office, Rouhani had a clear priority: fix an economy devastated by eight years of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demagogic mismanagement. He replaced Ahmadinejad’s incompetent thugs with a reasonably qualified cabinet and capable administrators, and has embarked on an ambitious program of economic development, expanded health care, and environmental protection.