Iran’s next president, in speech: ‘I will try to improve peace in the world by engagement’

June 15, 2013

Hassan Rowhani in Tehran. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA)

Hassan Rouhani, the political moderate who was announced Saturday as the winner of Iran's presidential election, gave a victory speech in Tehran that offered an early hint of diplomatic engagement. A former nuclear negotiator who agreed to halt uranium enrichment in 2004, Rouhani is seen as much more predisposed toward pragmatism and diplomacy than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some Iran analysts are hopeful that he may be willing to compromise with the West over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

In his speech, Rouhani called his election win a "victory of wisdom, moderation, progress, awareness, commitment and religiosity over extremism and unethical behavior," according to a translation by Financial Times reporter Borzou Daragahi. "You demonstrated that God will not materialize change in any country, unless the nation truly wants it."

According to tweeted translations of the speech by Abas Aslani, the general director of Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, Rouhani also declared, "I will try to improve peace in the world by engagement," adding that he would seek to work with all political factions in Iran. He's used similar language in campaign speeches, calling for diplomatic engagement with the world rather than the confrontation and "resistance" that has been Tehran's recent default.

Rouhani also thanked Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who was barred from running, and former president Mohammed Khatami, a reformist who had himself attempted to reach out to the United States during his tenure.

It's just a speech, of course, and foreign policy and the nuclear program are controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, not the president. But it's a promising, if small, sign that Rouhani may be willing to edge Iranian policy away from the hard-line confrontationalism of Ahmadinejad's eight-year tenure.

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Max Fisher · June 15, 2013

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