The Iran Project

How Rouhani and Trump almost reached a deal

Al-Monitor | : The recent exchange of prisoners between Iran and the United States has convinced some observers there is still hope for Tehran-Washington dialogue, but the road seems to be pretty bumpy.

In 2013, newly elected President Hassan Rouhani rose to power as he promised Iranians to put an end to US-Iran tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. His chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had the political system’s permission to negotiate with the United States, but no authority had been granted to Rouhani to talk with then US President Barack Obama on the phone — a 20-minute conversation described by Rouhani as “a very powerful locomotive for the negotiation train.” What led Rouhani to make this courageous decision while knowing he would face a hard time at home was his confidence that the Iranian public and most of the political groups were fully behind him, resulting in the establishment not being able to oppose Rouhani since the cost of such an approach against him had risen steeply.

Everything has changed now, especially after the widespread protests across the country that led to more than 200 deaths — and the outcome is crystal clear: Rouhani has lost his social capital and the political groups standing behind him, while the hard-liners have ridden the waves of anger against him. Therefore, any chance of Rouhani succeeding in de-escalation and winning an agreement over the nuclear deal and sanctions with the United States is unlikely.

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