The Great Debate

Iran’s future is now

Whether by design or accident, the nuclear deal struck in Geneva this past weekend is about far more than centrifuges, enrichment and breakout times.

Ultimately, the success of the nuclear negotiations will help determine who and what will define Iran for the next few decades.

Will Iran be defined by the confrontational and bombastic approach of its former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the conservatives around him? Or will it be defined by the more open and moderate approach of its current President Hassan Rouhani and his energetic and respected Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.

A lot is at stake. A comprehensive nuclear agreement that provides the Iranian economy with much-needed relief, retains enrichment on Iranian soil and upholds Iran’s sense of dignity will significantly strengthen Rouhani’s team and force the conservatives to lose even more political ground. Rouhani will have demonstrated to Iranians, for the first time in a long time, that moderation can pay off.

The crowd cheered as Zarif arrived at the Tehran airport after the negotiations in Geneva. The slogans they chanted revealed Iran’s  new political winds.

Rohani: A survivor in the snake pit of Tehran

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rohani at a during a news conference in Tehran June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Fars News/Majid Hagdos

Iran’s new president-elect Hassan Rohani is being praised as a “moderate” who might bring change to Iran and transform Tehran’s international relationships. ”What does he want?” is the question most analysts now ask, and, critically, “What can he achieve?”

The answer may be: a great deal. If he is given the right support — domestically and internationally.