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Iranians wave national flags during a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Iran’s Problems Go Beyond the Current Hard Line From the U.S.

, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019

As Iran celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the United States’ confrontational policy toward Tehran under President Donald Trump presents a real challenge for the Iranian political elite, particularly the moderates among them. Trump’s policy of reimposing economic sanctions aims to impose “maximum pressure” on Iran in order to provoke a change of behavior in Iranian regional policy. Far from accomplishing its goals, the U.S. approach is more likely to strengthen conservative factions within Iran and give the moderates, including President Hassan Rouhani, an excuse for not working toward their electoral promises of granting greater freedoms and pursuing economic reform.

U.S. sanctions are not the only reasons for Rouhani’s current weakness. Iranian presidents have historically found their power diminished vis-à-vis the supreme leader in their second term, becoming so politically irrelevant in decision-making processes that they resemble political commentators more than effective political actors. This has been a constant theme in Iran since the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, from 1997 to 2005. ...

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