Iran's Political Elite
During Ahmadinejad’s second term as president, Iran faced increasing challenges. Sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and others under U.N. Security Council resolutions took a heavy toll on the economy. Oil exports were halved, and Iranian banks had a hard time conducting international transactions. In 2011, the president and the supreme leader had a falling out over the selection of the intelligence minister. Ahmadinejad finished his second term in August 2013. In August 2015, he announced his intention to run in the February 2016 parliamentary elections.
Rouhani returned to Iran after the Islamic revolution and served five consecutive terms in parliament from 1980 to 2000. He held high ranking national security positions during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq and afterwards. He was appointed secretary of the Supreme National Security Council in 1989 and held the position under Presidents Rafsanjani (1989–1997) and Khatami (1997–2005). Rouhani was also appointed to the Expediency Council in 1991. He earned a doctorate from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1999 for his dissertation on the flexibility of Islamic law.
From 2003 to 2005, Rouhani has acted as lead nuclear negotiator in rounds of diplomacy with European powers and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Hardliners charged that he was too accommodating in negotiations. He resigned after President Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, but continued to head the Expediency Council’s Center for Strategic Research.
In 2013, Rouhani ran for president on platform of prudence, hope and moderation. Competing against a field of mostly conservative candidates and one reformist, he received 51 percent of the vote. As president, his top priorities were to improve Iran’s relations with the international community and to stabilize the economy. On July 14, 2015, Iran reached an agreement on the nuclear issue with the world’s six major powers. Rouhani had less success on the domestic front though, as hardliners blocked his administration’s attempts to open up Iranian society.
In 2013, President Rouhani appointed Zarif foreign minister. He played a pivotal role in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the world’s six major powers. After talks began in late 2013, he frequently met one-on-one with Secretary of State John Kerry. The direct dialogue was a major reversal after three decades of tension with the United States. After some 20 months of difficult and intense negotiations, Iran and the so-called P5+1 —Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States —reached a landmark nuclear deal on July 14, 2015.
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