From Iran, Rouhani's first two weeks in office the worst on record
This week, Iran's newly re-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, will mark his first 14 days as president in his second term.
For the Western foreign policy elite, the main question is whether Rouhani is willing to curb the domination of the IRGC (Iran's Revolutionary Guards) and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's governing entities over Iran's economy. And would Rouhani be able to oppose Iran's disastrous wars in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq?
Are there any chances of economic growth in Iran after the victory of Rouhani?
To answer these questions, we have to follow the events, assertions, and internal and external power struggles, to follow the balance of forces in terms of political, social, and economic points of view.
Economy and power struggle inside
Rouhani has defended his economic record and called for further engagement with other countries as the key to economic growth. But Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the country's ultimate authority, has ruled out any further rapprochement with the West, with no interest in relying on foreign investment to revive the country's economy.
In Iran, the supreme leader controls much of economy through 14 major entities, including the IRGC, whereas Iran's president has no influence on government policies.
Iran's oil revenue gains after President Obama's nuclear deal led to the costs of the war in the Middle East, especially Syria.
On May 15, 2017, Masoud Khansari, head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, said:
It is not yet a safe environment for the private sector in Iran, and foreign investors are still wary of doing business in the country[.]
According to a government report, the unemployment rate rose from 10% to 12.5%. Independent sources say the real figure is 40%, meaning 10 million unemployed
Political and social unrest inside
During the month of May 2017, in 21 major cities in Iran, 441 protests were recorded. This is 91 more protests than April 2017, which included 155 workers' protests, 25 prisoners' hunger strikes, 19 prisoners' protests, 15 teachers' protests, 10 university student protests, and 216 other social strikes.
In the last week, widespread clashes took place in major cities in Iran.
On Sunday morning, May 28, depositors of a state-affiliated development financial institution protested in different parts of the city of Khorramabad in western Iran after the looting of their assets by the state. One of their protests was held in front of a governor's office.
According to reports, demonstrators were chanting "death to the governor." Take a look at the video clips regarding the protest.
On May 29, 2017, hundreds of victims of the Caspian Financial meltdown gathered in front of the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran and chanted in protest. Earlier, dozens of protesters on Sunday attacked a branch of Arman Financial with stones in Khorramabad.
Regional and foreign relations
"The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful[.] ... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so[.] ... America's dream of ending Iran's missile program will never come true," Rouhani claimed on his first day of office.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Riyadh, U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said he hoped newly elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani would use his second term in office to end Tehran's ballistic missile program and end what he called its network of terrorism.
"Washington intends to intensify its efforts to deter Tehran in Syrian and Yemen," he added.
On May 17, 2017, the U.S. House of Representative passed the bill to crack down on financial supporters of the Syrian government, clearly targeting Iran. The bill requires President Trump to sanction countries or companies that do business with the Syrian government or Syria's central bank.
Meanwhile, at a recent Riyadh, Saudi Arabia conference, a NATO-style coalition against Iran, which all agree is at the heart of most of the Middle East's problems, has been established, with 34,000 troops now ready to fight terrorism in Syria and Iraq. The countries in this Riyadh coalition have expressed their enmity against Iran. They show every sign of being determined to condemn and curb sectarianism and the mullah regime's arms shipments to Iraq, as well as its unwelcome role in Syria and Yemen
It's important to understand that the dispute is not between Rouhani and Khamenei. The main confrontation is between 38 years of fanatical tyrannical rule on one hand and the Iranians, who want to see their tyrannical, ruthless, utterly corrupt dictatorship replaced by a secular, democratic government, on the other. The people of Iran are demanding an end to the status quo, of small minority rule over a large majority, which heralds regime change.
The National Council of Resistance has scheduled a rally of 100,000 Iranian exiles in Paris on July 1 during its annual grand gathering, to be addressed by a large group of leading politicians from across the world, most notably many senior figures from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Arab countries.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, up to date with all current affairs, including political and economic issues, critics, and informative reports on Iran and the Middle East. He tweets at @hassan_mahmou1.