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Post deal, can Rouhani deliver on promises of reform?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must tread lightly to ensure economic prosperity after sanctions relief.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani leaves after delivering a speech at plenary session during the Asian African Conference in Jakarta April 22, 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 19 to 24, 2015. REUTERS/Beawiharta - RTX19RI1

The next few months will see President Hassan Rouhani enjoy a peak in popularity. The nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) boosts Rouhani among the public and even the political elite. The mild-mannered president will have much more political capital in his hand. But what will he spend it on? The economy will no doubt be a big focus. Rouhani’s government has already indicated a desire to liberalize and privatize Iran’s moribund economy and possibly loosen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) chokehold on business. But Rouhani has been relatively reticent on political and social reforms, both of which matter a great deal to Iranians; after all, what is economic prosperity if there is no accompanying personal freedom?

Rouhani was elected president because he offered hope; he claimed that the nuclear agreement would be the “key” to unlock or solve Iran’s problems. But it will take more than a nuclear agreement to make Iran a better place to live. Can Rouhani achieve his people’s dreams? Is he even willing?

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