Iran moves fast on economic opportunities with US

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Rouhani returns
Rouhani returns home to a lively crowd filled with supporters, as well as protesters.

As Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani plays nice on the world stage, especially with his recent historic call to US President Barack Obama over nuclear power, the motives are quite clear to several Middle East experts. For a while now, US-led economic sanctions (restrictions) have hit Iran hard, draining their money, scientific advancement, and military power, causing a nationwide shift in attitude.

Mehrdad Emadi, an economist at Betamatrix consultancy (a company that offers advice to businesses), sees the sanctions as an important reason for the political change in Iran. “People wouldn’t have been so vocal in their dissatisfaction without such tough sanctions. They applied soft pressure and translated dissatisfaction into voting,” says Emadi.

Expressing similar views, Shaul Bakhash, a professor at George Mason University, Virginia, sees Rouhani as a “man in a hurry” trying to fix the damage caused by Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s aggressive behavior.

However, Rouhani’s friendliness has been met with some resistance back home. When he returned on Saturday to Iran’s capital, Tehran, dozens of protesters threw eggs at the president. Supporters were also in the crowd, shouting “Long live Rouhani, man of change!” against the critics who responded with “Our people are awake and hate America!”

Israel, who was threatened often by former president Ahmadinejad, is not convinced by Rouhani’s kind words. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is concerned that if the US eases economic pressure on Iran, they will just build nuclear weapons. “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and offensive of smiles,” Netanyahu said on Saturday. “One must talk facts and tell the truth. Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of our country.”

While many issues remain unresolved in the wake of the UN General Assembly, like the Israeli-Palestine peace process, global warming, and the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons,  international diplomacy efforts by major global powers offer signs of hope.

Images courtesy of Presidency of The Islamic Republic of Iran. Video courtesy of UN on YouTube.