Latest News: Iran’s Nuclear Weapons

The following text formed the Epilogue of my book From the Medes to the Mullahs: a History of Iran.

‘On the 15th June 2013 Hassan Rouhani was democratically elected President of Iran, so replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who is considered to be a ‘moderate’ compared to his predecessor, is a cleric who studied at the famous Qom seminary and later at Glasgow Caledonian University. He was previously Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and also led the Iranian team in negotiations with the UK, France and Germany on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Rouhani had declared that if elected his priorities would be to restore the economy and improve relations with the West. In many ways these are two sides of the same coin because hopefully if he can open up a dialogue with the West that may result in the removal of sanctions, which in turn would benefit the economy.

Hassan Rouhani took up his position as President on Saturday 3rd August 2013, at a time when once more the Middle East finds itself in crisis. At the time of writing the United States is on the brink of attacking Syria in response to alleged chemical attacks by President Assad’s regime against his own people. Other Western powers, including Britain are showing far more caution. At the same Syria’s ally Russia is calling for a diplomatic solution through dialogue. Interestingly President Rouhani has publicly endorsed Iran’s position alongside that of Russia. Iran’s voice is once again being heard. Perhaps the crisis in Syria will provide the country with an opportunity to come out of isolation and rejoin the world community. This can only be good not only for Iran, but also for the Iranian people.’


Since this was written, events have moved on quite dramatically. It appears that talks between the United States and Iran led to the recent Geneva conference that was attended by world leaders. The outcome is that some economic sanctions against Iran will be lifted in return for a reduction in nuclear activity and access for weapons inspectors.

Not surprisingly, this is not universally popular. Israel and the more conservative elements in the United States are particularly unhappy, claiming that Iran is not to be trusted. Then there is the conservative element within Iran itself, which is vehemently opposed to any kind of compromise with the West.

On the positive side, this is surely a window of opportunity that could prove beneficial for all parties. But it is only a window: a period of six months. During this time the lifting of sanctions will provide a much-needed breathing space for the economy. It will give Iran a chance to prove that it can be trusted. It will enable Iran to sit at the table alongside others, especially when it comes to trying to resolve the Syrian situation. This latter point is vitally important both for the stability of the region and the self-respect of Iran.

So far President Rouhani has fulfilled his electoral promise. The next six months will tell. It will be a vital testing time for Iran, the Middle East and potentially the world.

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