Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran in late June 2013, running as a pro-reform candidate with close ties to the conservative establishment. He won more than 50% of the vote, garnering more votes than all five of the other conservative candidates put together. The next presidential elections will be held in the summer of 2017.
He was born in 1948 and began his political career in the 1960s by following the eventual founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rouhani’s public support for Khomeini forced him to flee Iran in 1977.
Rouhani returned to Iran after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 to help shape the new Iranian government. He has held numerous senior positions since then. He was a member of the first Iranian parliament in 1980, continuing to serve as a member until 2000. He served on the Parliament’s Defense Commission from 1980 to 1988 and the Foreign Policy Commission from 1992 to 2000. He became a member of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Supervisory Council in 1980, holding that position for three years. He also served on the Iran Supreme Defense Council from 1982 to 1988.
Rouhani flourished after the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988 and Ayatollah Khomeini’s death the following year. He became a member of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) in 1989 and of the Expediency Discernment Council in 1991—two of the most important institutions in the Iranian regime.
He won the election in 2000 to the Assembly of Experts, which is formally charged with selecting the next Supreme Leader. He continues to serve in the body.
He was given responsibility for Iran’s nuclear negotiations in 2003. He retained that position until 2005, when he resigned as SNSC secretary after former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election. Rouhani’s adept political maneuvering as chief nuclear negotiator earned him the nickname “the diplomat sheikh.
Rouhani has also been involved in research and academics. He served as a trustee for the University of Tehran from 2005 to 2008 and headed both the Center for Strategic Research of Iran and the Expediency Discernment Council’s Center for Strategic Research. Rouhani received his bachelor’s degree in judicial law from the University of Tehran as well as two degrees in law from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.
Rouhani called for a new approach in Iranian foreign policy that seeks to roll back the regime’s international isolation and reverse sanctions imposed on Tehran. The announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the nuclear agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran) has been Rouhani’s most important and controversial accomplishment.
Rouhani’s primary mandate as president is to improve the economy. His legacy will hinge on whether or not he is able to do so.
Rouhani continues Tehran’s support of Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Both alliances are crucial to maintaining the integrity of Iran’s “axis of resistance” against the United States and Israel, and in creating the strategic depth and power projection capability Iran deems necessary for its regional security.Show Less