From ‘enemies’ to ‘rivals’: a shift of worldview in Iran
Tehran, Iran, May 21
By Mehdi Sepahvand – Trend:
It has been a tradition with the Islamic Republic conservatives to caution almost in all their speeches the nation of “enemies” out there who do everything to undermine their country.
This has been a decisive factor in Iran’s approach to the world, with the West in particular being virtually the same as enemies, not to mention its effect on domestic policy, when the more reform minded groups have been often quickly associated with those enemies and then dismissed. The fact has given strong leverage to the conservatives now and then to mobilize their followers against the “enemies”, be it in public rallies staged by the state, or elections where those who have shown a stronger anti-enemy position found more favor with the masses.
But this has proven not to be so much the case anymore in at least the past four years, when Iranians voted for the more open candidates in two presidential elections (one in 2013 and one just a couple of days ago) and a parliamentary election. In these three elections, the majority of votes went to candidates who promised intention to approach the world not as enemies but as politico-economic rivals who must be outdone rather than fought and extinguished from the global stage.
In the 2013 presidential election, Hassan Rouhani found great favor by promising to bring Iran out of a political deadlock with the world over Tehran’s nuclear program. This he accomplished through two years of intense talks with world powers, bringing about a landmark deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. The deal not only put out a burning fear of Iran on the global stage and eased political contact with other countries, but also opened Iran’s economy to the world and promised a greater share for Iranian businessmen in the world market.
In 2016, Iranians once more elected reform-minded candidates into the parliament, the capital city of Tehran becoming exemplary with all 30 representatives from the reform camp.
The trend continued in 2017, when the May 19 presidential election saw Rouhani enjoying a clean sweep against his conservative contender Ebrahim Raisi. The reform-minded electorate demands their government to improve Iran’s foreign relation, make the economy globally more competitive, and scientifically more involved with latest world trends. They do not see world powers as enemies that seek to harm, but as rivals in pursuit of their own benefits, thus to be contended in action rather than cursed verbally.