Clearly, we still have MUCH more to learn about Hassan Rowhani, the (relatively) moderate cleric who was just declared the winner in Iran’s presidential election, but what we do know is this:
“Let’s end extremism,” Mr. Rowhani said during a campaign speech. “We have no other option than moderation.” He criticized the much-hated morality police officers who arrest women for not having proper head scarves and coats. He called for the lifting of restrictions on the Internet. He said that “in consensus with higher officials” political prisoners would be freed.
The implications for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel – indeed, for the entire region – are staggering. Now, none of this changes the reality that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the nation’s “Supreme Leader” with ultimate and largely unrestricted authority, but there are several other encouraging facts here as well: (1) Khamenei, himself, actively encouraged people to get out and vote; (2) The slate of conservative candidates resembling outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad placed LAST; and (3) This election could not have proceeded more differently than its predecessor which resulted in the “Green Revolution” – the largest uprising in Iranian history since the 1979 overthrow of the Shah – a rebellion ultimately crushed with absolute brutality by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
While it’s far too early to actually know whether any of this signifies real change, I’m choosing to be hopeful in the belief that a majority of Iranians – particularly young Iranians – have a lot more in common with the West than with extreme Islamists.
LET IT BE.