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A Country Heading Nowhere

The Islamic Republic of Iran, is one of the most internationally isolated country today, with close to no friends. One of it's closest allies, Syria is undergoing a massive civil war. It's relationship with the West is deteriorating every day. It's economy is being crushed under the weight of international sanctions on it's nuclear program and this program isn't really helping Iranians too much.

It's political field is dominated by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. The champion of the Islamists, his biggest advantage is his iron-fisted control over the Council of Guardians, where he gets to nominate most of the posts. This very Council of Guardians is the body which allows people to stand for the election.

Thus, even though a candidate might be overwhelmingly favored by the Iranian population, he can't stand for elections until he is allowed to do so by the Guardian Council. Previously, for example in 2009, the Guardian Council approved of only 4 out of 476 candidate of the Presidential Election. Th rest were rejected on absolutely arbitrary and flimsy grounds of being un-Islamic, having relations with intelligence services of foreign countries, having worked for the Pahlavi era which pre-dated the Islamic Republic and of being addicted to narcotics.

It's also notorious for rejecting all women candidates and most reformists. The Guardian Council is also the very same organization which supervises the counting of ballots, which is something extremely controversial in Iran. in 2009, an election which many claimed was fraudulent and fixed, they were the ones who were in charge. It was an Islamist who won then, that to with an unbelievably huge margin. in 2013, with an Election Commission now in place, most strangely, a moderate swept the elections.

Clearly, the Supreme Leader has the politics of Iran in his hands. A domineering figure, he seems to be overshadowing the presidents. An expert at playing behind the scenes, he always manages to ensure his choice of a president sweeps elections. Whether he does it through manipulating of votes or not, no one knows.

Undoubtedly, the 2009 elections were suspicious. Candidates opposing Ahmadinejad (Khamenei's favorite) turned out to be as unpopular inn their home states as in other states. In some places, turnout was over 100%. Yet, no full recount of votes were held and any protests brutally crushed.

Well, this time at least, suspicions aren't so plentiful. Not many doubt that Rouhani, the winner actually swept the show. Islamists were whitewashed. But it yet remains to be seen whether Rouahani is actually allowed to use his full power himself or will he just end up being a puppet in the hands of the Islamists.

While the Iranian Government would compare the state of affairs in Iran to maple syrup, everyone knows that it is far from the truth. The economy is splintering to bits under the heavy weight of sanctions. Iran has been diplomatically isolated and yet, it's political establishment doesn't want to wrap up it's controversial nuclear program or at least clean up any doubts and suspicions about it.

The path ahead for Rouhani is clear - to increase political freedom and transparency and to bring about a rapprochement with the world. Only then is there a chance of the partial lifting of economic sanctions and a recovery of the struggling Iranian economy. Yet, if Rouhani turns out to be just another leader in the shadow of the Islamists who have dominated Iran, it is doomed. Today, Iran is like a ship without a captain, heading nowhere. It's Rouhani's duty to captain it and steer it towards a course.

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