Author Archives: Gareth Smyth

Enriching relations

Enriching relations

Earlier this year, I had long discussions with two former European ambassadors to Iran recalling the 2003-05 negotiations between the European Union and Iran over its nuclear program, the last substantive engagement between the West and the Islamic Republic before a decade-long standoff. Both Paul von Maltzahn, German ambassador from 2003 to 2006, and Sir

A date with the great Satan

The phone call between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations, the first direct contact between presidents of Iran and the United States in three decades, signals the seizing of a chance to advance relations between the two countries and potentially open up debate over Iran’s nuclear program and US sanctions. The earlier

Building on the hope of Rouhani

When I interviewed Hassan Rouhani in Tehran back in 2005, the toughness underneath the white turban was evident. It seems glib now for Iran’s president-elect to be called a ‘moderate’ but he is certainly more pragmatic than the officials that have dominated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Probably, the turning point in the 2013 presidential election came

Iran’s campaigns of deception

Despite all the political maneuvering, recent presidential elections in Iran have hinged on the economy. But winning votes and delivering economic growth are hardly the same. Candidates have criticized the management of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outgoing president who is ineligible under the constitution for a third consecutive term. No wonder. Since the last election in

The man who could bring peace

Hassan Rouhani’s entry into June’s Iranian presidential race adds a new ingredient. In a crowded field of ‘principle-ists’, Rouhani offers a hardheaded option for voters seeking less populist economic management and a more nuanced handling of talks with world powers over the nuclear program. Best described as a pragmatic conservative, Rouhani is a man “of

Lessons of hindsight

The diplomatic pond rippled when Hossein Mousavian, the former Iranian nuclear negotiator, visited London’s Chatham House in February. Home of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House famously has rules whereby proceedings are not reported, although some were streamed on the Internet to members. Suffice to say that Mousavian, now a research scholar at

Ahmadinejad’s burning bridges

Nowruz, or new year, makes much of March in Iran a joyful celebration of renewal, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is feeling the rising sap. The president was welcomed back from a visit to Egypt last month by chanting supporters waving banners saying “Viva spring”.The president’s opponents, however, were quick to smell a rat. Eagerly awaiting the

Mitigating the cost of supporting Assad

Ali Akbar Salehi is a shrewd man whose conduct of Iranian foreign policy since becoming foreign minister two years ago suggests diplomacy and courtesy can still exist in the region. But can it transform inauspicious circumstances? Salehi’s visit to Cairo in January — when he saw both President Mohammed Morsi and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand

Tehran optimistic after all

Iran is looking at 2013 with more optimism than seemed likely just a few months ago. True, tougher United States and European Union sanctions introduced in the summer have halved oil exports to around 1.1 million barrels a day, but predictions of economic implosion have fallen flat.  Likewise, the durability of the Syrian regime has

A bitter pill to swallow

The death last month of Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi, a 15-year-old boy suffering from hemophilia, has been reported in the Iranian media as the first fatality caused by the latest financial sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union. While sanctions do not directly target Iranian pharmacies or the wider medical sector, 75 percent of the

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