Meet Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president

The former nuclear negotiator was elected president in 2013, following a decade of intense negotiations with the U.S. under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is Iran’s first non-cleric leader since Khamenei appointed him mayor of Tehran in 1997. Rouhani is the first president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution to win two consecutive election victories.

Rouhani campaigned on a promise to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis. However, he and his administration have yet to win international sanction relief from the West. Furthermore, the toughest sanctions were lifted only after Iran reached an agreement with the P5+1 group of nations, including the U.S., in 2015. The administration has backed away from its previous insistence that Iran meet 12 demands, including curbing its uranium enrichment capabilities.

In 2015, Rouhani and other moderates won an election that ushered in a peaceful transition from Iran’s controversial Ahmadinejad administration to a new political generation. The 52-year-old Rouhani is the son of a communist professor, so when he graduated from college he focused on political science. When he was 20, his father was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard, a hard-line military force under the supreme leader’s control. He says he was the youngest person ever to be arrested.

Rouhani is no stranger to national politics. After a brief stint in detention, he went on to work as an engineer. In 2005, he joined Ahmadinejad’s campaign and served as his chief of staff. He is now a roundtable member of Iran’s legislature, or the Majlis.

He graduated from Tehran University in 1987 and later earned a master’s degree in political science. Rouhani spent most of his adult life in Tehran, where he met his wife, Fatemeh Daneshjoo, an Iranian-American visiting from New York. Their marriage is one of the first “love unions” to occur under Iran’s Islamic law.

During his career, Rouhani worked with other prominent political figures to promote national issues. In 1991, he worked as deputy director in Iran’s education and labor ministries. He chaired the First Vice Presidency from 1998 to 2002. While in that position, he wrote on issues of education, foreign affairs, and relations with the West.

However, it was at his first job as a lawyer that Rouhani first gained national attention. In 1998, he was arrested for translating a book from Russian to Farsi. He was never tried, but has been charged with crimes that include disseminating foreign anti-revolutionary literature and propaganda against the regime. His brother Afshin was also arrested in the same case.

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