Just hours after Iran’s presidential candidates bickered over nuclear policies during a debate, the country’s foreign minister stepped in with a comment of his own: Nothing will change regardless of the winner.
It’s a political fact of life in Iran, where the president is squarely on the world stage but holds little power to sway key policies such as Tehran’s nuclear development or relations with the West. Yet as the six candidates — including a current and former nuclear negotiator — wrapped up their campaigns Wednesday, perhaps no issues define their immediate challenges more than the nuclear standoff with Washington and its allies and the related economic sanctions strangling Iran’s economy.
What Iran’s next president can potentially influence, however, is
the tone and tactics with world powers if stalemated nuclear talks resume at some point after a successor is picked for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The stakes could rise quickly. Negotiations had been put on hold until after Friday’s election, but pressure could mount to resume the talks even before the new president-elect officially takes over in August. The next round would mark a crossroads: Either show progress or risk escalating calls by some in Israel and the West for military action.
New U.S. measures set to take effect July 1 could bring further blows to Iran’s economy by seeking to block gold sales — a crucial import to boost Iran’s depleted treasury — and cut off “significant transactions” in the Iranian rial in attempts to make the national currency virtually worthless outside Iran. Already, the rial has lost more than half of its value in the past year.