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Rouhani gets Iranian supreme leader's nod as second-term president, faces risks

Hassan Rouhani won the endorsement of Iran's supreme leader for his second term of president on Thursday after an easy election win, pledging to open Iran to foreign trade and investment but facing internal hardline resistance and renewed U.S. antagonism.

 

Under Rouhani's watch, Iran emerged from international isolation in 2015 when it struck a deal with six world powers to curb its disputed nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of financial and economic sanctions in place for a decade.

 

But his quest to parlay fragile detente with the West into financial infusions to rebuild Iran's oil-based economy has been slowed by investors' fears of pre-existing U.S. sanctions and suspicions among powerful hardline acolytes of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of any rise in Western influence.

 

The new U.S. sanctions could embolden Rouhani's conservative rivals who say the nuclear deal was a form of capitulation.

 

An elite insider who has held senior political and military posts since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Rouhani comes off as a pragmatist unlike Khamenei and his allies, and analysts have cast doubt on his ability to balance their demands and the expectations of his often young and more liberal supporters.

 

Khamenei, who has the last word on all major issues of state, formally endorsed Rouhani as president in a ceremony broadcast live on state television on Thursday, after the pragmatist romped to re-election on May 19.

 

Addressing religious, military and political leaders, Khamenei prayed for "the success of a worthy person".

 

Handing the presidential mandate to Rouhani, Khamenei kissed him on the cheek and the president kissed the Supreme Leader on his shoulder, a sign of supplication.

 

Khamenei again called for economic self-sufficiency and a "resistance economy", a stance arising from his repeated criticism of the halting pace of economic recovery since most international sanctions on Iran were lifted early last year.

 

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