PHOTO: French President Francois Hollande and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Thursday


Audio Analysis: Rouhani Triumphs in France, But Bigger Battles Ahead at Home

Facing a political battle in Iran, President Rouhani hailed more economic success in his European tour on Thursday.

Rouhani met French politicians, businessmen, and academics on Thursday, following the first leg of his tour in Italy. He and French counterpart Francois Hollande signed 20 agreements for economic and technical cooperation.

Perhaps most importantly, the Iranian delegation confirmed a series of deals bolstering the quest for economic recovery, following this month’s confirmation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers.

Iran will purchase 118 Airbus passenger aircraft, for up to $50 billion, to revive airlines crippled by years of US-led sanctions. Peugeot Citroën has completed a $439 million contract with Iran’s Khodro, producing 200,000 cars a year in a 50:50 joint venture from the second half of 2017. France’s energy giant Total signed a letter of intent to resume purchases of crude oil from Iran, cut off by European Union sanctions in 2012.

The contracts follows deals in Italy worth more than $18 billion, including a pipeline contract for Italian oil services group Saipem, commercial agreements with Italian steel firm Danieli, and arrangements with infrastructure company Condotte d’Acqua.

At a joint press conference with Hollande, the Iranian President hailed the economic accords and also took a firm line on international issues such as the Syrian.

Rouhani implicitly stood against any demand for President Assad to step aside, saying Syrians should decide their political future and other countries should avoid interference in Syria’s affairs: “The main problem in Syria is not such and such person, the main issue is terrorism and Daesh [Islamic State].”

In a jab at Saudi Arabia and Turkey, he said foreign parties had fueled the crisis by arming “terror groups” and engaging in illegal oil trade with them.

The Iranian President returns to Tehran later this week to face a growing battle with regime factions, including the Supreme Leader, over next month’s elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts.

While Rouhani has been in Europe, the Guardian Council disqualified almost 80% of candidates for the Assembly, the body which chooses the Supreme Leader, including the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Earlier this month, the Council barred 60% of the 12,000 hopefuls for the 290-seat Parliament, blocking 99% of the 3,000 reformists and many candidates linked to Rouhani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Supreme Leader supported the bans in a public address. The following day, in an unexpected challenge, Rouhani insisted that the process would lead to a “one-party state” and called for discussions with the Council to remedy any “mistake”.

See Iran Daily, Jan 28: Will Rouhani Talk to Supreme Leader About Mass Disqualification of Election Candidates?