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Why is the president of Iran stacking his cabinet with advisors who have U.S. education?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Iran is about to get a new, more moderate president. President-elect Hassan Rowhani will be sworn in on August 3, and it is expected he will appoint several other moderate officials to his cabinet, many with American connections.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The recent election of the 64-year-old moderate, Hassan Rowhani, has hopes for better U.S.-Iranian relations at an all-time high. Considered a moderate, Rowhani received both his masters and doctorate degrees from Scotland's Glasgow Caledonian University, speaks English well, and is said to be polite, and savvy.

As soon as he takes office next week, Rowhani will appoint his cabinet. It is already expected that it will include several American-educated officials. Among them are:

Mahmoud Vaezi, a close personal ally to Rowhani, who could be appointed as foreign minister. Vaezi graduated from the California Sacramento State University with a degree in electrical engineering in 1976. His biography also includes two other degrees from the U.S. and another from a university in Warsaw.

Then there is Mohammad Nahavandian who has a doctorate in economics from George Washington University, 1994.

Mohammadreza Nematzadeh, who was Rowhani's campaign manager, earned a degree in environmental engineering from Cal Poly in 1968.

Seyed Hossein Mousavian, who is expected to become a foreign policy advisor, is also a graduate of Sacramento State and is now a research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Several others expected to be tapped for lower-level positions have degrees from American universities.

All of these people have experience with the West and understand better than most how Americans think. This will enable them to deal more effectively with their American counterparts and possibly bring about a thawing of U.S.-Iranian relations.

This may be the point. Appointing leaders who are experienced in American ways of learning and thinking can make Iran's foreign policy more effective. It's a low bar to surpass, given the foreign policy disaster that was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime.

However, most of these leaders, including Rowhani, attended American universities before the overthrow of the Shah and are quite loyal to their nation. There should be no thought that because they have experienced the United States firsthand they are somehow sympathetic to the country or its closest regional ally, Israel.

What can be expected is a new chapter in U.S. Iranian relations. Rowhani has said he wants to tackle the problem of economic sanctions which have crippled the country more severely than the state media and Ahmadinejad regime have admitted.

He has called for a more open and free internet, and a "civil society" which is more tolerant and more moderate. However, we should not mistake this for capitulation. It remains unlikely that the country will abandon its nuclear and hegemonic ambitions and it will likely take years before relations between Iran and the West improve, if at all.

If there's good news, it's that the drumbeat of war is distant again, as the world waits and hopes that Rowhani and his administration do a better job of integrating the reclusive Islamic state into the world community than their predecessors.

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