With the upcoming inauguration of Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani this weekend, some U.S. policymakers, lawmakers, and pundits argue that Washington should offer preemptive concessions to persuade Tehran into yet another round of nuclear negotiations. The trouble is Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – not the Iranian president – remains the ultimate decision-maker on the country's nuclear program. If the United States and like-minded partners have any hope of compelling the Iranian regime to abandon its dangerous nuclear ambitions, then they should maximize economic and diplomatic pressure now, before Iran achieves nuclear weapons-making capability.
President Rouhani's inauguration will not alter Iran's quest to improve its capability to make nuclear weapons on ever shorter notice. Not only does Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei retain full control over Iran's nuclear program, but Rouhani's track record indicates he is not the "moderate" some in Washington had hoped he would be. As Mark Dubowitz, eexecutive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently noted, Rouhani "is regime loyalist, and a master of nuclear deception, who has played an intimate role in the belligerent foreign policies of the Islamic Republic since its founding."
Furthermore, Rouhani was one of only a handful of selected politicians approved by the Iranian regime to run in presidential elections this year. Tehran's clerical leadership blocked some 600 candidates from appearing on the ballot, with just eight ultimately allowed to run.