Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, is expected to make his first overseas trip since returning from a rollercoaster ride of first-round elections in May, traveling to China and Russia Wednesday.
Rouhani must restore faith in his government’s potential to produce economic and diplomatic gains in a key international meeting in Poland next month.
Rouhani took office four years ago, promising a new Iran after years of double-digit inflation and severe economic hardship. But after taking office he embarked on a campaign to appease hard-liners fearful of change.
He increased a cash handout to hard-line supporters and completed a multibillion-dollar expansion of the country’s nuclear program, enabling it to expand globally. But by easing some of Iran’s Western sanctions, his relatively moderate policies alienated Iran’s allies in the Middle East, from Syria to Lebanon, as he kept Iran’s opposition political groups at arm’s length.
By negotiating nuclear agreements, Rouhani strengthened President Donald Trump’s hand in talks with his government. But the nuclear deal, reached by his government in 2015, came with a host of devastating restrictions.
The result has been two Iran-U.S. exchanges of high-level visits since Trump’s administration withdrew the United States from the 2015 accord in May.