Iran General NewsNo boring old inauguration for this incoming Iranian president

No boring old inauguration for this incoming Iranian president


Wall Street Journal: The inauguration ceremony of Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani, scheduled for Aug.4, is being carried out with unusual diplomatic fanfare. For starters, Iran decided to depart with its tradition of a low-key inauguration ceremony. The Wall Street Journal

By Farnaz Fassihi

The inauguration ceremony of Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani, scheduled for Aug.4, is being carried out with unusual diplomatic fanfare.

For starters, Iran decided to depart with its tradition of a low-key inauguration ceremony. The Foreign ministry said it has sent out formal invitations to all heads of states, except for the U.S. and Israel, to travel to Tehran for the event.

Iran has no diplomatic relations with the U.S. and does not recognize Israel as a country.

Even Britain got an invite, despite severing diplomatic ties  after mobs of Islamist vigilantes ransacked the British embassy and its residential compound in 2011.

Iranian media have speculated that former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will be in attendance. Mr. Straw knows Mr. Rouhani from the years when the new President-elect led Iran’s nuclear negotiating team.

“Our invitations have been very well received,” said Abbas Araghchi, the foreign ministry spokesman. “For the first time since the Islamic revolution we’ve decided to invite foreign guests to the inauguration.”

Iranian inaugurations are nothing like their counterparts in the U.S. for example. The event is not open to the public. It takes place in the parliament and is usually attended by officials and resident foreign diplomats.

There is no music or singing or a march through the streets.

The only speeches are by the head of the parliament, as the host, and head of the judiciary, as the person officiating and the new president.

But this year, it seems Iran is using the occasion to extend an olive branch to the world and showcase to the West that it’s not an isolated pariah state.

It also keeps with Mr. Rouhani’s campaign promises that if elected, he will improve relations with the world, including with the West, and put an end to provocative foreign policies.

Iranian media reported that presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Venezuela and Lebanon would attend as well as Iraq’s vice president and Syria’s prime minister. Turkey, Latin-American countries and Arab nations in the Persian Gulf will also send high-level officials.

But the Europeans appear to have shunned the ceremony, at least at high-official level. The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday that Britain’s Foreign Office announced diplomats based in Iran would represent EU countries, not heads of states.

The ceremony is expected to last 90 minutes and will be televised live on Iranian channels. The president receives his official presidency decree a day before from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It’s not clear yet whether the invitation to partake in the event will extend to leaders of Iran’s reformist political faction, such as former President Mohamad Khatami. Mr. Khatami’s endorsement was a key factor in Mr. Rouhani’s landslide victory.

Fars News Agency reported that there is “absolutely no plan” to invite Mr. Khatami because typically former presidents don’t attend the inauguration.

Sidelining Mr. Khatami from the get-go will not bode well for Mr .Rouhani’s image as a centrist, pragmatic president with cross-party appeal. He has called Mr. Khatami a close adviser and thanked him in his victory speech. If conservative factions manage to convince him otherwise it will deliver the first major disappointment to voters hoping for change.

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