He badly needs to demonstrate progress on overhauling the moribund economy. While he accomplished his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with the United States and Western powers in his first term, that has not translated into the economic revival he predicted because of lingering American sanctions.
He must also deal with an unpredictable and hawkish Trump administration that this week only reluctantly signed the sanctions waivers that are a central element of the nuclear agreement. At a summit meeting this weekend in Saudi Arabia between President Trump and leaders of predominantly Muslim countries, Iran was pointedly not invited.
The Trump administration’s national security officials are on record as considering Iran the source of most of the Middle East’s troubles, while the Republican-controlled Congress is not about to loosen the unilateral sanctions that are frightening off foreign banks and businesses.
Mr. Rouhani, who has managed to mend ties with the European Union, is undaunted, saying only last week that, “We will break all the sanctions against Iran.”
He has some cards to play with the United States. Iran provides crucial support to the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq — an American ally — and any effort to roll back Iranian influence there and in Syria could jeopardize efforts to retake the cities of Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State extremist group.
Mr. Raisi, a hard-line judge who leads one of the wealthiest religious foundations in the Middle East, campaigned as a corruption fighter and called on Iran to solve its economic problems without help from foreigners. He appealed primarily to poor and deeply religious Iranians, many of whom felt left out of Mr. Rouhani’s vision for the future.
While he was soundly beaten, analysts said Mr. Raisi fared well enough to maintain his status as a potential successor to Ayatollah Khamenei.
In defeating Mr. Raisi, Mr. Rouhani proved once again that Iran’s electorate prefers the moderate reformist path over the rigid…