According to reports, yesterday's meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and several high-level Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders went well and Rouhani and IRGC leaders found some common ground. Now speculation is focused on how those common interests might be incorporated into Rouhani's final Cabinet appointments that will be made next month after he is inaugurated Aug. 5.
Rouhani, entering his second-term as president, will be pushed toward developing a better relationship with the IRGC and will need to be able to balance more effectively off of opposition figures. Iran's presidency is inherently a weak institution. During a president's second term, this becomes even more apparent as other stakeholders look ahead to the next election cycle. A better relationship does not mean that Rouhani and the IRGC will become allies. They will continue to spar over, among other things, social issues, media openness, and the judiciary. A better relationship may, however, force Rouhani to have a more balanced Cabinet and government that includes some of the IRGC interests.
The United States' more assertive stance against Iran has weakened Rouhani's strength against the more hardline establishment that feels Iran must project a defiant stance domestically and abroad. Nevertheless, some of Iran's political hardliners are moving closer to the center on certain domestic and social issues. A few political leaders — such as Ebrahim Raisi — have sought to re-engage with Iran's youth, including by meeting with rappers. These are incremental moves, but right now Iran's hardline camp, which has been stunned by Rouhani's successive large defeats, is searching for a new political direction and message. Outgoing Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has already coined a new term — neo-principalism — as Tehran prepares to be governed by a municipal council dominated by the reformist-moderate alliance.