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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Iran and the Bomb 2: A New Hope

Rouhani's Gorbachev Moment

What Makes a Genuine Reformer?

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses students as he visits the International University in Moscow, February 9, 2012. Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters

Could Iranian President Hassan Rouhani be another Mikhail Gorbachev -- a real reformer who opens his country’s political system and creates the space for détente with the United States and Europe?

Historical analogies are always fraught, of course, and leaders who are championed as reformers almost always leave disillusionment in their wakes. In addition, the jury is still out on whether a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran, which would open the door for a relaxation of painful sanctions, is even a good idea -- the specifics of the agreement matter greatly.

But whichever side one comes down on, it is worth considering where the Islamic Republic might be headed. In that regard, there are a few areas to watch.

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE

Gorbachev was unique, a true believer in Soviet renewal who sat at the very top of a profoundly centralized political system.

Rouhani

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