Before I begin, let me stress that I believe that the chances of Hassan Rouhani actually winning the Nobel Peace Prize is zero, because for better or worse he is an official in a repressive regime, and it’s understandable that the Nobel committee doesn’t want to award a sitting president of a repressive regime, even though he is not the main power in the regime and has proved a reforming force within it. But that doesn’t stop me from arguing that he should win, and here is my pitch for it.
I believe that the prize should be awarded in recognition of the Iran Deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015. The reason the committee mentions can be something along “for his efforts for a peaceful resolution to the the nuclear talks which culminated in JCPOA” or something.
The agreement has clearly prevented war, which seems to be the main purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. It has also prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons, making it very successful as an international agreement, and a towering achievement of international diplomacy. It has been very successful as IAEA keeps attesting to the fact that Iran abides by the deal and with the exception of Trump, Netanyahu, and Saudi Arabia, everyone endorses the deal from Germany to France to even James Mattis, Trump’s own Secretary of Defense.
And right now as the deal is under fire by Trump administration, the prize can reinforce it and send a message.
Of course, you might ask why I think Hassan Rouhani should win the Nobel Peace Prize for this particular achievement. Indeed, most people seem to nominate his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, alongside someone else, like John Kerry or Federica Mogherini. So why do I think Rouhani should win the prize?
First of all, even though Zarif is a great foreign minister whom I love, in the end, the Iranian side of things was managed by Rouhani. There are many anecdotes which show that at times Zarif was ready to give up, or to accept conditions that would endanger the deal in the future, but it was Rouhani who pushed them to persevere, and ultimately it was Rouhani who created the pathway and determined the policies. The deal, on the Iranian side, was ultimately Rouhani’s achievement.
Secondly, Rouhani symbolizes the deal more than anyone. He is the only person who had a leading role in diplomacy since the beginning. In 2000s, under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, he was the chief negotiator on the Iranian side, and under his leadership Iran suspended the program and was ready to reach a sweeping agreement. He was pushed aside when Ahmadinejad was president, but then in 2013 he basically transformed his own presidential bid into a referendum on the nuclear talks, won the presidency with the talks as his number one priority and was finally successful in making it a reality.
But on the other side, people have come and gone. To award Mogherini is to snub Javier Solana and Catherine Ashton who were High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs before her, and honestly did much more to achieve the deal than her. And to award Kerry is to snub other foreign ministers, both at his own time and before, dating back to the trifecta of Jack Straw, Joschka Fischer, and Dominique de Villepin. Rouhani is the only person who can symbolize the deal on himself.
Finally, the man has been working for peace and reconciliation all his life. He has always been a pragmatist who favors making deals and amends with the west, was active in ending the Iran-Iraq War (although not the main role), and then he became famous for his role in the nuclear talks. His nickname was “The Diplomat Sheikh”. He used to be socially conservative and friendly to the repressive apparatus, but that has also completely changed. I guess a lifetime dedicated to diplomacy deserves the recognition of the Nobel Peace Prize.