STEVE INSKEEP, HOST, NPR'S "MORNING EDITION": I heard a lot of the experts say there's no way that he would be allowed to win this election. But on the other hand we ran into a lot of voters at polling stations who said they were going for him, they supported him, in fact as the day went on there was almost this festive atmosphere of people being excited about this man Rowhani.
Now you're raising this question about how serious he can be, how sincere he can be. I think on the surface we can take him at his word that he's sincere. He's been endorsed by Mohammed Khatami who is one of the great voices for reform in Iran. There's still the question, though, about how much he can do. It's not that he's powerless. There is this supreme leader in Iran.
Karim is one of the great experts on him. And he has far greater power, but this is a man, Rowhani, who is part of this establishment who will now be president who has been elected having made statements that he wants to improve relations with the west. And also improve conditions within Iran, and there's a lot of Iran's elite that want to do something. So there's going to be some pressure to change.
BURNETT: And Karim, what is your view? Were you surprised that the regime backed Rowhani's candidacy in the first place and what is their ultimate goal? They've got someone who is a moderate but not, not the kind of moderate that a lot of -- of liberal Iranis or reformist Iranis would have perhaps necessarily wanted.
KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWNMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think that's right, Erin. This was really a vote against the status quo more than it was a vote for Hassan Rowhani and this wasn't -- there was a limited pool of candidates, which Rowhani was the most moderate one, and I think for people who have to live in Iran they decided to choose from the least bad option.
For that reason, looking at what he can do in terms of foreign policy, he comes from the wing of the revolution, the wing of the regime he's a committed regime insider. He's committed to the ideals of the revolution, but he's one of those who believe that Iran needs a privilege economic expediency before revolutionary ideology.
And for that reason I agree with Steve in that I think he's someone who, instead of pursuing a hard-line ideological policy of resistance, I think he is interested in a policy of detente.
BURNETT: And let me ask you about that. There was a former very well-known politician, female politician who was in the Khatami administration that we actually spoke to, we ran into her at her voting station when she was voting. Here's why she said she was voting Rowhani.
BURNETT: And of course, you know, Karim, I met with a young student this one kind of really stuck with me. She was just a junior English literature major in the University of Tehran and she had her voting finger with a purple nail, which was of course the color of Rowhani, but yet he backed the violent crackdown on students in 1999. "The New York Times" correspondent who was in Tehran for ten years is now home recently wrote Rowhani is not a reformist even according to Iranian standards. What about this argument that the Middle Eastern diplomat said that this is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a very smart ploy by the ayatollah to get the west to work with them, maybe improve the sanction situation, while they can continue to do what they want?
SADJADPOUR: This is certainly the concern above all of the Israeli Prime Minister Bebe Netanyahu that Iran is going to continue to pursue the same intransigent nuclear policies, but do so with a smelling, moderate face rather than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So it's going to be more difficult for the world to rally against Iran, to coerce Iran.
But, you know, I think at the same time, that this is a young population which has been suffocating under tremendous political pressure, internal economic mismanagement, external economic pressure, and so the vote for Rowhani was, you know, I describe as the equivalent of a light rain after eight years of drought.
That said, I do think that a lot of the young folks, and liberals who voted for Rowhani probably have undue expectations, and could be disappointed several months from now.
BURNETT: And they could be disappointed as I -- I know Steve we talked to people there both of us right who said we're not voting we voted for change before they're referring to Ahmadinejad the first time and nothing happened. But, but do you think it's possible now the genie is out of the bottle? They thought they could control this, right, put in a guy that they're all right with the ayatollah right, but maybe it becomes more than a light rain?
INSKEEP: Well, they definitely put in people in that race that they were comfortable with and certainly the supreme leader is comfortable with this man Rowhani who has worked with for decades. But Karim is correct that there is immense pressure for change. Now there's some desperation in Iran now. There's been an immense -- there's been a disappearance of wealth because of the collapse of Iran's currency, because of the decrease in oil revenues.
There is what people describe as a kind of middle-class poverty in Iran right now. You have people who are middle class. They've been middle class for decades, and they can't pay the bills. They can't figure out where the next meal is coming from almost. And so, they're in a situation where something has to be done, and that a lot of the pressure is coming from the United States. The U.S. is in many ways in a strong position right now.
BURNETT: All right, well thanks so much to both of you and your expertise. Really appreciate it, Karim and Steve.