Obama's Nuclear Deal Sparks Iranian Mini-Revolution

A general view shows an open session of the outgoing parliament in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. A coalition of moder
A general view shows an open session of the outgoing parliament in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. A coalition of moderates and reformists gained bigger ground in the new parliament after Friday elections, the biggest presence of the camp over the past decade. The new parliament will take office in late May. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In the recent make-or-break elections, Iranian masses (60 percent of the population) voted in a new Parliament and Assembly of Experts, the clerical body responsible for selecting the country's next Supreme Leader. Despite classic conservative efforts to foil reformist gains, the overwhelmingly young, educated, democratically active populace harnessed innovative technologies and tactics to boldly demand change. The majority of the decisive Assembly of Experts is now reformist, eighty-three percent of the new Parliament is either reformist or moderate and the number of women in Parliament doubled.

President Obama's 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, ending crippling sanctions and promising economic, political and social opening, produced the optimistic climate empowering reformist strategic mobilization and victory. When hard-liners employed standard tactics to stifle reformist candidates, undaunted reform organizers demonstrated new levels of innovation. The Guardian Council, the institutional watchdog responsible to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for ensuring candidates reflect the Islamic system, disqualified 80 percent of reform-oriented candidates from participating in elections. Reformist organizers responded by creating "lists" explicitly highlighting reformist and moderate candidates and blacklisting hard-line clerics, devising a unique mechanism to circumvent the conservative block. Celebrated leaders within the reform movement like former president Khatami, currently banned from official Iranian media, rallied to produce videos urging voters to abide the list. Organizers savvily disseminated lists on popular social messaging mobile apps arming reform-hungry voters to dilute the influence of the denounced hardliners.

The reformist defiance of dogged conservative repression signifies a mini-revolution for Iran, essential forward movement in an ongoing effort towards sustained progress. A more moderate parliament will enable President Hassan Rouhani, the first reformist leader since 2004, to finally deliver on stalling efforts to expand social freedoms, invite foreign investment in the economy and fruitfully engage the West. Most significantly, moderates now hold a 59 percent majority in the Assembly of Experts tasked with choosing the successor to Ayatollah Ali Khameni, Iran's top decision-maker since 1989 who is now 76 and facing questionable health. The Assembly now includes former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani an advocate of decentralizing the authority of the Supreme Leader role in favor of a more democratic committee structure.

Obama's nuclear deal guaranteed this long-awaited pivotal revolutionary moment while sparing US military involvement and boots on the ground. The groundbreaking agreement's implementation the month preceding elections galvanized momentum as reformists engineered a transfer of power that shocked hard-liner losers and the the global community alike. Though scrutinized on the homefront, Obama's relentless focus on Iran is liberating a democracy-ready nation and repairing a contentious relationship that has troubled the two nations since 1979.