With the Nobel Peace Prize set to be announced on Friday, readers of the UK’s Guardian newspaper overwhelmingly support one dark horse candidate for the award, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
According to a poll on the Guardian’s website, some 75% of respondents chose Rouhani from a list compiled by Guardian journalists. The second closest contender, Malala Yousafzai, an activist in Pakistan, garnered a mere 15%.
The paper explains its rationale behind the selection, saying that Rouhani has “already brought encouraging changes, not least putting an end to the embarrassment of the Ahmadinejad years, starting a new chapter for improved relations with the west.” This month, Rouhani’s charm offensive resulted in a meeting between Iranian officials and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a personal phone call between Rouhani and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Many Iran watchers, outside of those who read the Guardian, feel that Rouhani’s new tone is a ruse to buy time to work on Iranian nuclear projects in secret. A Wall Street Journal columnist suggested yesterday that Rouhani may indeed be more moderate, but that he is relatively powerless when it comes to the Iranian government’s decision making. “Maybe Mr. Rouhani isn’t ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. Maybe he’s a sheep among wolves,” he wrote.