Rouhani's political success is dependent on directing sanctions relief towards domestic problems
Much of the money repatriated to Iran will have to be spent on addressing the government’s inherited problems. In addition, Iran needs an estimated $200 billion in investments for its dilapidated energy sector. But perhaps more importantly, at least some of the economic benefit from sanctions relief has to trickle down to the average Iranian. Rouhani was able to win his election because Iranians were desperate for change, especially economic relief. Of course, Iran is not a democracy, and the Guards and bonyads will take a large cut of sanctions relief, whether it is the repatriated money or wealth created through future oil export or investments. But the Rouhani government and the regime as a whole also have to pay attention to popular demands. After all, the regime faced a national crisis before Rouhani’s election: the 2009 mass protests that shook Iran were in no small part the result of the economic and social pressures faced by the population. The need to prevent future unrest had a role in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision to support Rouhani’s nuclear negotiations. Of course, Khamenei also had to ensure the loyalty of the Guards and Iran’s traditional merchant class, both of which were hit hard by international sanctions.