democracy &amp; iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/106/all/article/iran-s-political-shadow-war cached version 07/07/2018 17:55:48 en Iran’s nuclear programme and the battle of the oligarchies https://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil-hossein-rassam/iran%E2%80%99s-nuclear-programme-and-battle-of-oligarchies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A contest of domestic elites with differing interests and strategic visions is a crucial, neglected element pervading Tehran's nuclear diplomacy. <br /><br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Now that the nuclear-negotiation deadline of 30 June 2015 has passed, a battle is heating up between Iran and the P5+1 group, where both sides seek to finalise the technical details of the comprehensive agreement. In public statements, United States and Iranian leaders draw red lines seeking to advance their negotiating positions. While these lines are instrumental to the outcome, for Iran they also shed light on the central battle within the Islamic Republic. This conflict is not between hardliners and reformists. Rather, it is a battle between oligarchies, "integrationists" versus "interactionists": two groups with competing political visions and economic interests contending for the future of Iran.</p><p>To understand Iran and its forthcoming challenges, overused theocratic analogies should be discarded. Today, Iran most closely resembles post-Soviet Russia where a bankrupt political system, rampant corruption and economic mismanagement have given rise to greater access and opportunity for a divided political oligarchy. To keep the fracturing political elite together over the subsequent three decades, the establishment granted these groups economic privileges allowing them to benefit from their political connections by gaining access to the proceeds from privatisations, tax exemptions, and government contracts. In the process each developed a network of supporters and loyalists. </p><p>Despite such privileges, divisions emerged throughout the 1990s under the presidencies of Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), both of whom were early advocates of regional and economic integration. To counterbalance the emergence of these political groups, conservatives joined forces with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), thus laying the groundwork for the current oligarchical structure.</p><p>In the realm of foreign policy, these groups remained united over the utility of the nuclear programme, believing it would provide Iran with the three pillars of deterrence, strategic leverage and factional unity. When the contested presidential elections of June 2009 led to large-scale public demonstrations, there was concern among scattered political groups - from hardliners to reformists - not to appear too soft or submissive to foreign pressure. Thus they rallied behind the establishment. The nuclear programme had helped bring a fractured elite together again. </p><p>The impact of sanctions coupled with profound economic mismanagement, however, began to take its toll on the Iranian economy. By 2012, as oil exports halved, the nuclear programme had proved to be a costly gamble that reinforced international and regional isolation. In these circumstances the establishment’s primal fear became long-term sustainability. The president elected in 2013, Hassan Rouhani, launched a fresh approach of constructive engagement with the international community as the only solution to save the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic’s rival elite, unable to blame the "great satan" (that is, the US) for Iran’s economic malaise, reluctantly accepted this initiative. It was agreed that an end to the nuclear standoff, and sanctions relief , would be intrinsic to the survival of the Islamic Republic. At the same time, this plan fuelled new tensions between Iran’s oligarchs and their domestic ambitions.</p><p><strong>The sanctions prism</strong></p><p>Ultimately, the two groups have differing visions of Iran’s domestic evolution, which can be seen through the prism of the penultimate goal of sanctions relief. It's important to note that this division is not necessarily along hardline versus reformist lines; rather it is about financial empires and billion-dollar oligarchs seeking to secure their long-term interests.</p><p>The first group, the integrationists, seek a nuclear deal and sanctions relief as a means to advance their pragmatic, technocratic political and economic agenda. A nuclear deal would allow this group to bring Iran back into the community of nations, thereby reinvigorating the country’s economic prospects through increased foreign investment. In turn, political liberalisation would follow. This platform would weaken their competitors by providing an alternate economic model built upon transparency and integration.&nbsp; The successful completion of the nuclear negotiations would validate the integrationist vision.</p><p>The second group, the interactionists, is composed of conservatives who have built an expansive network of religious and military entities along with vast economic interests. Their success is predicated on their internal network of interactions. This group expanded their economic influence during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005-13). The IRGC 's closing of Imam Khomeini airport in 2004 due to its opposition to a Turkish-Austrian contract for the airport’s management was the first of many examples of the group’s economic interference and influence. Ironically, they benefited from international sanctions, which allowed them to monopolise major contracts, mock-privatisations and the import market.</p><p>Interactionists are wary of integration, believing international cooperation will in the long run undermine their grip on power and bring about the demise of the Islamic Republic. To them, Iran’s integration into the international economy will trigger the collapse of the Islamic Republic. They perceive this as a part of a "soft coup" that would begin with economic liberalisation, continue to trickle down into society - and end with a complete political transformation.&nbsp; </p><p>But the toll of sanctions has had an impact on this group too. Like their counterparts, they seek sanctions relief - but preferably through the collapse of the sanctions regime. Preventing their integrationist rivals from succeeding is an essential component of their survival. A sanctions collapse would kill many birds with one stone: defeating their domestic political opponents, continuing their economic monopoly with greater access to international markets, preventing western interference, and maintaining their regional strategic influence.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>The veteran diplomat Mohammad Javad Larijani captured this strategy best when he described as dangerous Rouhani’s approach of linking Iran’s economy to foreign investment in order to facilitate integration and "assimilation". In advocating an alternative path, he suggests that, "If we defeat the sanctions, we have achieved the greatest victory that will open many doors to us…through interaction rather than integration". </p><p>Herein lies the battle at the heart of the nuclear negotiations, the result of which will have profound implications for the future of Iran. Two competing groups agree on the means of sanctions relief, but differ on the strategic and political ends. But the outcome for these groups will not be a zero-sum game. They both have deep interests and entrenched networks. The international community must learn to live with and do business with interactionists and integrationists alike. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iran">International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) &amp; Iran</a></p><p><a href="http://sanamvakil.com/">Sanam Vakil</a></p><p>Arang Keshavarzian, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/politics-general-interest/bazaar-and-state-iran-politics-tehran-marketplace?format=PB"><em>Bazaar and State in Iran: The Politics of the Tehran Marketplace</em></a> (Cambridge University Press, 2009)</p><p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em><span><span>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007) </p><p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em><span><span>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-women-in-frame">Iran, women in the frame</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/iran/irans-political-shadow-war">Iran’s political shadow war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition">Iran&#039;s women: a movement in transition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> International politics democracy & iran Hossein Rassam Sanam Vakil Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:42:10 +0000 Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam 94052 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran behind the conciliatory veil https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/iran-behind-conciliatory-veil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Right-wing US and Israeli venom against the outline agreement is one thing; genuine concern about the Islamic regime’s Shia expansionism and human-rights record is however another.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>As Iran and the ‘P5+1’ (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) prepared for a new round of negotiations in late April to finalise the details of a nuclear agreement, a group of 24 executives and investors were touring the country on a ‘fact-finding’ mission. Although Iran still remains under a sanctions and American companies are prohibited from doing business there, the trip was the group’s third to the Islamic republic. So although several important differences remain between the US and Iranian interpretations of the tentative agreement on 2 April</span> <span>in Lausanne<em>, </em></span><span>some American firms are already signalling their hopes for new business opportunities with Iran.</span></p> <p>Sanctions have massively undermined Iran’s economy but that anticipated new era is a matter of mutual interest. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has implicitly supported the view of the president, Hassan Rouhani, that the nuclear issue is a “symptom” of mistrust and conflict, not a “cause”. For the first time in decades, he indicated that reaching a decent deal might lead Iran to more co-operation with the US in the region. A few days later in the <em>New York Times</em>, the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, underlined that “there are multiple arenas where the interests of Iran and other major stakeholders intersect … This unique opportunity for engagement must not be squandered.” </p> <p>It seems then, that “the waiting list” of US companies—as Dick Simon, a co-founder of the Young Presidents’ Organization and one of the executives who visited Iran put it—is expanding. Another American investor told BBC Persian that the “vast number of educated youth, a huge market in the region, a western consumer middle class and the friendly attitude of the people” had made “the prospect of a changing Iran a very interesting one”.</p> <h2><strong>Substantial disagreements</strong></h2> <p>As the US president, Barack Obama, has made clear, however, this is not a done deal and hardliners on both sides are trying to sabotage it. There are substantial disagreements between the US ‘fact-sheet’ on the outline agreement and Iran’s understanding. Iran insists that nothing has been surrendered and “none of the nuclear facilities or related activities will be stopped, shut down, or suspended” but the US summary suggests otherwise. In addition to the lack of such crucial detail, there are at least two main differences: over the inspection arrangements and the lifting of sanctions. </p> <p>Contrary to the ‘fact-sheet’, Iran insists that its military bases are not to be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—as both Khamenei and the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, have reaffirmed. On the other hand, Iran maintains that all sanctions should go within days of the signing of the final agreement: “At the same time as the start of Iran’s nuclear-related implementation work, all of the sanctions will be annulled on a single specified day.” But the ‘P5+1’ are insisting that sanctions will only be suspended through verifications by the IAEA and “at the end of the first stage of implementation, not at the beginning”. According to the US secretary of state, John Kerry, this could take six months to a year.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more importantly, however, there is a critical suspicion as to whether the Islamic regime is genuinely changing. What puts Iran’s policy in question is its aggressive strategy, regionally and domestically. </p> <h2><strong>Hegemonic influence</strong></h2> <p>Some members of the US Congress have already discounted any agreement with Iran. The former Republican secretary of state James Baker alleged that it would “alienate all of our allies in the region”, making clear by this he meant not just Israel but all “moderate Arab states”. Yet Algeria, Oman, Iraqi, Lebanon and Tunisia all welcomed the framework deal as a positive alternative to war. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Since Shaheed assumed his post, he claims nearly 2,000 Iranians have been executed by the regime</span></p><p><span></span>Iran’s desire to increase its hegemonic influence in the region has agitated some countries, however, especially Saudi Arabia. Many Saudi media have claimed that Iran is trying to shape a ‘Shiite arc’, comprising Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain. And there is some evidence that the Saudi government sought to sabotage any agreement with Iran. Although immediately after the announcement of the potential deal Obama called King Salman to reassure him of America’s “enduring friendship”, Saudi officials have several times declared their anxiety about Iran’s nuclear programme. </p> <p>So Saudi Arabia has moved in advance of the outcome of further negotiations in July, partly because of Iran’s aggressive policy within some Arab nations to influence Shiite populations and challenge Saudi power. And there is no sign yet, from either side, of a peaceful resolution of this hegemonic conflict between the two regional powers, being played out in Syria, Iraq and Yemen (while some other Arab states in the Persian Gulf, like Bahrain, are not as stable as they might seem). </p> <p>King Salman did say he hoped “the deal would reinforce the stability and security of the region and the world” but this was an official gloss. <em>Al Arabiya</em>, a Saudi-backed news website, carried the unvarnished <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/04/01/Saudi-King-Salman-s-doctrine.html">claim</a> that “the Saudi king decided his country could no longer bear the provocative Iranian expansive policy in the Middle East, or the American silence over it”. In this perspective the skeleton deal has only reinforced Salman’s determination to push back against Iranian influence, with or without Washington. </p> <h2><strong>Total suppression</strong></h2> <p>“This is the new Iran,” the American entrepreneurs were told during their visit. Nasrollah Jahangard, Iran’s deputy minister of telecommunications, encouraged them to invest in a country where the number of smartphones was soon expected to reach 40m, or one for every two Iranians. Jahangard also told them privately that although the internet was filtered and Facebook banned in Iran, there were more than 30m users and at least 10m actively used Facebook every day. As one of the youngest countries in the world with a huge number of university students, there were many other socio-economic factors which could lead western companies to consider “the potential of getting involved in Iran”, Simon told BBC Persian after the group came back to America. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Hassan_Rouhani.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Hassan_Rouhani.jpg" alt="Hassan Rouhani" title="" width="230" height="322" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hassan Rouhani—his administration hangs on nuclear deal. Wikimedia / BotMultichillT. Creative Commons.</span></span></span>The main concern for human-rights activists, however, is the regime’s total suppression of socio-political demands while it open up economically to foreign investment—and here even the Islamic republic’s rhetoric has not changed. The most recent reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International indicate that human rights are sharply deteriorating and the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, has echoed that the situation has worsened since Rouhani was appointed. </p> <p>Since Shaheed assumed his post, he claims nearly 2,000 Iranians have been executed by the regime, while there are “around 900 prisoners of conscience in Iran, many of them in prison for simply expressing their opinions”. Based on official reports, during the past few months more than 200 people have been hanged and a large number on death row risk imminent execution. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Many experts thus suggest Rouhani’s administration has only one mission—to solve Iran’s nuclear problem with the west. In the annual budget socio-cultural sectors have faced a 62% cut over the past three years while provision for the military, allied to that of the police and domestic paramilitary forces, has increased just this year by 32.5%. The state remains utterly silent on the situation of minorities and those who were jailed following the protests against the controversial 2009 election, as well as the continued house arrest of the ‘green movement’ leaders. </p> <p>Domestically, therefore, not only is there no genuine change in the Islamic regime with Rouhani’s government but no hope of that is in prospect. So perhaps that US ‘enduring friendship’ with Saudi Arabia—regardless of <em>its</em> infamous human-rights situation—provides a new perspective for Iran to define an economic relationship with America.</p><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/majid-siadat/iran-nuclear-deal-keeping-hope-of-peace-alive">Iran nuclear deal: keeping hope of peace alive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/scott-lucas/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal%E2%80%94all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader">Iran celebrates historic nuclear deal—all eyes now on supreme leader</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Conflict International politics iran: how to avoid war? global security global politics democracy & iran wmd: proliferation & verification Arash Falasiri Iran 5+1 Diplomacy Nuclear politics Sat, 25 Apr 2015 21:34:13 +0000 Arash Falasiri 92276 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A Gulf in understanding https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/paul-ingram/gulf-in-understanding <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The outline Iran nuclear deal has highlighted divisions in the region—not just between majority Shia and Sunni states but between those supporting the <em>status quo</em> and those challenging it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/lausanne.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/lausanne.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>All smiles in Lausanne—but glummer faces offstage in Riyadh. Flickr / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eeas/">European External Action Service</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>Could we be witnessing a slow-burning but inexorable chain reaction of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East? While the Israeli leadership predictably condemned last week’s nuclear deal with Iran, Gulf state monarchies are grappling with uncertainty about the future and assessing their options. The Saudis have already hinted that they could develop their own nuclear-weapons capabilities, pointing to a highly dangerous scenario where states in an unstable region deploy nuclear arms or remain ready to do so at short notice. We could be standing at a critical moment.</p> <p>The joint statement by the EU and Iran in Lausanne last week contained much promise of significant agreement, though much remains to be agreed before the deadline of 30 June. The White House issued its own ‘Parameters for a Joint Plan of Action’ a few minutes later, outlining its detailed understanding as to what had been agreed, which seemed to some a little too good to be true. </p> <p>Iran has apparently accepted that any agreement would tightly constrain its fuel-cycle activities and related research, with inspections more intrusive than any other country accepts, in return for limited recognition of rights it already enjoys and sanctions relief yet to be defined. Of course, the Iranians are probably relying upon the adage expressed within the agreement that nothing is agreed until everything is, and will be expecting a good deal more than is currently on the table or hinted at in this ‘fact sheet’. It could be that they are buying time and have yet to press their strongest demands. </p> <p>It could also be that the Iranian&nbsp;leadership&nbsp;has recognised that its nuclear capabilities are a highly symbolic sideshow to the bigger game of regional influence and regime survival, and that this deal and further negotiations could lead to some regional power shifts and realignment. It may not ever become the alliance with the United States that some have rather ridiculously suggested (that would hardly be welcome in Tehran), but the fact that relations have thawed sufficiently for the two states to be fighting (separately) on the same side in Iraq against Islamic State (IS) says something. And that something is not welcomed by the Gulf Arab states.</p> <h2>Serious concerns</h2> <p>Attending a conference this week in Abu Dhabi involving high-level military and civilian officials, mainly from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, I was left in little doubt that there are serious concerns in some Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states about the consequences of the Iran deal—even if the alternative (a less tightly controlled Iranian nuclear programme) was hardly palatable—and that these states could in the longer term consider nuclear options which could have damaging regional and global consequences. </p> <p>They have until now largely delegated their strategic security to the US and other allies, with the stakes of the latter in oil and markets deliberately reinforced by defence imports and the hosting of major military bases. This co-operation has never been wholly comfortable for either party. Support for Israel by the US has been far more deeply rooted in the latter’s political culture and its liberalism goes down badly within the Gulf, while human-rights abrogations, inequalities and lack of democracy in the region undermine any political support in the west. Yet it has been a lasting relationship, strengthened by the common threat arising from the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and a rising radical Islamism which threatens western involvement in the Middle East and the legitimacy of the Arabian monarchies.</p> <p>Many within GCC states now see their protectors apparently flirting with the common enemy, Iran (and, to a lesser extent, the Muslim Brotherhood). Their fear is not primarily that the Iranians will use any nuclear weapon, were they eventually to develop one. Rather, they fear that this competitor, already highly active within Arab states, will be emboldened and step up its regional activities, directly opposed to their vital interests. They also believe that the US might become a little less robust with the Iranians if they stick to the letter of any deal. </p> <p>Incidentally, despite the rhetoric from the Israeli leadership around the use of nuclear weapons, its fear is different although closely related. If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons Israel might lose control and dominance in the region.</p> <h2><strong>Under-reported division</strong></h2> <p>This all points to a critical but under-reported division which cuts across the region: not the sectarian, Sunni-Shia cleavage, though this is certainly important; not the Arab-Israeli-Persian tension, though this runs deep and has been raging for centuries; nor whatever side states choose in their relationship to the west, though this influences revolutions and social movements; rather, it is the battle between states supporting the <em>status quo</em> and those who seek to challenge it. </p> <p>From this perspective Israel and the GCC states are acting to resist change. IS is attempting to use an even more radical conservative ideology to return to a bygone era, while Iran is using a mix of Shia Islam and European revolutionary thinking to overthrow monarchism and challenge western dominance. Those states seeking change can find unity in challenging injustice, even if their ideologies or identities are very different. </p> <p>Iran finds some support in the Arab world reaching way beyond Shia communities, which strongly concerns those states investing heavily in stability. It stands accused of meddling in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, of supplying weapons in some conflict zones, of having direct military presence in others. But the deeper threat lies in the promise of change, involving ideas like justice, equality, even democracy and the rule of law. Of course, the reality within Iran does not come anywhere near these ideals, but when the pain of injustice lies so deep across the Middle East those who offer change are highly attractive.</p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Many within GCC states now see their protectors apparently flirting with the common enemy, Iran</span></p><p><span></span>The <em>status quo</em> states are willing to go to war in Yemen, believing this could stem the tide of change and maintain stability, but this strategy involves a never-ending war on the symptoms. Better would be to steer the change sweeping through their region by giving people more investment in the structures they seek to protect. This involves more than giving hand-outs to citizens or tying powerful western governments and corporations into sharing their interests—though these can certainly be effective. It means tackling corruption with greater rigour, strengthening the protection of human rights and bringing more democracy to the region. </p> <p>There is not a simple trade-off between this approach and pursuit of ‘national security’, as so often portrayed. The two are co-dependent. Stability does not mean keeping things as they are, but rather ensuring that transitions are managed and negotiated. If Arab states were to go down this route, they would also find western governments would enjoy greater and more sustainable domestic support in providing the sort of security guarantees the former will seek at the forthcoming summit with the US president, Barack Obama, at Camp David, and when they meet at foreign-minister level with NATO states in early May.</p> <h2><strong>Losing battle</strong></h2> <p>This mirrors the stakes in the global nuclear-weapons arena. Those states in possession of nuclear weapons jealously hang on to their supposed advantage, fearful that, were they to give up their arsenals or the weapons were to spread, they would lose much of their influence. So they fight their non-proliferation battles, willing to go to war at times to do so. They use the international organisations at their disposal to maintain the <em>status quo</em> but it is a losing battle, because the ground is inexorably moving under their feet: if there’s one thing certain in this world it is change itself. </p> <p>With a Security Council frozen to reflect power in 1945, the United Nations risks becoming increasingly irrelevant. And because the world powers have held on to their symbols of ‘security’ and ‘stability’, particularly nuclear weapons, those very symbols become highly attractive to those seeking to challenge the <em>status quo</em>. Our main collective hope lies in a loss of their perceived potency before it’s too late. Governments, particularly those that base their defence policies on possessing nuclear weapons, or on allies that do, have the leading responsibility to ensure this happens. </p> <p>Despite its reputation for being contrary when it comes to nuclear diplomacy, the Arab League has been a positive influence in leading this process. It has taken an assertive, principled, law-based approach to challenging the <em>status quo</em> in meetings linked to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This has come across to many as obstructing the smooth flowing of the NPT review process, yet in many respects, though its methods may be a little suspect, the league has been more faithful to the treaty than many. </p> <p>There were calls this week at the conference, widely supported in the room, for GCC states to demand nuclear protection from the west (buying into the indefinite attachment to nuclear ‘deterrence’) and develop their own dual-capable technologies—as options to leave the NPT and to acquire their own arsenals, as ultimate protection from the Iranians and the Israelis. These calls came strongest from Emiratis, though their government has gone further than any other to offer assurance to the world that its nuclear programme is entirely civil in character, and has been rewarded with leading-edge nuclear technologies. </p> <p>They are highly dangerous suggestions but it does not take much empathy to understand the underlying emotions. Having played the non-proliferation game straight, and heard promises of disarmament from the nuclear-armed states for almost half a century, their advocates note that Israel cannot be inveigled to attend the conference the Arab states were promised would happen before the end of 2012—putting at risk the whole NPT process.</p> <p>They know that Israel has experienced very little explicit pressure to join the process. Its allies have stressed the need to give Israel strong assurances before it can be expected to attend such a conference. Yet its leaders advocate illegal military action against Iran, on the basis that the latter might have a nuclear-weapons programme decades less sophisticated than Israel’s own, while being a party to the very treaty with which Israel refuses to engage. Because the Arab states have decided not to continue informal consultations in Switzerland, fearing that again they were being played with and that the pressure would be off at this year’s review conference, because that process was ongoing, they now risk blame for putting it at risk. </p> <p>The narrative within Arab states today reflects deep resentment. It’s not pleasant to be taken for a ride, to be made to look stupid. There is no worse sin in the macho world of international relations (particularly when an Arab) than to be perceived as naïve and weak and disrespected. </p> <h2><strong>Inexorable destruction</strong></h2> <p>While this is unlikely to lead to a rapid proliferation of nuclear weapons, a slow but inexorable destruction of the international non-proliferation regime does loom. The Saudis are making hints about following Iran down the path towards a weapons capability but they will be cautious: there’s too much at stake in terms of other relationships. It is in their interests that the US and Iran are aware of the risks of pushing them down that route. And we will see a massive expansion in their civil nuclear programme, one that could herald extensive dual-capable systems. </p> <p>Whilst the United Arab Emirates has entered into agreements involving extensive transparency and the foreswearing of these technologies (choosing to rely upon imports for all its fuel), Saudi Arabia pursues a policy of opacity, maintaining a bare minimum of co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It joined the NPT in 1988 but only signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA in 2009. It has only accepted an old version of the Small Quantities Protocol, which enables the state to declare widespread exceptions to IAEA inspections on the basis that there are only insignificant activities in the country. </p> <p>All eyes will be on the Arab League, to see what diplomatic trouble its member states might stir up at the NPT review conference when states first meet on 27 April. But it is outside the conference hall where the real signs of trouble will be found, and in particular in the changing nature of strategic considerations in Arab states. All states involved, directly or indirectly, need to consider their parts in this dysfunctional and dangerous game.</p> <p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/odopensec" target="_blank"><strong>Like us on Facebook</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to follow the latest openSecurity articles, and tell the editors what we should publish next</strong>.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/robert-mason/establishing-equilibrium-in-gulf-in-search-of-pragmatic-agenda-for-stabi">Establishing equilibrium in the Gulf: in search of a pragmatic agenda for stability and security</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> openSecurity openSecurity rule of law global security democracy & iran middle east Paul Ingram BASIC Diplomacy Nuclear politics Thu, 09 Apr 2015 22:03:02 +0000 Paul Ingram 91909 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran nuclear deal: keeping hope of peace alive https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/majid-siadat/iran-nuclear-deal-keeping-hope-of-peace-alive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conservatives in the US, Israel and Iran itself are all opposed to the outline nuclear accord. So it looks like progress.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/mogherini.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/mogherini.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Tense talks: the European Union high representative, Federica Mogherini, during the negotiations in Lausanne. Flickr / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/eeas/">EU External Action Service</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p>Finally we can breathe a little easier. With the achievement of the provisional, ‘in-principle’ accord between Iran and the US (and the other <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P5+1">P5+1 group</a> members), the hope of peace has been kept alive. </p> <p>There is still a long way to go. We must get through the next three months of negotiations, with all the attendant risks, large and small, before this initial, tentative agreement can be turned into a permanent accord. </p> <p>Its opponents are many. On one side we find Israel and the war-mongering military adventurists of the American right, in <em>de facto</em> alliance with the right-wing within Iran’s governing forces. On the other, America’s moderates, led by the president, Barack Obama, and supported by Israeli realist factions, stand together with the reformists within the Iranian regime. </p> <p>But, despite all the threats and ranting of American senators and their Iranian counterparts, the footholds of peace between Iran and the US have been established.</p> <h2><strong>Stark choice</strong></h2> <p>President Obama has left his opponents in an exposed position. Despite being subjected to many long decades of intense pressure, Iran succeeded in developing its own independent nuclear programme. Obama says this leaves America with a stark choice: finalise an accord which limits and controls Iran’s nuclear programme or go to war with the Islamic Republic. There is little appetite among the American public for the latter: the latest polls show most Americans oppose war with Iran.</p> <p>Under this agreement, Iran will see its nuclear programme severely cut back and subjected to rigorous controls. For the first time, however, Iran gains formal recognition by the international community of its rights to the peaceful development and use of nuclear power. And, after 10-15 years, the accord and its restrictions will be up for renegotiation. </p> <p><span class="pullquote-right">Those who have thrived on the fear of war will have the cutting edge of their arguments blunted by the prospects of peace.</span></p><p><span></span>Iran has paid a steep price to reach this juncture. In addition to the enormous direct costs of establishing its nuclear industry, to date Iran’s economy has had to cope with more than $100 billion in damages under the current, back-breaking economic sanctions. Iranians hope that this accord will bring to an end the decades of deprivation and isolation they’ve suffered, and that living standards finally will start to improve. </p> <p>On the Iran side, this accord has been made possible only through the dogged determination of Iran’s reformists. This time around, they’ve acted with more courage and tenacity than during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and they’re reaping the reward. If the regime’s right-wing factions do not succeed in sabotaging the negotiations, the current president, Hassan Rouhani, will receive the credit for this supreme, highly tangible triumph.</p> <h2>Far-reaching</h2> <p>But a final accord would have two ramifications of even greater potential significance. Inside Iran, the most far-reaching consequence of such an agreement is the increased possibility of positive change in the public sphere. The spectre of threats by the conspiratorial ‘Big Satan’ against the Islamic Republic has been the Iranian regime’s most important tool in repressing its own people’s rights. The deal under negotiation would weaken this instrument, giving the struggle for increased freedom greater opportunity. Those who have thrived on the fear of war will have the cutting edge of their arguments blunted by the prospects of peace. </p> <p>And from an international perspective the most important consequence of the prospective agreement is the new order it will bring about in the Middle East. Any such agreement will undoubtedly include ‘understandings’ or even formal accords, far beyond nuclear issues, which will remain undisclosed for the time being. Details of these unacknowledged understandings aside, it’s clear that they include recognition of the important changes that have already occurred in the balance of forces in the region. </p> <p>The existing order in the Middle East, established in the aftermath of the first world war, is giving way. Perhaps it’s best to say that this accord signals the beginning of the end of the old order and the start of a transition which, through copious blood and fire, anguish and pain, will certainly issue in a new one.</p> <p><em>Translated by Linda Heiden, in collaboration with the author, from </em>‘Tavafogh-e Iran va Amrika: Ruzaneye Solh’<em>, an article </em><em>which appeared simultaneously on 4 April 2015 in the Persian online publications <a href="http://www.asre-nou.net/php/view.php?objnr=34289">Asre Now</a>, <a href="http://iranma.us/150405/">Irane Ma</a>, <a href="http://www.akhbar-rooz.com/news.jsp?essayId=66239">Akhbare Ruz</a> and <a href="http://www.kar-online.com/node/9139">Kar-Online</a>.</em> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mohammed-ayoob/implications-of-preliminary-iranian-nuclear-deal">Implications of the preliminary Iranian nuclear deal</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/scott-lucas/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal%E2%80%94all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader">Iran celebrates historic nuclear deal—all eyes now on supreme leader</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Conflict International politics iran: how to avoid war? global security democracy & iran american power & the world middle east Majid Siadat Diplomacy Nuclear politics Tue, 07 Apr 2015 15:17:37 +0000 Majid Siadat 91832 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran celebrates historic nuclear deal—all eyes now on supreme leader https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/scott-lucas/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal%E2%80%94all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A quarter-century on from the 'Islamic' revolution, Iran's beleaguered economy and its reformist leader desperately need a deal to end sanctions. But will the ideologically-driven Khamenei allow it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/iran.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/iran.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="315" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span>Jubilation in the streets of Tehran after news of the deal which means sanctions will be lifted.</span><a href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/nuclear-policies-photos/iranians-celebrate-after-nuclear-talks-in-the-street-of-tehran-photos-51872686">&nbsp;EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh</a><span>.</span></span></p><p>Finally, after years of diplomacy and brinkmanship, <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-iran-nuclear-framework-deal-could-mean-for-the-region-and-the-world-39730">the long-awaited nuclear deal with Iran has been done</a>. There is jubilation in the streets as Iran’s people, who have struggled under the weight of western sanctions for decades, are waking up to the prospect of a brighter economic future.</p> <p>It’s a big win for the US and a major foreign-policy success for the president, Barack Obama, and the secretary of state, John Kerry. But above all this is a triumph for Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani. He has staked his political future on a deal that means economic salvation and paves the way for his policy of 'engagement' bringing Iran in from the geopolitical cold.</p> <p>So what happened? The US and its European allies, through sustained pressure as well as dialogue, secured a series of Iranian concessions to put the framework in place. If the deal is completed and all the details settled in the next three months, Washington will have restricted Iran’s nuclear programme for at least 15 years, with a system of inspections and supervision to maintain the limits and renewed sanctions if Tehran tries to break out of the commitments.</p> <p>How big a victory does this really represent? Last year, <a href="http://eaworldview.com/2014/07/iran-daily-supreme-leader-backs-rouhani-government-nuclear-talks/">Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, said</a> that Iran must have a capability in uranium production of 190,000 <a href="http://www.eia.gov/tools/glossary/index.cfm?id=Separative%20work%20unit">separative work units</a> by 2021. Last night, his negotiators accepted a ceiling of 5,000 SWUs until 2025.</p> <h2>US pressure pays off</h2> <p>Contrary to doom-mongering from some critics, Iran had already taken its programme far from the work needed to produce a bomb. Since 2013, Tehran had either diluted most of its 20% uranium stock—which has to be enriched further to more than 90% for a nuclear weapon<span>—</span><span>to the 5% level or converted it to oxide powder and even fuel plates, which cannot be used in a military effort. The Islamic Republic had restricted itself to 40-year-old </span><a href="http://thebulletin.org/hitting-sweet-spot-how-many-iranian-centrifuges7763">IR-1 centrifuges</a><span>; the more advanced IR-2s, installed in early 2013, never went online.</span></p> <p>Still, the US and Europeans pressed with a somewhat arbitrary technical line—arbitrary because it is not based on precise measurements but a series of assumptions about capability: you must not have any prospect of 'break-out' for a single nuclear bomb within a year.</p> <p>Last night, after weeks of intense discussions, Iran’s negotiators gave way and <a href="http://eaworldview.com/2015/04/iran-feature-key-points-of-the-nuclear-framework/">agreed to the following terms</a>:</p> <ol> <li><p>They reduced their operating centrifuges by 50%<span>—</span><span>an even deeper cut than that reportedly in the draft document a month ago</span><span>—</span><span>and promised to hold that level for 10 years.</span></p></li> <li><p>They promised no enrichment of uranium beyond 3.67% for 15 years.</p></li> <li><p>They put the IR-2 models in storage, overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).</p></li> <li><p>They promised to halt all enrichment at their second plant at Fordoo, converting it to a “research facility” but accepting no research and development “associated with enrichment”.</p></li> </ol> <p><a href="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/77004/area14mp/image-20150403-9348-10wzh0u.jpg"><img src="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/77004/width668/image-20150403-9348-10wzh0u.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></a><span class="image-caption">Announcing the deal in Lausanne.<a class="source" href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/nuclear-policies-photos/nuclear-iran-talks-in-lausanne-switzerland-photos-51872432">EPA/Laurent Gillieron</a></span></p> <p>The commitments will be overseen by IAEA inspection of all nuclear facilities. Iran committed itself to the advanced provisions of the <a href="https://www.iaea.org/publications/factsheets/iaea-safeguards-overview">Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty</a>, bolstering the oversight of its programme. It confirmed the redesign of its Arak heavy-water reactor, to reduce plutonium by-product<span>—</span><span>and promised no other heavy-water reactors for 15 years.</span></p> <p>Even on sanctions, the reddest of Iran’s 'red lines' for a framework, the Iranians stepped back. In principle, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is holding up the <a href="http://eaworldview.com/2015/04/iran-daily-after-12-years-a-breakthrough-in-nuclear-talks/">image of suspension of all sanctions</a> as soon as a comprehensive deal is signed. In practice, the framework ties any removal to IAEA verification of Iran’s compliance, a process which could take weeks, months or even years.</p> <p>Most importantly, the US and the Europeans embedded into the framework of the deal the warning of reimposition of sanctions if Iran is found in violation of any provision. US, European Union and even UN sanctions will have a 'snap-back' mechanism so they can be put back in place.</p> <h2>What does Iran win?</h2> <p>Put bluntly, Zarif and Rouhani restricted Iran’s nuclear programme to save the Iranian economy. It was the threat to the economy, presented by Rouhani to the supreme leader in a dossier in September 2013, which&nbsp;<a href="http://eaworldview.com/2014/02/iran-daily-supreme-leader-government-solve-economy/">brought Khamenei’s endorsement of renewed negotiations</a>.</p> <p>It was that threat, even more menacing with the halving of oil prices since last June, which turned Iran’s declaration of an expanding nuclear programme into one with diminished output. And it was the prospect of ever-increasing unemployment, ever-decreasing production, ever-unstable currency and a government budget ccontaining a $70 billion hole which brought the further concessions leading to last night's announcement.</p> <p>But Rouhani may not just be thinking of survival. Instead—unseen by many outside Iran—a nuclear deal will be part of the president’s strategy to remake the Iranian economy.</p> <p>The president and his allies believe, with a great deal of justification, that the Islamic Republic’s economy has been crippled, not only by US-led sanctions, but by entrenched barriers to effective investment, production, infrastructure and trade. Much of this is controlled by interests linked to the Revolutionary Guards; efforts at 'privatisation' have often been facades merely extending the power of those interests. The budget and Iran’s economic fortunes are ratcheted to the state of the oil market, with non-oil production continuing to struggle.</p> <p><a href="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/77003/area14mp/image-20150403-9348-rrtqxc.jpg"><img src="https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/77003/width668/image-20150403-9348-rrtqxc.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></a><span class="image-caption">Iran’s foreign minister, Mohamad Javad Zarif, arrives in Tehran from Lausanne.<a class="source" href="http://www.epa.eu/politics-photos/government-photos/iranian-foreign-minister-mohamad-javad-zarif-greets-supporters-in-tehran-photos-51872929">EPA/Borna Qasemi</a></span></p> <p>Rouhani’s hope is that he can take on those interests to open up Iran’s economy, not just to foreign investors but to those inside the country who have been unable to break the hold of more powerful factions. The Islamic Republic’s oft-proclaimed commitment to research, science and technology will finally translate into completed projects.</p> <p>The president had indicated that he wanted to take on this battle, notably in autumn 2013 as the nuclear talks were re-energised. But he is unable to act until the discussions are concluded. Finally, that prospect can be envisaged.</p> <p>To make any headway against powerful constituencies such as the Revolutionary Guards<span>—</span><span>which means enjoying the consent of the supreme leader—Rouhani has to show mass support for his economic initiatives. The celebrations in Tehran last night over the framework, despite Iran’s concessions, were a sign of that support: Iranians are putting the future of their jobs, homes and families above any supposed goal of an Iranian flag on a bomb.</span></p> <h2>What will the supreme leader do?</h2> <p>Yet, amid these unexpected developments and prospects, there has been one notable silence. Khamenei has offered no comment on the framework or the ensuing talks about the details. Indeed, his office has been silent for almost two weeks about the situation.</p> <p>Khamenei does not have to make his ultimate choice until June, when the final agreement is presented to him. It will be a stark choice: accept the 95% cut in Iran’s nuclear programme, compared to the goals he set out last year, or face long-term economic decline and possibly worse.</p> <p>With his distrust and even hatred of the US government, the supreme leader could wreck everything, rejecting the agreement and proclaiming a 'resistance economy'<span>—</span><span>with all the sacrifices this would entail for Iranians</span><span>—</span><span>to defy his perceived enemies.&nbsp;</span><span>But Rouhani is gambling, as he did in September 2013, that a pragmatic Khamenei will accept the deal, even if this is </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/why-irans-supreme-leader-may-yet-swallow-a-bitter-nuclear-deal-38244">his version of the “cup of poison”</a><span> sipped by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, when he accepted a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.</span></p> <p>That gamble will probably rest on the US and its allies refraining from any public gloating over their victory, glossing the detail of the nuclear agreement with the 'win-win' favoured by the Rouhani and Zarif. It will rest on no further threat of sanctions, letting the current restrictions and the depressed oil price do their work. And it will rest on Iranians, in defiance of their country’s hardliners, continuing to display their desire for a final resolution, so they can return a prospect of hope to their lives.</p><p><img src="https://counter.theconversation.edu.au/content/39528/count.gif" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p><p><em>This article was originally published on <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href="http://theconversation.com/iran-celebrates-historic-nuclear-deal-all-eyes-now-on-supreme-leader-39528">original article</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Khameini says '<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/09/iran-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-nuclear-deal-neither-backs-nor-rejects">neither for nor against</a>' outline deal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammed-ayoob/endgame-united-states-and-iran">Endgame: the United States and Iran</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Conflict International politics iran: how to avoid war? global security democracy & iran Scott Lucas Diplomacy Nuclear politics Fri, 03 Apr 2015 11:34:31 +0000 Scott Lucas 91755 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran’s hidden prisoners https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those arrested in Iran after the presidential election of June 2009 join the detainees from earlier moments of repression. The blogger and openDemocracy author Hossein Derakhshan is one of the latter. The anniversary of his incarceration is being marked by efforts to publicise his case, reports David Hayes. </p><p><em>(This article was first published on 30 October 2009. Hossein Derakhshan was released from prison on 19 November 2014)</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Hossein_Derakhshan_(square_crop).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-Hossein_Derakhshan_(square_crop).jpg" alt="Hossein Derakshan, Iranian-Canadian journalist and blogger, 2004." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hossein Derakshan, Iranian-Canadian journalist and blogger, 2004. Flickr/Joi Ito. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The wave of arrests in Iran that followed the presidential election of 12 June 2009 means that many more Iranians are now experiencing the brutal treatment already endured by thousands of their fellow citizens. For the repressive response to the civic uprising that followed the shocking declaration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">victory</a> has many precedents in the thirty-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran (as of its imperial predecessor).</p> <p>The capacity of the Iranian regime to render its prisoners invisible and voiceless is one of its most potent weapons. In turn, the dissemination of reliable information on individual cases is a hugely valuable resource for those on the outside - the families, colleagues and friends of those incarcerated, and the justice and human-rights <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/10/26/iran-overturn-death-sentences-other-unfair-convictions">group</a>s working to make Iran a state of law.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><br /> David Hayes is deputy editor of openDemocracy<br /> <br /> Among his articles on openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/article_2415.jsp">Iran between revolution and democracy</a>" (10 April 2005)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/2774">William Wallace and reinventing Scotland</a>" (22 August 2005)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/46697">The world's American election: a conversation</a>" (4 November 2008)<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47120">The politics of ME, ME, ME</a>" (9 January 2009) - with Keith Kahn-Harris<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47776">Iran's election and Iran's system</a>" (21 April 2009) - with Sanam Vakil<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47979">Cambodia: a patient waiting</a>" (15 May 2009) - with Michel Thieren<br /> <br /> " <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/somalia-between-violence-and-hope">Somalia: between violence and hope</a>" (15 July 2009) - with Harun Hassan</p> <p>Iranian citizens with western connections can often be among the most vulnerable to sudden detention, usually in times of internal political crisis and/or tension between Iran and the west (<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/again_3267.jsp">especially</a> the United States). For example, Iranians who have dual citizenship or who work for foreign broadcasters or think-tanks have been a favoured target. At the same time, such connections also mean an opportunity to organise publicity about their fate and campaign for their freedom (see Reza Fiyouzat, "<a href="http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4689.shtml">Saberi is free: How about all the others?</a>", <em>OnlineJournal</em>, 12 May 2009).</p> <p>This has in recent times been the experience of, for example, the scholar <a href="http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1426&amp;fuseaction=topics.profile&amp;person_id=8940">Haleh Esfandiari</a>; the journalist <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/08/mar/1052.html">Parnaz Azima</a>; the journalist <a href="http://cpj.org/2009/05/roxana-saberi-released-from-prison-in-iran.php">Roxana Saberi</a>; the businessman and peace activist <a href="http://www.newuniversity.org/2007/10/news/news_in_brief_44/">Ali Shakeri</a>; the diplomatic aide <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6894601.ece">Hossein Rassam</a>; and the <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/id/218283"><em>Newsweek</em></a> journalist <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g5LLg8-1YoJsU_Gb3cT9t8Ylbe0AD9BF22G00">Maziar Bahari</a>. The current haul of detainees includes the scholar <a href="http://www.freekian09.org/">Kian Tajbakhsh</a>, whose case is an instructive example of the psychology animating Iran's hardline core (see Karim Sadjadpour, "<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/23/the_new_hostage_crisis">The New Hostage Crisis</a>", <em>Foreign Policy</em>, 23 October 2009).</p> <p>The pioneering blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who was <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5190462.ece">arrested</a> in Tehran on 2 November 2008, also belongs to this melancholy pattern; though, as do all the above examples, his case has its unique and individual characteristics.</p> <p><strong>A singular journey </strong></p> <p>Hossein Derakhshan (widely known as "Hoder") earned a place in internet as well as Iranian history when - by combining Unicode with Blogger.com's tools to enable Persian characters - he <a href="http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.06/posts.html?pg=6">created</a> the first Persian-language blog in Canada in September 2001. He had moved there from Iran in 2000 after writing about technology and the internet for two newspapers: <em>Asr-e Azadegan,</em> and <em>Hatay-e No</em> (for which he wrote a column, <em>Panjere-i roo be hayaat</em> [<em>A Window to the Yard]</em>).</p> <p>His early blog soon <a href="http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/11/18/iranian-blogger-hossein-derakhshan-arrested-in-tehran/">gained</a> a large following; at its high-point, and until Iran's cyberpolice was able in 2004 to jam it, it received 35,000 page-views per day. <em>Editor: Myself</em> was in time supplemented by an English-language version, allowing him to reach an audience eager for insight about Iran via a new medium of exciting potential.</p> <p>Hoder's writing extended to other media, including (in 2004-06) five <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/Hossein_Derakhshan.jsp">articles</a> for <strong>openDemocracy</strong>. He became involved in <em>Stop Censoring Us</em>, a record of internet censorship in Iran. He made two visits to <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/812597.html">Israel</a> in 2006-07, and in 2007 registered for a master's degree at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).</p> <p>Hoder returned to Iran in October 2008, and reputedly was positive about his early experiences there. The news of his arrest on 2 November could not be confirmed for several weeks; but on 30 December 2008, a week before Hoder's 34th birthday, Ali Reza Jamshidi - spokesman of the revolutionary court, which oversees cases related to national security - <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/30/iran-blogger.html">announced</a> at a news conference in Tehran that he was being charged with "insulting religious figures".</p> <p>The accusation, a variant of the familiar range of <em>post-facto</em> off-the-shelf charges in the authoritarian's litany, was not supported by any known evidence; and almost a year on, there is no sign that any progress in actually examining it or bringing it to court has been made. Instead, Hoder is confined in Tehran's Evin prison - a <a href="http://www.unpo.org/content/view/7508/236/">place</a> almost always qualified by the term "notorious" - from where only the most meagre reports of what he is going through have emerged.</p> <p>The respected collective known as <a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=category&amp;layout=blog&amp;id=66&amp;Itemid=293">Human Rights Activists in Iran</a> (HRA) published a brief account of Hoder's incarceration on 17 October 2009. It <a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=1911:held-on-an-expired-detention-order-hossein-derakhshan-story&amp;catid=66:304&amp;Itemid=293">says</a>:</p> <p>"HRA has received reports which suggest that the blogger, Hossein Derakhshan, who was arrested on 2 November 2008, has spent the first eight months of his detention in solitary confinement and different wards of the Evin prison upon his return to Iran. During that time he has been subjected to various physical and psychological pressure tactics and multiple transfers.</p> <p class="pullquote_new"><br /> <br /> Hossein Derakhshan's articles for openDemocracy:<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-irandemocracy/article_1683.jsp">Censor this: Iran's web of lies</a>" (22 January 2004)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/media-edemocracy/wiki_2725.jsp">Wiki-ocracy</a>" (2 August 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/article_2502.jsp">Blogging Iran's wired election</a>" (11 May 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/reform_2649.jsp">Iran's young reformers</a>" (4 July 2005)<br /> <br /> "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_courage_3873.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo: the courage to change</a>" (3 September 2006)</p> <p>He has been beaten repeatedly and has been forced to do squats in cold showers. His interrogators have threatened to arrest his father and his sister unless he confessed to espionage charges.</p> <p>With the start of the massive arrests after the presidential election, and as a result of cell shortages in Evin prison, Derakhshan was transferred to Ward 2A of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] prison, where he shared his cell with newly arrested people.</p> <p>Derakhshan has been given false promises of his release on multiple occasions: during the <em>Fajr</em> celebrations and <em>Nowrooz</em>. Despite all the promises he is still being held on a temporary detention-order. His detention-order has been renewed several times, the last of which expired on 10 October 2009. Derakhshan reportedly intended to start a hunger-strike if his situation remained unchanged after this date. HRA has no information as to whether he has started the hunger-strike.</p> <p>During his detention, Derakhshan has been pressured by his interrogators to collaborate and confess to the charges brought up against him. In September 2009 he was taken to court to sign documents granting permission to his lawyer to represent him. He told the judge that all his confessions had come under pressure. According to the reports received by HRA, Derakhshan had agreed to televised confessions under pressure, but the matter was cancelled after one recording."</p> <p><strong>A family matter</strong></p> <p>The lack of hard information about what had happened to Hossein Derakhshan after his return to Iran meant that the attention to his <a href="http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/news-of-irans-detained-blogfather/">case</a> was more limited than to other comparable situations. The fact that an unusual intellectual-political trajectory had seen him gradually express a degree of support for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - and vehement criticism of some of its Iranian critics in the west - probably also contributed to this relatively low-key response.</p> <p>But as awareness of his arrest spread, several initiatives calling for Hoder's release began to appear. They include the strong <a href="http://kamangir.net/2008/12/18/letter-in-defense-of-hossein-derakhshan-hoder/">letter</a> from a group of Iranian bloggers; the "<a href="http://freehoder.wordpress.com/">free Hoder</a>" blog and a <a href="http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37459792838">Facebook group</a>; and efforts by several media organisations and networks (such as <a href="http://www.internetsansfrontieres.com/2009/04/ahmadinedjad-plaide-pour-le-respect-des-droits-de-la-defense-dhossein-derakhshan/"><em>Internet Sans Frontières</em></a>) to highlight his ordeal and keep it in the public eye.</p> <p>The approaching <a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2009/10/releasederakhshan/">anniversary</a> of his detention has now led his family in Iran to take the decision to speak out on his behalf. His younger brother Hamed, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), criticised the Canadian authorities for their inaction in the case, said that his parents had been able to see Hossein only twice during his incarceration, and explained why the family was only at this stage seeking to draw attention to the case. "My father believed it was better to use the connections, prove that he is loyal to them, work within the system" (see John Nicol, "<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/29/iran-blogger-prison-anniversary.html">Iranian-Canadian blogger's family pleads for help</a>", CBC News, 29 October 2009).</p> <p>Hossein's father has written a letter to Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary department, which the reformist newspaper <a href="http://salaamnews.com/"><em>Salaam</em></a> published on its website on 21 October 2009. The California-based journalist, <a href="http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/">Cyrus Farivar</a>, provides an English translation of the letter on his blog:</p> <p>"To the Presence of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, the Respected Head of the Judiciary:</p> <p>Greetings and respect to you. One year has passed since the day that my son was arrested.</p> <p>In all these months, days, and hours, my family, my wife and I were hoping that in the arms of Islamic law and the mercy of the Islamic judiciary, Hossein's case will be dealt with in the way it deserves.</p> <p>There is no need to mention the numerous times that we refused the requests of foreign media to explain Hossein's situation.</p> <p>Even when we heard the worst gossip about his treatment in semi-official media, we were silent and in fact, no government organisation has ever denied this worrisome news, not just to calm our very worried hearts down, but at least to respect the independence of judiciary about this case.</p> <p>During this entire time, our son has had just two short meetings with us for only a few minutes. Please imagine that for every six months we just saw him for very few minutes. We have no information about his legal situation.</p> <p>No court has been held yet and we don't even know which institution or security organisation Hossein is under the control of. Many times, from many different ways, we tried to get some precision about his situation, but we couldn't. Does a detainee's dignified manner deserve such treatment?</p> <p>Many times, my son admitted in his writings and conversations that he would love to serve his country. And he came back to Iran on his own to answer his accusations. Does such a person who has come back to his country and his beliefs, deserve such a welcome?</p> <p>Our complaint is not because you are exercising the law, but to the contrary, because of its suspension, lack of information and disrespecting of the law. The accused have rights, the family of the accused has some rights, and we know that the ruler of society has some rights as well, and that rules and regulations are valuable.</p> <p>We are certain that you'd agree that one year of a brutal arrest of a person who has come voluntarily and on his own to the bosom of Iran and dear Islam, is not an appropriate welcome.</p> <p>I, my wife and our family are still looking forward to your just treatment.</p> <p>With respect,</p> <p>Hassan Derakhshan".</p> <p><strong>A case to answer </strong></p> <p>The cycle of arrests, show-trials, incarcerations and <a href="http://rex.ucpress.edu/books/pages/8305.php">violations</a> in Iran continues. The state's internal-security apparatus, emboldened by its ability to contain and then beat back the challenge to its rule following the stolen election, remains unbending.</p> <p>But there is multiple evidence too that the regime's behaviour since the election has resulted in a critical loss of legitimacy in the eyes of Iran's people. Their resourceful search for new and creative forms of opposition is vividly conveyed in a number of <strong>openDemocracy</strong> articles (see Asef Bayat, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty</a>" [7 July 2009], and R Tousi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran/iran-s-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" [28 October 2009]).</p> <p>Those imprisoned in Iran on account of their peaceful protest, their criticism of the authorities, or merely because they represent a convenient target to unaccountable power, need to be freed in order that they can resume their lives and speak in their own voices. An end to their confinement will be the beginning of the new era of respect for human rights and civic freedoms that Iranians more than ever deserve.</p> <div><p><strong>Also in openDemocracy on Iranian prisoners and human rights:</strong></p></div> <div><p>Masoud Behnoud, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/hunger_strike_2683.jsp">Akbar Ganji in the prison of Iran</a>" (17 July 2005)</p></div> <div><p>openDemocracy, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/appeal_2688.jsp">Free Akbar Ganji: an appeal to Iran</a>" (19 July 2005)</p></div> <div><p>Nazila Fathi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/ganji_3431.jsp">Akbar Ganji's moment</a>" (6 April 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_3545.jsp">The meaning of Ramin Jahanbegloo's arrest</a>" (16 May 2006)</p></div> <div><p>openDemocracy, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/openletter_3578.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo: an open letter to Iran's president</a>" (23 May 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://ramin%20jahanbegloo/">Ramin Jahanbegloo: a repressive release</a>" (1 September 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Danny Postel, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_postel_3930.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo, Hossein Derakhshan and openDemocracy</a>" (21 September 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Nazenin Ansari, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/ayatollah_3965.jsp">An ayatollah under siege - in Tehran</a>" (3 October 2006)</p></div> <div><p>Rasool Nafisi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/haleh_mind_4625.jsp">Haleh Esfandiari: Iran's cultural prison</a>" (16 May 2007)</p></div> <div><p>Akbar Ganji, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/iran_democracy/akbar_ganji">Iran's future: an open letter</a>" (24 September 2007)</p></div><div><p>R Tousi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran/iran-s-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" (28 October 2009)</p></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://freehoder.wordpress.com/">Free Hoder </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37459792838">Facebook - Free Hossein Derakhshan </a></p> <p><a href="http://hra-iran.net/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=1911:held-on-an-expired-detention-order-hossein-derakhshan-story&amp;catid=66:304&amp;Itemid=293">Human Rights Activists in Iran - Hossein Derakhshan</a> (17 October 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/">International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran </a></p> <p>Karim Sadjadpour, "<a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/23/the_new_hostage_crisis?page=0,0">The New Hostage Crisis</a>" (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 23 October 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://cyrusfarivar.com/blog/">Cyrus Farivar</a></p> <p>Nasrin Alavi, <a href="http://www.portobellobooks.com/Books/We-Are-Iran-pb"><em>We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs</em></a> (Portobello Books, 2005)</p> <p><a href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/">Global Voices Online </a></p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://iranppa.blogspot.com/">Iran Political Prisoners Association&nbsp; </a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/iran">Human Rights Watch - Iran </a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz&nbsp;</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/media-edemocracy/wiki_2725.jsp">Wiki-ocracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/reform_2649.jsp">Iran&#039;s young reformers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government democracy & iran democracy & power David Hayes Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:22:48 +0000 David Hayes 48896 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran nuclear deal: the fall-out https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/iran-nuclear-deal-fall-out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The interim nuclear deal between the western powers and Iran faces significant domestic and international challenges. But after long hostility it may prove a trust-building stepping-stone to a larger agreement.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Even though there is a substantial difference of interpretation between the US and Iran of the <a href="http://www.tehrantimes.com/component/content/article/94-headline/112336-the-deal-is-done">interim nuclear deal</a> struck in Geneva in November 24th, it is crucial to remember that the deal with the major powers aims to halt key aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme in the next six months and to provide a solid base for negotiations on a permanent agreement. So although the deal does not dismantle the programme, it is a significant initiative to cease the increasingly hazardous rhetoric over Iran’s progress towards the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. </p> <p>As explicitly recognised by both John Kerry and Mohammad Javad Zarif, respectively foreign ministers of the US and Iran, even under rigorous sanctions the Islamic regime had been able to continue its nuclear programme. ‘Reaching from 200 centrifuges to about 20,000 under the most unfair sanctions in the last ten years we demonstrate our capability,’ Zarif said in Tehran after the deal. In other words, while the alternatives are ratcheting up sanctions or military action, there is no assurance that those steps would stop Iran’s nuclear advances. </p> <p>Although Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and his foreign minister have asserted that the interim deal explicitly recognised Iran’s right to enrich uranium and effectively removed the threat of military strike, in an interview with CBS Kerry rejected both claims: ‘The fact is the president maintains the option to use force and he has said, specifically, he has not taken that threat off the table.’ So Iran and the US are interpreting crucial parts of the agreement differently while insisting it represents significant progress. </p> <p>To shed light on this apparent contradiction it is necessary to consider their domestic situations. While it is a maxim in international relations that a good agreement is based on similar discontent among all parties, it seems the ambiguity of the document has been deliberately designed to provide sufficient room for both the Iranian and US presidents to cope with their domestic hardliners. Given subsequent reports that the interim deal was made possible by months of unprecedented secret meetings between the two countries’ officials and Zarif’s suggestion that the negotiators spent most time in Geneva selecting appropriate words, this difference of interpretation does not seem accidental.<span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Lavrov_and_Kerry,_Geneva,_Nov_2013_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="LavrovKerryGenevaNov13"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/550590/Lavrov_and_Kerry,_Geneva,_Nov_2013_0.jpg" alt="Diplomats exchange views on Iran deal in Geneva" title="LavrovKerryGenevaNov13" width="230" height="235" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Devil in the detail: Sergei Lavrov (left), Russian foreign minister, and his US counterpart, John Kerry, exchange notes. St Dept</span></span></span></p> <h2>Gestures of victory</h2> <p>Facing huge economic difficulties from which they were keen to shift attention, both presidents required a gesture of victory. For Barack Obama, although Iran’s nuclear programme will not halt completely, it will not progress to providing the Islamic regime with access to a nuclear weapon. And from the Islamic state’s point of view, Iran imposed its nuclear rights on the western powers, convincing them to accept its peaceful programme. There remain, however, many domestic and indeed international discontents that might severely affect the deal. </p> <p>Although Iran’s ‘supreme leader’, Ali Khamenei, endorsed the deal and most Iranian newspapers reported a popular sense of hope and satisfaction, criticism came from some top-rank Revolutionary Guard generals and fundamentalist milieux. The most influential hardline media lamented what they deemed the position of infirmity from which Iran had been forced to negotiate. The <em>Fars News</em> website linked with the Revolutionary Guards declared there was ‘no doubt the agreement is oppressive’. <em>Kayhan</em>, a newspaper associated with prominent fundamentalists, questioned technical details of the deal, noting discrepancies with a White House briefing paper. It argued that nowhere had the west conceded Iran’s right to enrich and thus Iran should revise the agreement. Both pointed to a comment by Kerry on CNN—‘From this day, for the next six months, Israel is in fact safer than it was’—to suggest Rouhani had made a crucial mistake in trusting the US.</p> <h2>International adversaries</h2> <p>But the most important challenges come from the international adversaries of the deal. Obama and Kerry said Israel, Saudi Arabia and some other countries in the region had a right to be skeptical of Iran’s intentions. They claimed however that the US and its negotiating partners had addressed that by insisting on strict monitoring and verification. Yet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described the interim deal as an ‘historic mistake’, while Saudi Arabia’s reluctant response indicated huge concern among some Arab governments. </p> <p>One of the most influential figures in the Arab world accused the Obama administration of being manipulated by Iran, which he described as far more dangerous to the region than Israel. The Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal even told <em>Bloomberg</em> that since Sunni Muslims were hostile to Shia-dominated Iran, Arabs would love to witness an Israeli strike on the country. </p> <p>Although Israel and Saudi Arabia consider Iran their enemy for different reasons, its hegemony in the region is the common fear of both—unassuaged by Rouhani’s clear message to Iran’s neighbours that the deal aimed to eliminate all such concerns. This anxiety, shared among the most conservative sections in both Iran and the US, as well as on the international plane, provides a unique foundation for domestic hardliners and regional fundamentalists to exacerbate the situation.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The US hopes via the deal to persuade Iran towards a broader diplomatic opening and a realignment of its strategy in the region—‘from Syria, where the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah is fighting alongside President Assad, to Afghanistan, where the Iranians could be helpful in brokering a postwar settlement with the Taliban’, as the former senior State Department advisor Vali Nasr put it. Yet the administration finds itself in a predicament similar to that on Syria, where allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar favour more robust support for the rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime. This may partly explain why the discussions leading to the deal were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends—including its negotiating partners and Israel—until two months previously. </p> <p>There is some evidence that the conservatives in Iran consider the deal as a tactical shift, rather than a strategic change of course. There has been no rethink by the major decision-makers in Iran, Khamenei or the Revolutionary Guard leadership, of the Islamic regime’s policy on Syria. Yet such a strategic revision could issue from effective continuous dialogue between the two sides, for which the deal provides, after such long hostility. This is why Rouhani insists his government aims to sustain the path of negotiations.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Although both Kerry and Zarif clearly said they did not trust the other side, this should not be considered as a prerequisite for negotiation but the very outcome. ‘You don’t trust,’ Kerry said on CBS, before adding: ‘It’s not based on trust. It’s based on verification. It’s based on your ability to know what is happening.’ Similarly, Zarif told the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network: ‘We do not trust them. However, we will continue our negotiations to solve the issue.’ </p> <p>That may explain why Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: ‘Now the difficult part starts.’ Nevertheless, while many radical differences remain between the two sides, the very condition of reaching the interim deal might be thus be a sign of hope.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/rebecca-cousins/making-progress-with-iran">Making progress with Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/arash-falasiri/reaping-political-rewards-of-iranian-nuclear-crisis">Reaping the political rewards of the Iranian nuclear crisis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran International politics the middle east iran: how to avoid war? democracy & iran middle east nuclear weapons fundamentalisms Arash Falasiri Syria's peace: what, how, when? Iran 5+1 Security in Middle East and North Africa Peacebuilding Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:46:42 +0000 Arash Falasiri 77382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran and human rights: a new landscape https://www.opendemocracy.net/omid-memarian/iran-and-human-rights-new-landscape <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Iranian president's forthcoming visit to the United States is an opportunity to highlight the continued repression under his regime, says Omid Memarian.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In late September 2012, the United Nations in New York will <a href="http://gadebate.un.org/">host</a> Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his annual visit as president of Iran - the last such occasion, since the election of June 2013 in Iran will see Ahmadinejad's <a href="http://electionguide.org/country.php?ID=103">successor</a> take office.&nbsp;Much attention will, understandably,focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions and the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-weapons-trail">danger</a> of an armed attack on Iran. But it is important also to register the current conditions inside Iran, including the condition of human rights in the country, an issue that has been relatively neglected since the widepread protests against the declaration of Ahmadinejad's victory in the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">election</a> of June 2009. </p> <p>The Iranian official media regularly features news of the discovery by the regime’s intelligence forces of international crime-rings and nefarious anti-government plots. The headlines suggest these are law-enforcement victories, something for all Iranians to be proud of; but read further, and evidence of wrongdoing is hard to find - for those arrested were targeted because of their ideas and identities - as intellectuals, secularists, evangelical Christians or members of the <a href="http://www.bahai.org/dir/worldwide/persecution">Bahá'í</a> religious minority, gay people, feminists, or communists. </p> <p>Iranian government officials and state-sponsored media routinely accuse groups they dislike of committing crimes and posing security threats. Over many years, such charges rarely have proven true, yet Iranians have also tended not to challenge these narratives. Today, a cultural shift is visible, as discussions within civil society about <a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/iran">human rights</a> increasingly contest the old, dominant perceptions.</p> <p><strong>A shifting ground</strong></p> <p>A notable trend, for example, is the marked rise in Iranians' discussion of previously taboo topics such as the Baha’i faith. The government’s propaganda against the Baha’i - the largest non-Muslim religious group in the country - has portrayed any connection to this community a "security issue", but two major incidents have contributed to a more open <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">debate</a> in human-rights circles. </p> <p>The first occurred when <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-irandemocracy/article_1557.jsp">Shirin Ebadi</a>, the Nobel prize-winning lawyer, took on the case of seven Baha’i leaders who were arrested in 2008. This provoked a storm of attacks on Ebadi by state-sponsored media, but it also laid the groundwork for public dialogue, especially online. The second incident involved the activities of students expelled from universities. These young people, some of whom had been denied higher education because of their political activities and others for their religious beliefs (as in the case of the Baha’i), campaigned side-by-side for their rights.</p> <p>The sympathetic attention over this issue was so significant that Mohammad Javad Larijani, the government’s representative to the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx">United Nations Human Rights Council</a>, publicly denied that Baha’i face any <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/12/aug/1018.html">discrimination</a> in Iran and told the <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40304">council</a> that all Baha’i in Iran have access to education and other rights. Even the public mention of Baha’i by a senior government official was in itself the breaking of a traditional taboo, and a reflection of how much the public discourse around Baha’i has shifted. As a result, more Iranian journalists and analysts started publicly to talk about the <a href="http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/iran-update/">rights</a> of Baha’i.</p> <p>Another previously forbidden issue that Iranians have begun to talk about is gay rights, something unheard of only a few years ago. This subject may still be on the extreme end of social discussion, but it has slowly entered the discourse of Iranian civil society. This has forced the government to acknowledge the existence of gay people in the country. </p> <p>President Ahmadinejad, in an infamous speech in 2007, claimed that Iran had no homosexuals. Now, however, the ground is <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/rare-show-of-public-support-for-gay-rights-in-iran/24585804.html">shifting</a>, and Iran has slowly begun to acknowledge homosexuality - albeit typically in a context not favourable to gay rights (for example, in the criteria for military service in Iran, there is now an article excluding gay people from service).</p> <p><strong>A new voice</strong></p> <p>In the past two decades, dozens of prisoners have written critical letters to Iran’s supreme leader, <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/akhamenei/ali_khamenei.php">Ayatollah Ali Khamenei</a>. More recently, Iranian political <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/07/13/iran-end-abuse-imprisoned-journalists">prisoners</a> have written open letters to the Iranian public, and made available love-letters exchanged with their spouses, which have been distributed on broadcast and satellite networks. The publicity around these letters has "humanised" prisoners, prompted discussion about the current political <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arshin-adib-moghaddam/irans-nuclear-file-and-human-dignity">situation</a>, and undermined the regime’s portrayal of human rights in Iran.</p> <p>Activists, lawyers, journalists and the families of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">detainees</a> have used the power of the internet - including blogs, online news outlets, and social media - to amplifiy public discourse over human-rights violations and thereby spread awareness and confidence. The effects have been flet in the way that more Iranians are willing to take risks and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/iran-women-in-frame">challenge</a> the authorities in international forums, which has contributed to the failure of Iran’s human-rights diplomacy at the UN. </p> <p>For example, Iranian victims of human-rights abuse living in Iran were willing to speak to Ahmed Shaheed, the UN. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and this was crucial in enabling him to write a comprehensive and reliable report earlier in 2012. This report resulted in increased <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42346&amp;Cr=execution&amp;Cr1">pressure</a> being put on the Iranian government from UN human-rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx">Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights</a>. </p> <p>These trends have emerged following the surge in repression that followed the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">disputed</a> election of 2009. They demonstrate a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/omid-memarian/iran-domestic-tension-and-foreign-policy">growing</a> spirit of independence in Iranian civil society, and an intensifying struggle with the state concerning human rights. Iranian citizens are giving voice to the voiceless; addressing previously taboo issues; and, most importantly, making Iran's human-rights situation increasingly hard for President Ahmadinejad to ignore with impunity. During his <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/09/07/260268/ahmadinejad-to-attend-67th-un-session/">visit</a> to New York, the international community, including the United States, needs to demonstrate&nbsp;its solidarity with the pioneers of Iranian civil society by holding him responsible for his abysmal record on the persecution of many Iranian citizens. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm"><span><span>BBC - Iran crisis</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://iranbodycount.blogspot.com/"><span><span>Iran Body Count</span></span></a></p> <p>Annabelle Sreberny &amp; Gholam Khiabany, <em><a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Computing%20%20information%20technology/Computing%20general/Ethical%20%20social%20aspects%20of%20computing/Blogistan%20The%20Internet%20and%20Politics%20in%20Iran.aspx"><span><span>The Internet and Politics in Iran</span></span></a></em> (IB Tauris, 2010)</p> <p><a href="http://www.gooya.com/"><span><span>Gooya</span></span></a></p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/"><span><span>Crisis of Authority: Iran's <em>2009</em> Presidential </span></span></a><em><a href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/"><span><span>Election</span></span></a> </em></em>(Chatham House, 2010)</p> <div><a href="http://en.irangreenvoice.com/"><span><span>The Green Voice of Freedom</span></span></a>&nbsp;</div> <div> <p><a href="http://www.chrr.biz/index-en.php"><span><span>Commitee of Human Rights Reporters</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/"><span><span>Planet Iran</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/"><span><span>Tehran Bureau </span></span></a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674"><span><span>Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</span></span></a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/"><span><span>Rooz </span></span></a></p> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em><span><span>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <p>Nader Hashemi &amp; Danny Postel eds., <a href="http://mhpbooks.com/book.php?id=493"><em><span><span>The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Freedom in Iran</span></span></em></a> (Melville House, 2011)</p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <a href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><span><span><em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </span></span></a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em><span><span>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Omid Memarian is a journalist who writes for the IPS (Inter Press Service) news agency and the <em>Daily Beast</em>, and whose work has been published in the <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, and the <em>San Francisco Chronicle</em>. In 2005, he received both Human Rights Watch's Human Rights Defender award and the Hellmen Hemet award. In 2007-09, he was a World Peace Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He is currently working on a multimedia project on the condition of "American Muslims in the Obama Era", and teaches journalism at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). His website is <a href="http://www.omidmemarian.com/">here</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-domestic-tension-and-foreign-policy">Iran, domestic tension and foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/irans-crisis-regime-and-street">Iran&#039;s crisis: regime and street</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-americanpower/election_ahmadinejad_4248.jsp">Ahmadinejad, Iran and America</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/tehran_voices_4302.jsp">Voices from Tehran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-votes-evolution-in-revolution">Iran&#039;s evolution and Islam’s Berlusconi </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/irans-nuclear-file-and-human-dignity">Iran&#039;s nuclear file and human dignity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power Omid Memarian Sun, 09 Sep 2012 05:22:40 +0000 Omid Memarian 67961 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran, women in the frame https://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/iran-women-in-frame <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iranian women have played an active role in social and educational life since the revolution of 1979. There are now signs of a conservative backlash against their presence, says Sanam Vakil.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The Islamic government that took form after the Iranian revolution of 1979 contained numerous contradictions, many of which impacted directly on Iranian women.&nbsp;Women had been prominent supporters of the revolution, demonstrating in large numbers alongside their male counterparts. <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/rkhomeini/ayatollah_khomeini.php">Ayatollah Khomeini</a>, the revolution’s figurehead, who became “supreme leader” until his death in 1989, astutely recognised the importance of female political support and encouraged women’s political participation to achieve this - despite the imposition of retrograde Islamic laws that reversed previous legal gains and protections that women had long sought.</p><p>In many cases after the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">revolution</a>, traditional patriarchal views were diluted by political necessity. For example, women were required to wear the veil yet also retained the right to vote (which had been achieved in 1967); scores of female judges and public-sector employees were dismissed, yet women were also encouraged to sustain their families financially and support the war effort (in the 1980-88 <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/iran_iraq_war/iran_iraq_war1.php">conflict</a> with Iraq).&nbsp;Most significantly, the veiling requirements also facilitated opportunities for women - particularly those from traditional religious families - to study and work outside the home. </p><p>Thus, despite patriarchal norms and efforts at gender segregation, women in Iran became <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition">active</a> in many professional fields: as (to name only a few) journalists, members of parliament, lawyers, taxi- and bus-drivers, policewomen. In more than 12% of Iranian families, according to recent census data, women are the primary breadwinners, a number that has doubled over five years.&nbsp;In 2009, of those who passed the university exams and <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/03/nov/1133.html">enrolled</a> in undergraduate courses, 62.7% were women and only 37.3% men. But such statistics, while heralded abroad and championed among female activists, are threatening for the patriarchal elite. Many conservative politicians and clerics believe that female education is <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2008/03/05-education-salehi-isfahani">limiting</a> education and employment opportunities for Iranian men.</p><p><strong>The context of change</strong></p><p>There are now signs of a conservative backlash against the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iranian-women-and-the-islamic-republic">presence</a> of educated women in public life. A recent Iranian government announcement seeks to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/world/middleeast/20iht-educbriefs20.html">restrict</a> women from entering the study of seventy-seven specific academic fields in thirty-six government-run universities throughout the country. These areas of study were available for female students in years past, but in advance of the new academic year, each individual university has imposed its own restrictions supposedly based upon the institution’s distinct requirements.&nbsp;The largest constraints are in the <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-21/iran-barring-women-from-atomic-oil-fields-draws-rebuke.html">field</a> and subfields of engineering, but women are also barred from a wide range of other subjects: accounting, architecture, urban planning, chemistry, history, computer science, nuclear physics, mining, geology, English language and literature, English translation, restoration of historic buildings, and even Persian carpet studies. </p><p>In specific cases, Isfahan University has barred women from the following <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/424586/iran-bans-women-from-over-70-university-courses-report/">courses</a>: political science, accountancy, business management, governmental management, industry management, electrical, civil, mechanical and railway engineering and English-language translation; Tehran University has limited women from mining and forestry studies (and, interestingly, men were barred from pursuing nursing degrees). At the same time, the Oil Industry University announced: “at the moment&nbsp; [we do] not have any need for women resources.”&nbsp;Several universities have suggested that fields such as agriculture are “unfit” for women and that certain degrees such as mining-engineering perpetuate female unemployment.</p><p>The context of these <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9487761/Anger-as-Iran-bans-women-from-universities.html">changes</a> is the period since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/result_2629.jsp">election</a> in June 2005, when there has been repeated discussion of gender segregation as a means to redress the balance between men and women.&nbsp;After the the 1979 revolution, gender segregation was enforced in all Iranian primary and secondary schools, while male and female university students could attend class together but had to sit in separate rows of chairs. Since 2011, Kamran Daneshjoo - the minister of science, research and technology - has emphasised the themes of gender segregation and gender quotas; the results have included limiting women’s access to some postgraduate courses and segregated certain classes (with professors teaching the same class twice).</p><p>The government has justified these changes as part of a wider effort to protect men throughout the university system.&nbsp;But they can be seen as an attempt by the Islamic government to reverse the consequences of its own work in helping to create a national cadre of educated women that incrementally <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157763&amp;SntUrl=152636&amp;SubjectId=1023&amp;Subject2Id=1600">challenges</a> the status quo. True, the government has over the years celebrated increased education, literacy and completion rates, particularly among women; but it has also shuddered at the sight of educated Iranian women from all walks of life agitating for a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-rights-of-irans-women">larger </a>place in their country’s social, economic, and political life. </p><p><strong>The pattern of protest</strong></p><p>The issue of education is thus tied to that of social change, including demography. At the advent of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini told women to go forth and multiply - and that they did. The results included a decade-long population boom whereby today, 70% of Iran’s burgeoning population is under the age of 30. Many of these young people, around 30%, are affected by unemployment, which creates a restive atmosphere that the government’s economic mismanagement does little to placate. </p><p>To contain the population swell, the Islamic Republic was forced to implement a family-planning programme - again, an initiative whose success was championed internationally. But in 2006, Ahmadinejad - reviving Khomeini’s call for larger families - reversed the policy and suggested that women should return to their “main mission” as mothers. This also reflected the government’s anxiety about increasing divorce-rates in Iran (16% in 2009, where the marriage-rate was increasing by 1% a year). Several social factors (urbanisation, high living-costs and unemployment) contribute to these statistics, but young women’s changing attitudes and expectations regarding marriage are an important contributory factor. In this broader frame, the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">experience </a>of women (not least educated women) is at the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_alavi_4406.jsp">heart</a> of the complex social phenomena affecting Iranian society today.</p><p>These phenomena also have a political dimension that has manifested itself at various phases of the Islamic Republic’s thirty-three year existence, during which female activism has has taken on a<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition"> life</a> of its own.&nbsp;The initial years of tension, uncertainty and pressures of war were also marked by ideological, economic, religious and social divisions among women; a change took place in 2006 when the <a href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/human-rights-defenders/iran/one-million-signature-campaign-timeline/">One Million Signature Campaign</a> (among others), which sought the elimination of discriminatory laws enshrined in Iran’s constitution, more directly challenged the government. In advance of the presidential election of 2009, women activists formed a coalition to try to force gender concerns onto the political platform of the competing candidates, including the ratification of the United Nations <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/history.htm">Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women</a> (Cedaw). </p><p>The government responded in all cases with repression, which was intensified after the presidential <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">election</a> of 2009, when Ahmadinejad was declared the overwhelming winner in very <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">dubious</a> circumstances. Many activists reacted in outrage, believing that their preferred candidate <a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/2012/aug/mir-hossein-mousavi-prisoner-day">Mir-Hossein Moussavi </a>was the legitimate victor; women were at the forefront of the ensuing <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">protests</a>, and along with their male counterparts suffered arrest, incarceration, and exile. </p><p>Against this background, the new education restrictions are an extension of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to contain the problems that its own policies of educational expansion have created. The government might be able to reduce the number of women at universities and block female access to many professional fields. But it cannot forever <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157763&amp;SntUrl=152636&amp;SubjectId=1023&amp;Subject2Id=1600%20">curb</a> female empowerment, creativity, ambition, or agency, which will continue to pose challenges to its power and find new outlets for expression.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sanam Vakil, <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157763&amp;SntUrl=152636&amp;SubjectId=1023&amp;Subject2Id=1600"><em>Women and Politics in Iran: Action and Reaction</em></a> (Continuum, 2011)</p><p><a href="http://www.iranfemschool.biz/english/">ran Feminist School</a></p><p>Nikki R Keddie, <a href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p><p>anet Afary, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521898461"><em>Sexual Politics in Modern Iran</em> </a>(Cambridge University Press, 2009)</p><p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8281.html">Women in the Middle East: Past and Present</a></em> (Princeton University Pres, 2007)</p><p>Pardis Mahdavi, <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?isbn=0804758565">Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution</a></em> (Stanford University Press, 2009)</p><p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sanam Vakil is an adjunct <a href="http://apps.sais-jhu.edu/faculty_bios/faculty_bio1.php?ID=255" target="_blank"> professor</a> at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy. She is the author of <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157763&amp;SntUrl=152636&amp;SubjectId=1023&amp;Subject2Id=1600"><em>Women and Politics in Iran: Action and Reaction</em></a> (Continuum, 2011)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition">Iran&#039;s women: a movement in transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/iran/irans-political-shadow-war">Iran’s political shadow war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">Iran’s hidden prisoners </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/iran-surface-truths-inner-lives">Iran: surface truths, inner lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/politics/middle_east_feminism_two_pioneers_remembered">Two feminist pioneers: Iranian, Lebanese, universal </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people-irandemocracy/article_1557.jsp">Shirin Ebadi and Iran&#039;s women: in the vanguard of change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iranian-women-and-the-islamic-republic">Iranian women and the Islamic Republic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power Sanam Vakil Wed, 05 Sep 2012 12:37:38 +0000 Sanam Vakil 67912 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran's nuclear file and human dignity https://www.opendemocracy.net/arshin-adib-moghaddam/irans-nuclear-file-and-human-dignity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Iranians are enduring great hardship as a result of economic sanctions. The absence of progress in nuclear negotiations makes their situation even tougher. The link between these two issues is the key to Iranians' future, says Arshin Adib-Moghaddam.</p> </div> </div> </div> <P>Iranians are bearing the brunt of an intolerable crisis that may yet deteriorate if the international-sanctions regime enforced by the United States cuts deeper into Iranian society. Iran is not on the brink of economic collapse, or political upheaval, as some strategists hope, but the sanctions are hurting the civil society of the <A href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">country</a> and its most vulnerable members, especially women, children, the elderly and the poor. This reality has profound political implications.</p> <P>The more relaxed atmosphere of the "Persian spring" under the reformist <A href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mkhatami/mohammad_khatami.php">Mohammad Khatami</a>, president of Iran from 1997-2005, are long gone. At that time, non-governmental organisations flourished in Iran, the country's academics were welcome guests at international conferences all over the world, and the notion of a "dialogue between Islam and the west" promised to <A href="http://www.unesco.org/dialogue/en/khatami.htm">challenge</a> stereotypes on both sides of the cognitive divide. </p> <P>Khatami himself was not audacious enough to bring about the reforms that many Iranians continue to demand, but he had a genuine will to open up the country's political system. Under his presidency, Iran had considerable diplomatic capital, several strata of Iranian society were involved in the political <A href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">system</a>, and some pioneering Iranians in the diaspora returned to make a contribution. There was a genuine pluralistic momentum emanating from society that fed into a new form of "democratised" politics which fortified Iran’s national security from within. </p> <P>All this is very different to today's situation. The institutional components of Iran’s civil society are under constant threat. Many allies of Khatami and the reformists have been ostracised, jailed or harassed into exile. But this outcome is made worse because Iranians are squeezed not just by&nbsp;the divisive government of President Ahmadinejad but by an intransigent and hypocritical "international community".</p> <P>The tragedies that ordinary Iranians are grappling with due to the <A href="http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1737/">sanctions</a> regime imposed on Iran are laid out in a <A href="http://www.icanpeacework.org/"><SPAN><SPAN>report</span></span></a> by the <A href="http://www.icanpeacework.org/">International Civil Society Action Network</a>. Among its findings are that cash-stripped Iranians are forced to opt out of cancer treatment, and that unprecedented sanctions in the banking sector have made it impossible for many Iranian students at foreign universities to receive funds from their family at home. (Those like myself who work in academia can confirm this with many sad anecdotes.) </p> <P>Women are particularly hard-hit. They are being pushed out of the job market and at the sharp end of growing unemployment, finds the report. A women’s-rights activist says: "I don’t know of any people who have suffered these kinds of sanctions over such a long period, except Palestinians and Cubans...I only ask why do they hate us so much?"</p> <P><STRONG>A bargain for life</strong></p> <P>Crisis situations bring out the worst in states. The enduring crisis over the nuclear-energy programme has given Iran’s rightwing the perfect excuse to discipline and punish, and<STRONG> to </strong>avoid<STRONG> </strong>political reforms. The reformists are suffocated. The few who are allowed to breathe, including former president Khatami, are timid, partially due to national-security considerations. The endless nuclear negotiations and the constant <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-war-on-iran-plan-revealed">threat </a>of war leave everyone in Iran suspended and confined.</p> <P>Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer and Nobel <A href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2003/ebadi-autobio.html">laureate</a>, argues that the nuclear negotiations should be linked to the question of human dignity in Iran, as a way of lifting pressure on people. The flaw in this view is twofold: it questions Iranian sovereignty, and it assumes that the "west" has an interest in human-rights promotion beyond narrow power considerations. There is a reason, after all, why no European Union human-rights delegations are going in and out of Riyadh: namely, Saudi Arabia is considered to be an ally of the "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arshin-adib-moghaddam/after-%E2%80%9Cwest%E2%80%9D">west</a>", hence the severe human-rights abuses in the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-arabia-and-syria-logic-of-dictators">kingdom</a> are not turned into a political tool. </p> <P>The correlations between human dignity in Iran and the nuclear issue is a different one: As long as the nuclear file is unresolved, the situation for ordinary Iranians<STRONG> </strong>will not improve. To that end, bringing the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-mediation-vs-war">negotiations</a> to a peaceful end is crucial.</p> <P>The most effective way to bring this about would be to work on a "grand bargain" that included defensive security guarantees, a non-aggression pact that gives Iran the assurance it needs in a volatile geopolitical environment. After all, a state that does not <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-complex-why-history-matters">feel</a> threatened would not contemplate acquiring a nuclear weapon in the first place. If the threat of war can be minimised by such a pact, it will both make harder the quelling of dissent in Iran in the name of national security and create space for much-needed political reforms.<STRONG> </strong></p> <P>Since its <A href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">inception</a> the Islamic Republic has grappled with an intense insecurity dilemma. The state has been a target of invasion, sanctions, and constant military threats; was caught between the main sites of the "war on terror" for almost a decade; and is surrounded by United States military bases. This habitat fostered the securitised politics that Iranians today are confronted with. The absence of compromise in the nuclear negotiations gives Iran's rightwing the perfect excuse to divide and rule the population in the name of "national security", and thus exacerbates this securitisation of Iranian politics. In the meantime, Iran’s vibrant and combative civil society is facing mounting pressures. </p> <P>As such, western sanctions reveal themselves as a war by other means against ordinary Iranians. If they were aimed at changing the behaviour of the state on the nuclear issue or undermining its institutions, the political dividend has been nil. Both precedent and principle suggest that the policy was always misguided. The cases of Cuba and North Korea are other examples where sanctions did not yield strategic results, and the Iranian government (as I have argued for years) does not yield its strategic preferences to international threats. </p> <P>The prospects for a breakthrough that would interrupt the cycle of <A href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15983302">sanctions</a> and military threats looks bleak, certainly in the short term. Whenever there is room for compromise, the Binyamin Netanyahu administration in Israel is quick to increase the pressure on the international negotiating team, lest Europe and the United States would consider a grand bargain with their nemesis. </p> <P>A peaceful resolution of the nuclear negotiations and the lifting of sanctions would create space for Iranians to act as citizens of a republic again, relieved from the pressures of internal securitisation and external harassment. In pursuit of those linked objectives, the economic war against Iran has to be resisted. </p> <P><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN><SPAN></span></span></span></span><SPAN><SPAN></span></span></span><SPAN>&nbsp;</span></p> <P><SPAN>&nbsp;</span></p> <P>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.adib-moghaddam.info/">Arshin Adib-Moghaddam</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.icanpeacework.org/">International Civil Society Action Network</a></p> <P>Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=613"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them beyond Orientalism</span></span></em></a> (<A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/"><SPAN><SPAN>C Hurst</span></span></a> / <A href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70212-6/a-metahistory-of-the-clash-of-civilisations/reviews"><SPAN><SPAN>Columbia University Press</span></span></a>, 2010)</p> <P><A href="http://planet-iran.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>Planet Iran</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/"><SPAN><SPAN>Tehran Bureau </span></span></a></p> <P>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <EM><A href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674"><SPAN><SPAN>Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</span></span></a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <P><A href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/"><SPAN><SPAN>Rooz </span></span></a></p> <P>Ali M Ansari, <A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007) </p> <P>ikki R Keddie, <A href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><SPAN><SPAN><EM>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </span></span></a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <P>Michael Axworthy, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is <A href="http://www.soas.ac.uk/staff/staff36949.php">reader</a> in comparative politics and international realtions at SOAS, London. His latest book is <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=613"><EM>A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them beyond Orientalism</em></a> (<A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/">C Hurst</a> / <A href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70212-6/a-metahistory-of-the-clash-of-civilisations/reviews">Columbia University Press</a>, 2010). His previous books include <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=467"><EM>Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic</em></a> (C Hurst, 2008 / <A href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70046-7/iran-in-world-politics">Columbia University Press</a>, 2008). His website is <A href="http://www.adib-moghaddam.info/">here</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/after-911-ripples-of-global-violence">After 9/11: the ripples of global violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/americas-war-on-iran-plan-revealed">America&#039;s war on Iran: the plan revealed</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/new-order-in-%E2%80%9Cgreater-west-asia%E2%80%9D-afpak-to-palestine">A new order in “greater west Asia”: AfPak to Palestine</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/postmodern-islam-and-arab-revolts">Postmodern Islam and the Arab revolts </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-domestic-tension-and-foreign-policy">Iran, domestic tension and foreign policy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/after-%E2%80%9Cwest%E2%80%9D">After the “west”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tarek-osman/middle-east-and-war-over-iran">The middle east and war over Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/%E2%80%9Cislam%E2%80%9D-drumbeat-orwellian-story">The “Islam” drumbeat: an Orwellian story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/war-on-iran-delusive-logic">A war on Iran: the delusive logic </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/how-to-make-peace-with-iran">How to make peace with Iran</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power Arshin Adib-Moghaddam Wed, 08 Aug 2012 14:30:56 +0000 Arshin Adib-Moghaddam 67460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net America's war on Iran: the plan revealed https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-war-on-iran-plan-revealed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The United States&nbsp;is more seriously preparing for&nbsp;military action against Iran than is widely realised. An attack -&nbsp;obviating the need for one&nbsp;by&nbsp;Israel -&nbsp;may not be immediate and is not yet certain, but it is being intensively planned.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The third round of talks between Iran and the "P5+1" group, held in Moscow on 18-19 June 2012, ended in stalemate. A formal process will continue at a lower level, but amid an atmosphere of continuing mutual suspicion and in a situation where United States electoral politics work against compromise. Iran believes that most of the <a href="http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Iran_Nuclear_Proposals">P5+1</a> is bargaining that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/resources/sanctions-database">sanctions</a>&nbsp;increase their&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-braces-for-eu-oil-embargo/24630119.html">impact</a>&nbsp;until Tehran bends to its will, whereas Washington&nbsp;holds that it is the Iranians who are happy to prolong matters while they accelerate uranium enrichment (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/syria-and-iran-diplomatic-tunnel">Syria and Iran:&nbsp;a diplomatic tunnel</a>", 25 June 2012)..</p> <p>Alongside these <a href="http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2012/mena/the-p5-1-iran-and-the-perils-of-nuclear-brinkmanship.aspx">calculations</a>, at least some European (especially German) politicians recognise that any substantial delay in <a href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-iran-nuclear-atmosphere-idINBRE85L0DX20120622">negotiations</a> could well create the space for a unilateral Israeli military strike on Iran, an act that would inaugurate a lengthy period of deep instability and perhaps an intensely destructive war.</p> <p>The high European commitment to <a href="http://euobserver.com/24/116645">diplomacy</a> over Iran has in part been motivated by the risk of Israel attacking Iran. There is little doubt that Israel would be prepared to make such a move at a time of its choosing. It is of even greater concern to the Europeans, then, that indications have emerged in recent weeks of the Pentagon's own serious <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/1/pentagon-planning-contingency-iran-n-korea/">engagement</a> in comprehensive multi-option war-planning. </p> <p><strong>A question of timing</strong></p> <p>The belief underpinning this hawkish approach seems to be that a short, sharp military action <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/war-on-iran-delusive-logic">directed</a> very precisely at Iran's nuclear and missile facilities is the only way to force a weakened Iran to "come in from the cold" and - once and for all - abandon its <a href="http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/irans-nuclear-program">nuclear</a> ambitions.</p> <p>There is no settled consensus in elite US circles about to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/doubts-raised-about-us-diplomacy-on-iran-and-nuclear-issues.html">handle</a> the Iran problem. Several powerful voices, including within the Pentagon, argue that the best option is to continue the mix of sanctions and sustained cyber-warfare (the latter in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-israel-developed-computer-virus-to-slow-iranian-nuclear-efforts-officials-say/2012/06/19/gJQA6xBPoV_story.html">collaboration</a> with Israel). Others, however,&nbsp;argue that there is a need to plan for war, with the question of optimum timing a central&nbsp;issue (see David Fulghum, "<a href="http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&amp;plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3ad1a6015f-e503-4a99-a972-1177841f25da">Bombing Iran: U.S. military planners ponder when a kinetic attack might make sense</a>", <em>Aviation Week</em>, 25 June 2012). </p> <p>The Pentagon advocates of a strike on Iran believe that the early part of 2013 might be the best moment. In their eyes,&nbsp;this offers three advantages. First, the presidential and congressional <a href="http://www.electionguide.org/country.php?ID=226">elections</a> of November 2012 would be out of the way, with nearly two years to the next mid-sessional elections; thus any political controversy would have plenty of time to diminish. Second, the months between now and the point of decision would make clear whether there was any possibility of a political compromise. Third, keeping the war option open - and informing the Israelis well in advance - would make a lone Israeli <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-and-iran-after-bombs-fall">attack</a> less likely. The most hardline of the US planners hold the view that it is much better that the US "does the job properly" than lets Israel, with its much smaller forces, take the lead.</p> <p>The planners emphasise here the sheer power of the United States military, especially the ability of the US air force (Usaf) to fly from <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/americas-global-shift-drone-wars-base-politics">bases</a> in the region and combine with naval-aviation forces operating out of carrier-battle groups in the Arabian Sea. </p> <p>The key weapons used would be the <a href="http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/uswpns/air/bombers/b2.html">B-2</a> strategic stealth bombers and the <a href="http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/uswpns/air/fighter/f22.html">F-22</a> strike-aircraft, which would overfly Iran after the latter's defensive radar installations had been jammed by the new miniature air-launched decoy (<a href="http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/mald/">Mald</a>) and other systems.</p> <p>The B-2 strategic stealth bomber would be a key component, given its ability either to drop more than forty bombs in a single sortie or to deliver very large earth-penetrating bombs. But its dependence on extensive base-support facilities means that the B-2 can operate only from a handful or air-bases worldwide; the most relevant <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/nuclearweapons_3448.jsp">candidates</a> are RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, western England, and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/chagos_3612.jsp">Diego Garcia</a>, a British-controlled atoll in the Indian Ocean. Britain would thus be directly involved in the war from the start.</p> <p>In addition to the B-2s and F-22s, other planes - F-15E and F-16 strike aircraft - would be deployed to launch joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles (<a href="http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/jassm.htm">JASSMS</a>) from outside Iranian airspace. A key system here is the <a href="http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/AGM-158-JASSM-Cruise-Missiles-FY-2011-Orders-06895/">AGM-158 Jassm-ER</a>, a new version of which has a range of 575 miles (more than double the current 230-mile version) and is being deployed in 2013. </p> <p>The Usaf planes would be central to the assault on Iran, but the US navy would also attack with sea-launched cruise-missiles (launched from cruisers, destroyers and submarines) and stand-off air-launched missiles (launched from <a href="http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/uswpns/air/fighter/f18.html">F/A-18s</a> flying from the carriers).</p> <p><strong>A state of mind</strong></p> <p>All these systems (and there are many others) amount to far more than Israel can deploy. But the distinctive aspect of the plan is less its scale or the perceived need to take charge from Israel than the idea that underpins it, at least among some of the planners: namely, that a focused, single-minded attack aimed specifically at Iran's nuclear and missile facilities will <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/asymmetric-war-iran-and-new-normal">intimidate</a> Iran into an acceptance that its nuclear ambition is a lost cause.</p> <p>The respected defence journal <em><a href="http://www.aviationweek.com/HomePage.aspx">Aviation Week</a></em> quotes one strategic veteran: "We should give Iran advanced warning that we will damage and likely destroy its nuclear facilities. It is not an act of war against Iran, the Iranian people or Islam. It is a pre-emptive attack solely against their nuclear facilities and the military targets protecting them. We will take extraordinary measures against collateral damage."</p> <p>It should be emphasised that an American attack is neither imminent nor even likely (at least for now). But if negotiations with Iran fail, if Mitt Romney wins the presidential <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/election.aspx">election</a> and the Republicans control at least one house of Congress, then things could begin to look very different in the early months of 2013. </p> <p>Perhaps the most significant element of this scenario is that if it came to a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-mediation-vs-war">war</a>, the Iranians would readily give up in the face of such great force. The assumption is <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-complex-why-history-matters">extraordinary</a>, yet the underlying mentality&nbsp;is familiar: it also&nbsp;produced the belief that the Taliban was finished by the end of 2001 and the Iraq war was over in three weeks flat in March-April 2003. It seems that nothing has been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/thirty-year-war-past-present-future">learned</a> from the experience of two long and bloody wars, and that is the real cause for worry.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/"><span><span>Department of peace studies</span></span></a>, Bradford University</p> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a></p> <p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;"><em><span><span>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</span><span> </span></span></em></a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> <p><a href="http://idr.janes.com/public/idr/index.shtml"><em><span><span>International Defence Review</span></span></em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><span><span>Iran and IAEA</span></span></a> </p> <p><a href="http://www.sipri.org/"><span><span>Stockholm International Peace Research Institute</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/e/index.htm"><span><span>Geneva Centre for Security Policy</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.thebulletin.org/"><span><span>Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists </span></span></a><br /><a href="http://www.acronym.org.uk/"><span><span><br />Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy</span></span></a></p> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em><span><span>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007) </p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Rogers is professor in the <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/"><span><span>department of peace studies</span></span></a><a id="link3" title="archive de department of peace studies" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/&amp;title=department%20of%20peace%20studies"><span><span>↑</span></span></a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <strong>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <a href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/"><span><span>Oxford Research Group</span></span></a><a id="link5" title="archive de Oxford Research Group" rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/&amp;title=Oxford%20Research%20Group"><span><span>↑</span></span></a> . His books include <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><span><span><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </span></span></a><a id="link7" title="archive de Why We’re Losing the War on Terror " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html&amp;title=Why%20We%E2%80%99re%20Losing%20the%20War%20on%20Terror%20"><span><span>↑</span></span></a> (Polity, 2007), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><span><span><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </span></span></a><a id="link9" title=" Global Security in the 21st Century " rel="nofollow" href="http://archive.wikiwix.com/opendemocracy/?url=http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376%26&amp;title=Losing%20Control%3A%20Global%20Security%20in%20the%2021st%20Century%20"><span><span>↑</span></span></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/war-on-iran-americans-in-focus">The war on Iran: Americans in focus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/americas-new-wars-and-militarised-diplomacy">America&#039;s new wars, and militarised diplomacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/syria-and-iran-diplomatic-tunnel">Syria and Iran, a diplomatic tunnel</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-india-pakistan-china-next-game">America, India, Pakistan, China: the next game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/pan-am-103-libya-and-case-unclosed">Pan Am 103: Libya and a case unclosed </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/americas-global-shift-drone-wars-base-politics">America&#039;s global shift: drone wars, base politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/afghanistan-iraq-and-americas-fix">Afghanistan-Iraq, and America&#039;s fix</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-and-iran-after-bombs-fall">Israel and Iran: after the bombs fall</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-dangerous-moment">America, Israel, Iran: a dangerous moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-mediation-vs-war">America, Israel, Iran: mediation vs war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-shifting-risk">America, Israel, Iran: a shifting risk </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-signals-of-war">America, Israel, Iran: signals of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-israel-iran-war-in-focus">America, Israel, Iran: war in focus </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/thirty-year-war-past-present-future">The thirty-year war: past, present, future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/iran-complex-why-history-matters">The Iran complex: why history matters</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Iran United States Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security democracy & iran democracy & power Paul Rogers Iran 5+1 Security in Middle East and North Africa Security in North America International Law Peacebuilding Sat, 30 Jun 2012 04:18:47 +0000 Paul Rogers 66758 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran, domestic tension and foreign policy https://www.opendemocracy.net/omid-memarian/iran-domestic-tension-and-foreign-policy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>The prospect of a military attack on Iran to disable the country's nuclear facilities is being intensively considered in Tehran. But the internal tensions between rival factions - especially supporters of the supreme leader and of the president - are an obstacle to a coherent response, says Omid Memarian.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <P>The first months of 2012 have been dominated by analysis and speculation over a possible attack on Iran over its nuclear plans. In this delicate situation, understanding the calculations of the authorities in Iran is clearly vital. So what is happening in Iran, and how is the combination of internal political developments and external pressures on the government in Tehran - such as tripling sacntions and the threat of war - being played out?</p> <P>A place to start in answering these questions is the comment by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 8 March 2012 which responded favourably to President Barack Obama's statement that he was not considering war with Iran. Khamenei, speaking to members of the Assembly of Experts (one of Iran's leading constitutional bodies), said: "This talk is good talk, and is indicative that [Obama] is outside of the illusion. But the president of America continued to say that we want to bring the Iranian people to their knees with the sanctions. This part of his talk is indicative that the illusion continues in this respect... Continuing this illusion will hurt American officials and their calculations will fail."</p> <P>The comment had been preceded by the parliamentary elections in Iran on 2 March which gave a solid majority to the circle around the supreme leader. This outcome raises the question of how current power-struggles within the Iranian elite are likely to affect Iran's foreign-policy course, particularly over its ambitious and costly nuclear programme.</p> <P><STRONG>The power-struggle</strong></p> <P>Ayatollah Khamenei is ultimately in charge of Iran's major foreign-policy decisions, including the nuclear programme. Yet internal factional conflicts, broadly between conservatives and reformists (often perceived as the two wings of Iran's political system - with the supreme leader the central figure in the former camp) can strongly affect the pace of decision-making. Until recently, the balancing factor of inter-party struggles provided Khamenei with political cover. But Khamenei, with his supporting base in major political institutions, has gradually managed - both in the turbulent aftermath of the presidential election in 2009, and again in the 2012 parliamentary elections - to remove reformist forces from Iran's political scene. </p> <P>Now, conservatives rule almost all major civil and military institutions and the supreme leader has established a commanding role in managing the country's major policies. Thus, any damaging rift between pro-leader conservatives would now put Khamenei in the spotlight, damage his authority, and make him vulnerable to blame for any wrongdoing by his supporters.</p> <P>Khamenei's awareness of this, and his desire to deflect responsibility for failures and unpopular policies, mean that he tries consistently to present all decision-making (even when carried out with his direct orders or in consultation with him) as a product of collective thinking by his subordinates.</p> <P>Khamenei enjoys the complete support of the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and is ultimately in charge of all the country's powerful military and intelligence organisations. He has avoided implementing policies that could accelerate the existing rift among the conservatives. This will have an impact on the actions of the newly elected parliament and on the ongoing crackdown on Iran's internal critics and dissidents.</p> <P>This crackdown has seen many journalists, filmmakers, bloggers, civil-society activists, and workers who attempt to demand their labour rights face the state's iron fist, and are rotinelyroutinely charged with offenses such as "acting against national security" or "presenting a dark portrayal of the state." In addition most reformist leaders, including the opposition presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, are either in prison or under house-arrest. Many prominent reformists, such as former president Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, face serious limitations on their political activities. There are restrictions on journalists' reporting of their predicament or news related to them.</p> <P>The reformists played no part in Iran’s parliamentary elections. In part as a result, Khamenei has been able to shape the most homogenous ruling group in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet a side-effect of this outcome is that failures and shortcomings in the country's policies can no longer be blamed on reformists, who were in charge for eight years before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in June 2005, and not even on those conservatives who have distanced themselves with the leader. </p> <P>In this sense, Iran's supreme leader is now in a more vulnerable position than it would appear. Even in the new parliament, again comprised of a conservative majority loyal to Khamenei and critical of Ahmadinejad, support for him is not absolutely assured. Two major conservative groups won more than half of the seats - the Islamic Revolution Stability Front and the United Principalists Front - but the true affiliations of more than 100 new MP's are unclear. Some analysts believe that a large proportion of these could be backed by Iran's vice-president Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is scorned by supporters of the supreme leader. In addition, a small group of the newly elected - which includes Ali Motahari and Ahmad Tavakoli - are staunch critics of the government. But since the nominees (under <EM>velayat-e faqih</em>, the rule of the jurist), it is almost impossible to find out whose vow of loyalty is real and authentic until they start their work in the parliament. </p> <P><STRONG>The political timetable</strong></p> <P>There are fifteen months to go before Iran's next presidential election in June 2013. Until then a powerful, critical parliament will be able to limit the activities of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - perhaps even impeach him after an investigation into his financial affairs. Just days after the parliamentary elections, the president was questioned before the current MPs. In the style of his seven years in office, his provocative performance was matched by angry reactions from some MPs. Some of them now talk of impeaching Ahmadinejad for his incompetent performance, something that in principle will be easier to pursue in the new parliament. </p> <P>For his part, Ayatollah Khamenei will seek to prevent the incumbent president from using funds and influence over the next two years to choose a potential successor from among his own friends and affiliates. Khamenei will want to promote his own favourite, possibly Gholamali Haddad Adel, the current deputy speaker of parliament and a close relative of the supreme leader.</p> <P>The embattled Ahmadinejad thus faces a struggle to survive even until the end of his term in office. But as head government he still holds two powerful cards: Iran's booming oil revenues (partly as a result of the threats of attack) and access to the intelligence ministry. He has insinuated several times that he has information potentially damaging to the supreme-leader's supporters, which he could reveal if necessary. So Ahmadinejad could retaliate in kind if (for example) he is accused of corruption or if he or or his inner circle are put under extreme pressure.</p> <P>The probability of continued tension between president and supreme leader - where (for example) the president seeks to obstruct any major political decisions taken by the supreme leader or groups under his oversight, especially in areas such as Iran's nuclear programme or its foreign policy - is a recipe for paralysis until the end of Ahmadinejad's term. The implication is that even if the west opens the way to negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, the chances of a successful result that meets the west's concerns are minimal.</p> <P>The only way out of a political standoff of this kind could be a sweeping crisis in which military groups, particularly the IRGC, practically take control over the country and marginalise the president. That scenario may be why some groups within the Iranian leadership and the IRGC might even welcome any short-lived military attack as a pretext to cement their power inside Iran's ruling elite.</p> <P>Iran, after all, has long experience of internal forces using foreign policy as a tactic to gain more political power. The case of a military attack by the US or Israel (or both) on Iran's nuclear or military facilities - or even accelerated verbal threats to this effect - would be convenient for those seeking to impose a state of emergency in the country that enabled the IRGC, under the oversight of the supreme leader, to replace Iran’s civilian politicians and take control of all state affairs.</p> <P>Most signals of war from the west suggest that any military attack on Iran would be limited, intended to disable Iran's nuclear facilities and postpone the country's acquisition of nuclear weapons. Whether any assault succeeded in this, Iran's more extreme factions could use it to concentrate power in their hands, to suppress dissidents even further, and to reach out to public opinion in the region. It is at least certain that they would be strengthened by an attack.</p> <P>There are very few options that could today lead to a sudden change in Iran's foreign policy. One is for Ahmadinejad to present the supreme leader with a <EM>fait accompli </em>regarding important decisions, such as over Iran's nuclear activities (in 2009 the president acted in this way by dismissing the intelligence minister that Khamenei had handpicked). Another is for Khamenei to reduce the president's authority and delegate fundamental decisions to committees under his control. </p> <P>This rooted internal tension means that substantial changes in the balance of political forces are unlikely before the presidential election of 2013. But the pattern could alter if Iran's leadership becomes convinced that intensified economic sanctions or military action could lead to irreparable damage to the Islamic Republic's political life. </p> <P>Iranian leaders know that extreme conditions could challenge the state's rule at its very heart. The defence of the state is the red line that Ayatollah Khomeini and now Ayatollah Khamenei have observed since the Islamic Republic’s inception in 1979. In this sense the west's policies towards Iran in the coming months could be more influential over Iran's foreign policy than internal developments.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm"><SPAN><SPAN>BBC - Iran crisis</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://iranbodycount.blogspot.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>Iran Body Count</span></span></a></p> <P>Annabelle Sreberny &amp; Gholam Khiabany, <EM><A href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Computing%20%20information%20technology/Computing%20general/Ethical%20%20social%20aspects%20of%20computing/Blogistan%20The%20Internet%20and%20Politics%20in%20Iran.aspx"><SPAN><SPAN>The Internet and Politics in Iran</span></span></a></em> (IB Tauris, 2010)</p> <P><A href="http://www.gooya.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>Gooya</span></span></a></p> <P>Ali Ansari, <EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/"><SPAN><SPAN>Crisis of Authority: Iran's <EM>2009</em> Presidential </span></span></a><EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/"><SPAN><SPAN>Election</span></span></a> </em></em>(Chatham House, 2010)</p> <DIV><A href="http://en.irangreenvoice.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>The Green Voice of Freedom</span></span></a>&nbsp;</div> <DIV> <P><A href="http://www.chrr.biz/index-en.php"><SPAN><SPAN>Commitee of Human Rights Reporters</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://planet-iran.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>Planet Iran</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/"><SPAN><SPAN>Tehran Bureau </span></span></a></p> <P>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <EM><A href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674"><SPAN><SPAN>Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</span></span></a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <P><A href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/"><SPAN><SPAN>Rooz </span></span></a></p> <P>Ali M Ansari, <A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</span></span></em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <P>Nader Hashemi &amp; Danny Postel eds., <A href="http://mhpbooks.com/book.php?id=493"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Freedom in Iran</span></span></em></a> (Melville House, 2011)</p> <P>Nikki R Keddie, <A href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><SPAN><SPAN><EM>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </span></span></a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <P>Michael Axworthy, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</span></span></em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Omid Memarian is a journalist who writes for the IPS (Inter Press Service) news agency and the <EM>Daily Beast</em>, and whose work has been published in the <EM>New York Times</em>, the <EM>Los Angeles Times</em>, the <EM>Wall Street Journal</em>, and the <EM>San Francisco Chronicle</em>. In 2005, he received both Human Rights Watch's Human Rights Defender award and the Hellmen Hemet award. In 2007-09, he was a World Peace Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He is currently working on a multimedia project on the condition of "American Muslims in the Obama Era", and teaches journalism at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). His website is <A href="http://www.omidmemarian.com">here </a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power middle east Omid Memarian Security in Middle East and North Africa Security in North America Diplomacy International Law Peacebuilding Mon, 19 Mar 2012 09:22:17 +0000 Omid Memarian 64916 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran in the straits? https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/david-madden/iran-in-straits <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> How are recent events in Iran to be interpreted? History has a lot to teach us, argues David Madden </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">Accurate western news coverage of politics in Iran suffers perennially from a single reality: lack of reliable information.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">There is no mystery to this, nor to its cause: a tyrannical regime in Iran which permits little dissent and thus little in the way of a free press. With the recent imprisonment of dozens of journalists such as Isa Saharkhiz, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain an accurate picture of events in Iran as they unfold.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Yet be that as it may, there has been a recent trend in western analysis of Iran which suffers from more than a mere lack of information. In many cases, our understanding of the regime in Iran is based on a basic failure to take the authorities in Iran seriously.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The recent events involving Iran's threat to close the Straits of Hormuz (through which roughly 40% of global oil shipments pass) are a classic example of western inability to take stock of the history. The line being put out by most outlets today is that this is simply Iran acting out; a nation not getting its way and therefore making a lot of noise.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Our governments would do well to avoid such thinking.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">In 1978 there were warnings of a popular revolution in Iran to topple the last Shah, Mohammed Pahlavi, warnings which the international community remained concerned about but essentially chose to ignore. The Revolution in Iran thus took the world completely by surprise when the clerics acted on their promise to remove a seemingly impenetrable monarchy armed to the teeth by British and American arms deals.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">In 1980 there were warnings of a response by the new Islamic regime over Iraqi territorial threats. Again, few nations took the threat of absolute response seriously. Up to 900,000 deaths and 8 years later, Iran was no longer seen as a sounding gong or a clanging bell; there was fervour behind all the noise-making.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">So it is that behind every case of international refusal to take the clerical powers in Tehran seriously lies a severe lack of acceptance of the psychological realities of those who head one of the most brutal, long-standing theocracies on earth. When the Shah Reza Khan (father of Mohammed Pahlavi) set to work destroying the social power of the clerics in his country, he set in motion a series of oppressions which would one day come back to bite. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslim clerics from across Iran were sent into exile to wait twenty or even thirty years to take their revenge. The great irony of the last Shah's life is that he himself spared Ayatollah Khomeini the gallows, on the advice of his adviser, Pakravan.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The oppression carried out by the Shah against the clerics was brutal in its own right, with the SAVAK secret police destroying families, exiling fathers, torturing scholars, and making basic elements of religious life (such as wearing the "chador" or "hijab" in public) illegal. Legal and educational powers were removed from the clerics, denying them the major source of their living, and removing an entire section of traditional life in Iran. It bred a deep well of bitterness among rural and religious sections of society.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Granted, much of what we see today is indeed a reflection of the power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, but this is often so exaggerated by western news outlets that the bigger, more historically informed picture is lost entirely.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The reason, all said and done, that there has been no Arab Spring-style uprising in Iran is that not everyone in Iran wants it; the regime remains popular with many sections of religious, rural, and traditionalist society. Many in Iran remember the Iran-Iraq War, the oppression of the Shah, the destruction of democracy in Iran (when the CIA ousted Prime Minister Mossadeq) and thus don't share the zest for democracy that so many younger Iranians feel.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Ultimately, Iran will decide its own fate and it will not be coerced into deciding either way; it has shown itself capable of enduring serious crisis on countless occasions since the west first set about destroying Iran's sovereignty.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">If we believe that sanctions will achieve our aims then we misunderstand the old men in the Council in Tehran, and we do so at our peril, for they have endured enough torment in their own lives to be committed to the road that leads to war. They will follow that road if pushed to do so, and it is perhaps time our leaders accepted this.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Will Iran attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz? It's unlikely.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">But so was the Revolution in '78.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity openSecurity Iran Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics iran: how to avoid war? global security global politics europe & islam democracy & iran 9/11: islamic worlds middle east David Madden Security in Middle East and North Africa Thu, 05 Jan 2012 10:27:56 +0000 David Madden 63512 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The middle east and war over Iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/middle-east-and-war-over-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Arab world is remaking itself. But even as its states cope with multiple domestic challenges they also face a choice over how to respond to a prospective American and Israeli attack on Iran, says Tarek Osman. </div> </div> </div> <p>The Arab spring is reshaping the Arab world, dismantling old states and giving rise to new ones. Young Arabs will increasingly imbue these new states with fresh socio-political ideas. These transformations will stir conflicts over national projects and narratives, both among Arabs and between Arabs and non-Arabs. The rhythm of these <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/arab-freedom-vs-geopolitics-time-of-risk">processes</a> is medium- and long-term. But a more immediate regional challenge for both old and new states, and old and new <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/the-arab-spring-started-by-the-young-controlled-by-the-old">generations</a>, centres not in the Arab world itself but in Iran.</p><p>All modern Arab <a href="http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league.htm">states</a> are, effectively, failures. Their social, economic and political sclerosis over the past half century have brought most&nbsp; of them to the brink. The inheritors of this <a href="http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/20195/durable_and_vulnerable.html">predicament</a> in turn face heavy and troubling problems. They will be consumed over coming years by macroeconomic shifts, coping with fluid and conflictual social change, building or consolidating institutions capable of managing these, and in the process discovering or rediscovering new <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/arab-prospect-forces-and-dynamics">frames</a> of reference. </p><p>By contrast, three non-Arab states in the region have viable existing projects: Israel, Turkey, and Iran. There is a difference among them, however. Israel and Turkey pose no immediate threat to the existing, dominant balance of global power; Iran does.</p><p>Israel is undergoing major internal <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/keith-kahn-harris-joel-schalit/israeli-post-democracy-origins-and-prospects">change</a>, connected to the widening gap between the rich and the middle class and to transformative immigration waves from the ex-Soviet Union. At the same time, Israel’s international position is increasingly <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/khaled-hroub/israel-cost-of-arrogance">vulnerable</a> in ways that will <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/thomas-odwyer/israel-and-arab-awakening">create</a> tensions with emerging Arab states and narratives (especially Egypt). But this is a medium-term rather than an urgent issue. </p><p><strong>The Turkish constraint</strong></p><p>Turkey’s geo-strategic reorientation under the AKP over the past <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkeys-%E2%80%9Cpassive-revolution%E2%80%9D-and-democracy">decade</a> resonates widely in the middle east. But three factors <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">limit</a> Turkey’s foray into the Arab world:</p><p>* The increasing Turkish role in the region was a result of the vacuum created by Egypt’s withdrawal from it over the three <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">decades</a> of Hosni Mubarak’s rule. Now, the prospective return of Egypt to its traditional Arab sphere of influence will reduce the space in which Turkey can manoeuvre (indeed, the <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-13/egyptians-cheer-erdogan-as-turkey-seeks-partnership-with-egypt.html">interaction</a> between the two countries will be an important strategic dynamic in the medium term, and could lead either to a confrontation or an alliance)</p><p>* Turkey brings to the Arab world an impressive economic record and a seemingly successful <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/gunes-murat-tezcur/akp-years-in-turkey-third-stage">model</a> of modern political Islamism. It also has a long and rich historical association with the region. But its main purpose is to widen and entrench its economic and political interests there, rather than to preach or present itself as a model. This positioning - at heart no threat to any global power - <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nora-fisher-onar/europe%E2%80%99s-tipping-point-turkey%E2%80%99s-solution">unsettles</a> many in Europe and alarms many in the United States and Israel, and will provoke a reaction</p><p>* Turkey’s defence strategy is based on its membership of Nato, which will constrain its options and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings">choices</a> in this area. </p><p><strong>The Iranian road </strong></p><p>Iran is different. Its domestic politics and international <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sadegh-zibakalam/iran-arab-revolts-and-syria">stances</a> are alike seen as menacing by various global and regional powers. Yet its governing regime has managed to survive both external hostility and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">internal</a> convulsions, in part because - despite major discontent against the theocratic establishment - its <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran-elite-at-war">leaders</a> do have a genuine support-base among Iran’s pious and conservative lower middle classes and the poor. </p><p>Iran’s projection of influence in the Gulf and the Levant has since the revolution of 1979 <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">riled</a> the United States and regional powers. Two factors now exacerbate that irritation:</p><p>* The Arab spring has weakened the two Arab powers that stood against Iran: Egypt and Saudi Arabia. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/egypt-nation-state-faith-and-future">Egypt’s</a> new political authorities are unwilling to endorse a fight that seems to them irrelevant, especially when the country’s finances are painfully stretched. Moreover, influential sectors in Egypt envisage a potential entente between Egypt and Iran. The Saudi royal family is preoccupied with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-complex-power-vs-rights">containing</a> any spillover from the Arab uprisings, managing the generational change within the elite, and the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-travails-of-yemen-unity">Yemeni</a> mess on its southern borders </p><p>* Iran’s strong ambition to upgrade its military capabilities from the conventional (a sizable army with satellite power-bases in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine) to the strategic (a nuclear arsenal, albeit primitive) has survived all <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-and-america-components-of-crisis">attempts</a> to curb it - including American and <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/08/17/Irans-covert-war-with-Israel-in-Caspian/UPI-47571313600008/">Israeli</a> intelligence wars and cyberwars.</p><p>But if Israel or the United States (or both) were to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/war-on-iran-delusive-logic">decide</a> to attack Iran - through air-strikes rather than a ground invasion - they will seek to ensure three preconditions in the region: that Arab resistance to any such attack will be limited; that it would not be perceived as an attack on “Islam”; and that Iran’s regional satellites (<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/hizbollah_3757.jsp">Hizbollah</a> and Hamas) are given strong disincentives to engage in the struggle. </p><p>All this will be difficult, but much of it is not impossible. Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/christopher-m-davidson/bahrain-crisis-of-monarchy">monarchies</a> want to see Iran’s powers curtailed; Egypt will for the next few months at least be consumed by its internal travails; Syria’s regime is entangled in a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">domestic</a> war for survival, and even Hizbollah’s solidarity with Iran in an armed confrontation with Israel would have its limits. </p><p>Even if the preconditions are largely met, the aim of punishing Iran and handicapping its nuclear <a href="http://isisnucleariran.org/">programme</a> will meet opposition. Russia will object to a further extension of American military power close to its southern borders; China will worry over economic instability and a rise in oil prices, and be influenced in its response by its growing military links with Iran. But neither will actually prevent an assault.</p><p><strong>The tense turn </strong></p><p>America, Israel, Iran - all face economic and political constraints, and none wants a lengthy armed confrontation. The US and Israel understand that the realistic <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-vs-israel-risk-of-war">objective</a> of any strike would be to delay (as opposed to destroy) Iran’s nuclear project. Iran would seek to preserve its infrastructure and intellectual assets as much as it can, while using any attack to solidify the regime’s legitimacy, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/asymmetric-war-iran-and-new-normal">destabilise</a> its rivals (in part via “asymmetrical warfare”), and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance">enhance</a> its influence in the region.<br />In these circumstances, four developments are probable:</p><p>* The intelligence war against Iran will intensify</p><p>* The Saudi-Iranian war of <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gzSamnPyb6EQtyM8PEDsMqpkjpGQ?docId=CNG.45eaf25de3a75462914ec87728fded14.681">wills</a> will move from the cautious to the offensive, with direct and destabilising repercussions in Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon. Iran will also upgrade its work in Saudi’s eastern province, home to the most Saudi <em>Shi’a</em> and all Saudi oil</p><p>* A regional <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/opinion/21iht-edkinzer21.html">clash</a> of ideas will intensify, and have an impact on the Arab spring. The new states being formed in north Africa, and especially in Egypt, will be forced (not least by their newly freed, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">mobilised</a> and demanding citizens) quickly to make momentous strategic decisions in the face of a restless regional milieu </p><p>* The ensuing tensions will aggravate the conflict between moderates and conservatives inside social-political Islam, the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/egypt%E2%80%99s-islamists-asset-and-flaw">rising</a> tide in Arab politics across the middle east.</p><p>For all those in the region - but also beyond - it’s time to fasten seatbelts. We are all heading into serious turbulence.&nbsp; <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><em><span><span>Revolution in the Arab World</span></span></em></a> (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011) </p><p>Alison Pargeter, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863564758&amp;TAG=&amp;CID"><em>The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition</em></a> (Saqi, 2010)</p><p>Brian Whitaker,<em> </em><a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID="><em>What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</em></a> (Saqi, 2009)&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/2011/02/2011222121213770475.html">Al-Jazeera - region in turmoil</a>&nbsp; </p> <p>Albert Hourani, <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/HOUHIR.html?show=reviews"><em>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (Harvard University Press, 2003)</p> <p><a href="http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=59"><em>Cairo Review of Global Affairs</em></a></p> <p><a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/15615/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-PM-formally-invited-to-Tahrir-protests-Revo.aspx">AhramOnline</a></p><p>Asef Bayat,<em> </em><a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><em>Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2010)&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://www.al-bab.com/">Al-bab </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><em>Revolution in the Arab World</em></a> (<em>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011)</p> <p>Brian Whitaker, <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID=">What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</a> (Saqi, 2009)</p> <p>Olivier Roy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=502"><em>Whatever Happened to the Islamists?</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Tarek Osman is an Egyptian writer. He was educated at the American University in Cairo and Bocconi University in Italy. He is the author of <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Israel </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Turkey Israel Iran Egypt Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power middle east Tarek Osman Wed, 02 Nov 2011 08:41:22 +0000 Tarek Osman 62397 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran, the Arab revolts, and Syria https://www.opendemocracy.net/sadegh-zibakalam/iran-arab-revolts-and-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>The Iranian leadership and official media portray the Arab spring as a “great Islamic awakening” targeted at the west and Israel. The turmoil in Syria explodes this narrative, says Sadegh Zibakalam.</p> </div> </div> </div> <P>There has been a great debate during 2011 throughout the middle east and beyond about the origin, implications and future of the so-called "Arab spring". Everywhere in the region, academics, journalists and analysts are trying to examine the various aspects of this unexpected and baffling <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">avalanche</a> of events. Everywhere, that is, with the exception of the Islamic Republic of Iran. <BR /><BR />Iran deflects any possible surprises the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">Arab spring</a> may pose for it. Its leaders and the state-run media <A href="http://www.cfr.org/iran/managing-arab-springs-fallout-iran/p24617">view</a> the momentous uprisings clearly and without ambiguity - not as a socio-political movement that aims to democratise Arab societies but as a “great Islamic awakening”. This may seem a mere formality, an expression of the intense religious feelings of many Iranian leaders. But the description is much more than a mere label; in employing it, its users have altered both the name and (more importantly) the entire <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">substance</a> of the movement. <BR /><BR />In this perspective, the great Islamic awakening is inspired by the radical ideas embodied in Iran’s Islamic <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">revolution</a> of 1979. That is to say, it is anti-western, anti-American and, above all, anti-Israeli. The Arabs, according to the Iranian leadership and media, were against <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/goran-fejic/egypt-and-thirty-years-of-solitude">Egypt's</a> Hosni Mubarak, <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia's</a> Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the rest of the Arab leaders not so much because the latter were ruthless dictators but because they were primarily pro-western and enjoyed good relations with the Jewish state. <BR /><BR />The fact that Mubarak recognised and had links with Israel counts for far more in the eyes of Iranian leaders than his autocratic style of government. Indeed, the general coverage of the Arab spring in Iran is so distorted that if you have no access to different media sources you would be inclined to believe that the Arabs, far from seeking <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">democratic</a> changes, want only to break relations with Israel and the United States. There is no reporting of the Arabs’ campaigns for political reform; of their opposition to political prosecution, detention of dissidents, and press censorship; and of their demands for the rule of law and free elections. <BR /><BR />It is against this background that the <A href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14862159">attack</a> on the Israeli embassy in Cairo received massive coverage in Iran, as if this was all the huge Arab uprising was about. Moreover, any contribution by an Islamist that is hostile or threatening towards the west, the United States or Israel receives widespread coverage in Iran; whereas remarks by the more liberal and secular, as well as by <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/egypt%E2%80%99s-islamists-asset-and-flaw">moderate</a> Islamists who seek neither confrontation with the west nor to destroy the state of Israel, fail to get any attention, regardless of how significant the commentator might be. <BR /><BR /><STRONG>The Syrian dilemma</strong><BR /><BR />A further important factor shapes Iran’s <A href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0531/Iran-sees-threat-to-its-clout-amid-Arab-Spring">interpretation</a> of the Arab spring. Many Iranian <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/">leaders</a> perceive the Islamic regime to be in an ongoing ideological struggle with "the decadent west". The great Islamic awakening is in its view both a blow to its rival and a clear indication of Islam's moral superiority. The fact that most of the Arab leaders desperately <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/libya-bahrain-and-arab-spring">struggling</a> for their very survival were or are strategic <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">allies</a> of the west means that their demise is in fact a defeat for the west. <BR /><BR />Only by going beyond the notion that the Arab rising was a mere social contest for political reform and democracy could Iran's Islamic leaders achieve an ideological gain against their enemy. The ideological dimension of the struggle against the west is crucial for them - to the extent that they <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/arabs-and-the-iranian-upheaval">interpret </a>the current protests against economic hardship in several western countries (including the Wall Street <A href="http://occupywallst.org/">occupation</a>) as a <A href="http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=438215&amp;Itemid=1">sign</a> of the collapse of western civilisation. <BR /><BR />Here, Syria creates a dilemma for Iran. For the Syrian <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">factor</a> in no way fits into the grand theory of Islamic awakening. The Iranian leadership managed - ultimately, and with much <A href="http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/9695/for-iran-setbacks-outweigh-gains-in-arab-spring">difficulty</a> - to portray the Libyan <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/libya-s-regime-at-40-a-state-of-kleptocracy">regime</a> of Muammar Gaddafi as a western puppet: the only way to portray the Arab uprising as an Islamic awakening against the west. Bashar al-Assad, however, could not <A href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/8858667/Bashar-al-Assad-I-wont-waste-my-time-with-Syrian-opposition.html">possibly</a> be portrayed as a western ally. Yet there is no escape from the reality of the huge <A href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13855203">protest</a> against his regime. Thus the uprising in Syria <A href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904279004576526422995092978.html">punches</a> a big hole in the narrative of Islamic awakening. <BR /><BR />At the start of the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/syria%E2%80%99s-broken-spring-damascus-report">troubles</a> in Syria, both Iranian leaders and the state-run media ignored the events there. When some independent Iranian writers raised the issue of the brutal <A href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/06/01/we-ve-never-seen-such-horror-0">suppression</a> of the Syrian people, the leadership was obliged to comment on the crisis. But in doing so it continues to maintain that the "nature of the uprising and protests in Syria is different from the rest of the Arab world. Whereas the uprising in the other Arab countries is genuine, in Syria it is Israeli and American agents who are catalysing unrest against the heroic and revolutionary regime." This contradictory view is increasingly hard to sustain.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/index.php"><EM>Bitterlemons</em></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> <P>Annabelle Sreberny &amp; Gholam Khiabany, <EM><A href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Computing%20%20information%20technology/Computing%20general/Ethical%20%20social%20aspects%20of%20computing/Blogistan%20The%20Internet%20and%20Politics%20in%20Iran.aspx">The Internet and Politics in Iran</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2010)</p> <P><EM><EM></em></em><A href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/ebooks/revolution_in_the_arab_world"><EM><SPAN><SPAN>Revolution in the Arab World</span></span></em></a> (<EM>Foreign Policy</em>, 2011) </p> <P>Ali Ansari, <EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/">Crisis of Authority: Iran's <EM>2009</em> Presidential </a><EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/">Election</a> </em></em>(Chatham House, 2010)</p> <P>Brian Whitaker,<EM> </em><A href="http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?ISB=9780863566240&amp;TAG=&amp;CID="><EM>What's Really Wrong with the Middle East</em></a> (Saqi, 2009)&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <P><A href="http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/2011/02/2011222121213770475.html">Al-Jazeera - region in turmoil</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <P>Albert Hourani,<EM> </em><A href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058194"><EM>A History of the Arab Peoples</em></a> (1991; Harvard University Press, 2010) </p> <P>Asef Bayat,<EM> </em><A href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><EM>Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2010)&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <P>Michael Axworthy, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><EM>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Sadegh Zibakalam is professor of political science at the University of Tehran </p> <P>This article was first published in <EM><A href="http://www.bitterlemons.net/index.php">Bitterlemons</a></em>, a joint Palestinian-Israeli effort to promote a civilised exchange of views about the Israel-Arab conflict and additional middle-east issues among a broad spectrum of participants</p> <P>Also by Sadegh Zibakalam in <STRONG>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-and-the-gaza-war">Iran and the Gaza war</a>" (26 January 2009)</p> <P>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syria: a tale of missed opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">Tehran: glimpses of freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">The Arab spring: protest, power, prospect</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ayman-ayoub/tunisias-elections-consolidating-democracy">Tunisia&#039;s elections: consolidating democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ivan-krastev/arab-revolutions-turkey%E2%80%99s-dilemmas-zero-chance-for-zero-problems">Arab revolutions, Turkey’s dilemmas: zero chance for &quot;zero problems&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tarek-osman/egypt-nation-state-faith-and-future">Egypt: nation, state, faith, and future</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">The Arab revolt and the colour revolutions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sami-zubaida/arab-spring-in-historical-perspective">The &quot;Arab spring&quot; in historical perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/christopher-m-davidson/bahrain-crisis-of-monarchy">Bahrain: the crisis of monarchy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tarek-osman/egypt-after-revolt-transition">Egypt: after revolt, transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nadim-shehadi/arab-revolt-transformation-to-transition">The Arab revolt: transformation to transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/igor-cherstich/libyas-revolution-tribe-nation-politics">Libya&#039;s revolution: tribe, nation, politics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/arab-crisis-food-energy-water-justice">The Arab crisis: food, energy, water, justice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/goran-fejic/tunisia-or-democracy%E2%80%99s-future-in-jasmine">Tunisia, or democracy’s future in jasmine</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tarek-osman/arab-freedom-vs-geopolitics-time-of-risk">Arab freedom vs geopolitics: a time of risk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/arab-rebellion-perspectives-of-power">The Arab rebellion: perspectives of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tarek-osman/arab-prospect-forces-and-dynamics">The Arab prospect: forces and dynamics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tunisia-and-world-roots-of-turmoil">Tunisia and the world: roots of turmoil</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vidar-helgesen/arab-democracy-rising-international-lessons">Arab democracy rising: international lessons</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ayman-ayoub/arab-spring-revolution-to-constitution">Arab spring: revolution to constitution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/vicken-cheterian/syria%E2%80%99s-broken-spring-damascus-report">Syria’s broken spring: a Damascus report</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/khaled-hroub/arab-third-way-beyond-dictators-and-islamists">Arab third way: beyond dictators and Islamists</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/arabs-and-the-iranian-upheaval">Arabs and the Iranian upheaval</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Syria Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power middle east IDEA Sadegh Zibakalam Tue, 01 Nov 2011 04:22:31 +0000 Sadegh Zibakalam 62376 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A war on Iran: the delusive logic https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/war-on-iran-delusive-logic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The arguments for and against an armed attack on Iran by the United States - or Israel - are sharpening. The increasing tension that surrounds the issue could itself precipitate a conflict that would be far lengthier than its advocates believe. </div> </div> </div> <P>Many doubts still surround the veracity and details of the alleged plot orchestrated by senior figures in Iran to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. A mix of court hearings and media investigation following the arrest of a chief suspect suggests that action by US federal authorities halted an <A href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/us-convinced-iran-behind-plot-to-kill-saudi-arabian-ambassador-to-the-us-adel-al-jubeir/story-e6frg6so-1226168007919">operation</a> that sought to explode a bomb in a Washington restaurant, killing <A href="http://www.saudiembassy.net/embassy/adelbio.aspx">Adel al-Jubeir</a> (and presumably others). </p> <P>Even in the absence of clinching evidence of what was underway and the degree of involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (<A href="http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-revolutionary-guards/p14324">IRGC</a>), the assassination "plotline" has developed a life of its own and led to increasingly strident calls for action by Washington against Tehran (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-and-america-components-of-crisis">Iran and America: components of crisis</a>", 13 October 2011). After all, many argue, this would have been an attack on the United States mainland and capital city and thus comparable in terms of intent to 9/11 (even if the scale were to prove much smaller). Moreover, the operation has an added potency in that the notional plan was organised by a state rather than by a sub-state group (albeit those behind <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/911-and-lost-decade">9/11</a> were harboured by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers).</p> <P>Barack Obama's administration is <A href="http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/10/20111019113515106121.html">running</a> with this&nbsp;tough line. Some of its officials extend the condemnation of Iran by seeing the plot as <A href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/1011/How-will-US-retaliate-against-Iran-for-alleged-assassination-plot">part</a> of a wider Iranian strategy of aggressive transnational operations (see "<A href="http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/10/20/idINIndia-60006120111020">U.S. Fears More Plots from Iran's Quds Force</a>", <EM>Reuters</em>,&nbsp;20 October 2011).</p> <P>In this atmosphere of escalating attitudes and rhetoric, a note of caution is appropriate. The<STRONG> </strong>basis of the arrests is still in doubt, and the nature of the overall plot little resembles the kind of sophisticated foreign operations associated with the IRGC and its elite Qods brigade (see Gareth Porter, "<A href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MJ19Ak01.html">The (Dis)information war gets ugly</a>", <EM>Asia Times,</em> 18 October 2011).</p> <P><STRONG>The delusion</strong></p> <P>The pressure on Iran is increasing, and the Obama administration is prepared to risk adopting a stance that aids those elements in Tehran's <A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/">power-elite</a> most in need of an external enemy to advance their domestic interests. In turn this creates space for more intransigent voices in the United States to talk seriously of war.</p> <P><A href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/author/william-kristol">William Kristol</a><EM> </em>speaks for many: </p> <P>"We can strike at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime's nuclear weapon program and set it back. Lest the administration hesitate to act over lack of support at home, Congress should consider authorizing the use of force against Iranian entities that facilitate attacks on our troops, against IRGC and other regime elements that sponsor terror, and against the regime's nuclear weapons program. The next speech we need to hear from the Obama administration should announce that, after 30 years, we have gone on the offensive against this murderous regime, and the speech after that can celebrate the fall of the regime and offer American help to the democrats building a free and peaceful Iran" (see William Kristol, "<A href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/speak-softly-and-fight-back_595936.html">Speak Softly...and Fight Back</a>", <EM>Weekly Standard</em>, 24 October 2011).</p> <P>This <A href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203914304576627160079958084.html?mod=googlenews_wsj">call</a> for confrontation reflects an enduring sentiment in US security and foreign-policy circles: deep frustration over an unexpected consequences of the Iraq war - a strengthened Iran with <A href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/opinion/21iht-edkinzer21.html">increased</a> regional influence.</p> <P>The Obama administration is unlikely to oblige at a time when domestic economic issues are at the forefront of its concerns. But this is not the end of the story, for a growth&nbsp;in tension between the US and Iran can itself acquire its own <A href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/10/19/bloomberg_articlesLT6LBJ1A74E9.DTL">momentum</a> in a way that creates either an "accidental" escalation that no one consciously chooses or an <A href="http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=48500">opportunity</a> for Israel (perhaps against the advice of some of its senior military) to launch an attack of its own (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance"><SPAN><SPAN>Israel vs Iran: the risk of war</span></span></a>", 11 June 2010).</p> <P>The advocates of war are in thrall to a seductive logic. They assume that&nbsp;damage to&nbsp;the Iranian nuclear programme and the IRGC would so weaken the regime and undermine its prestige as to expose it to overthrow by&nbsp;Iran's people. A few days of war would in effect end the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_perpetual_crisis_4128.jsp">problem</a> of Iran that has flummoxed Washington for three decades. </p> <P>The US's recent experience in the region makes this mindset even more extraordinary. The overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan created the firm belief by December 2001 that an Afghan transition to a peaceful pro-western democracy had begun; instead it has led to ten years of war with no <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/afghanistan-regional-complex">end</a> in sight. The toppling of the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">Saddam Hussein</a> regime in Iraq similarly fuelled the expectation by May 2003 that Iraq would move rapidly to a free-market economy run by pro-western democrats protected by US bases; instead what followed was a seven-year war that has left endemic instability and violence - and a more influential Iran (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/america-in-iraq-2003-10-power-hubris-change">America in Iraq: power, hubris, change</a>", 2 September 2010).</p> <P><STRONG>The peril</strong></p> <P>Many military analysts in the United States, Israel, Britain and elsewhere employ two powerful arguments to advise against any move towards war with Iran. </p> <P>First, many radicals in Iran would actually welcome an Israeli or American attack. They are confident that the results would be beneficial to them: a substantial majority of Iranians would rally to the regime's defence; thousands of recruits would flock to the IRGC; Iran would withdraw from the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/nuclear-weapons-moment">nuclear</a> non-proliferation treaty and work as fast as possible to <A href="http://isisnucleariran.org/">develop</a> a deterrent; a series of actions and initiatives would make life&nbsp;unsettling for the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the emirates of the western Gulf.</p> <P>Second, a substantial attack on Iran would be the start - not the finish - of a war. Iran's response in ensuing months and years would require more intensified assault. The conflict would be asymmetrical: conventional bombing (principally air and missile power) versus irregular and <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/asymmetrical-drone-war">flexible</a> tactics that would prove very difficult to counter (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/asymmetric-war-iran-and-new-normal">Asymmetric war: Iran and the new normal</a>", 8 July 2010).</p> <P>These arguments have little or no effect on the hawks. The tensions around Iran now resemble those of 2005-06 when war also seemed a real possibility (see "<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/war_iran_3274.jsp"><SPAN><SPAN>The next Iran war</span></span></a>", 16 February 2006). There is a current, palpable unease that a new time of crisis is approaching that opens the danger of a sudden descent into conflict. The delusion that there is an easy military solution to very&nbsp;hard circumstances adds to the peril.</p> <P>There is an urgent need for calm analysis, clear minds, and creative thinking to find a rational and peacable way forward. It is far from evident that the most important representatives of western political leadership are sufficiently armed with these essential attributes. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">Department of peace studies</a>, Bradford University</p> <P><A href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a></p> <P>Paul Rogers, <A href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;"><EM>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> <P><EM></em><EM><A href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/">Long War Journal</a></em></p> <P><EM><A href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers"><SPAN><SPAN>Iran: Consequences of a War</span></span></a></em> (Oxford Research Group, February 2006)</p> <P><A href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><SPAN><SPAN>Iran and IAEA</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.sustainablesecurity.org"><SPAN><SPAN>Sustainable Security</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.iaea.org/About/index.html"><SPAN><SPAN>International Atomic Energy Agency </span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.gcsp.ch/e/index.htm"><SPAN><SPAN>Geneva Centre for Security Policy</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://www.thebulletin.org/"><SPAN><SPAN>Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists </span></span></a><BR /><A href="http://www.acronym.org.uk/"><BR /><SPAN><SPAN>Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy</span></span></a></p> <P>Ali M Ansari, <A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><EM>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Paul Rogers is professor in the <A href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <STRONG>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <A href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a>. His books include <A href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><EM>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007), and <A href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><EM>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <SPAN class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/iran-and-america-components-of-crisis">Iran and America: components of crisis </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">Tehran: glimpses of freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance">America and Iraq-Iran: a new balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-fallout-of-war">Israel vs Iran: fallout of a war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-rumours-of-war">Israel vs Iran: rumours of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-america-israel-the-nuclear-gamble">Iran, America, Israel: the nuclear gamble</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/iran-vs-israel-risk-of-war">Israel vs Iran: the risk of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">America and the world’s jungle</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/paul-rogers/america-and-iran-big-bombs-and-base-politics">America and Iran: big bombs, base politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-washington-factor">Israel vs Iran: the Washington factor</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syria: a tale of missed opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict/war_iran_3274.jsp">The next Iran war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/globalization/iran_2860.jsp">The Iranian nuclear chess-game</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/brink_ehteshami_4444.jsp">Iran and the United States: back from the brink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict/iran_2991.jsp">Iran and the United States: a clash of perceptions</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/us_engage_4584.jsp">Iran and the United States: time to engage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran_the_united_states_and_europe_the_nuclear_complex">Iran, the United States and Europe: the nuclear complex </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/global_security/israel_united_iran_the_tipping_point">Israel, the United States and Iran: the tipping-point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israels-shadow-over-iran">Israel&#039;s shadow over Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/israel_2974.jsp">The Iran-Israel cold war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/nuclear_research_3911.jsp">Iran, the US, and nuclear plans: pen and sword</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-israel-and-the-risk-of-war">Iran, Israel, and the risk of war </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran United States Conflict Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security democracy & iran Paul Rogers Thu, 20 Oct 2011 16:18:47 +0000 Paul Rogers 62142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran and America: components of crisis https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-and-america-components-of-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Washington's charge that high-level Iranian cadres were planning an attack in the United States signals the real possibility of dangerous confrontation between old adversaries. </div> </div> </div> <p>The Arab awakening of 2011 has to a degree refocused international attention away from Iran. A number of current developments, most prominently the allegation that a high-level official in Tehran was involved in a <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/iran_assassination_plot_raises_questions/24357565.html">plot</a> to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, is now exposing Iran's regime to renewed scrutiny. The suspicion and hostility that marks the political relationship between Iran and the United States mean that this shift may have&nbsp;very serious implications.</p> <p>The indictment <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/us-ties-iran-plot-assassinate-saudi-diplomat-182401012.html">issued</a> on 11 October 2011 by a federal court in New York against two men - Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American (and US citizen, arrested on 29 September), and Gholam Shakuri, a senior figure in the elite Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]&nbsp;- states that the murder plan originated in Iran and got as far as approaching (and paying a first instalment to) a would-be assassin <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/10/11/126936/iran-accused-in-alleged-plot-to.html">linked</a> to a Mexican drug-cartel. The belief, drawing on the testimony of Arbabsiar, is&nbsp;that the perpetrators <a href="http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2011/ss_terror1269_10_12.asp">intended</a> (<em>inter alia</em>) to explode a bomb in a restaurant where the target was dining, which would&nbsp;almost certainly&nbsp;have killed other people.</p> <p>The Barack Obama administration has reacted to the news by calling for intensified United Nations <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10768146">sanctions</a> against Iran, on top of those already imposed on account of Tehran's nuclear-energy programme and the uncertainties over its exact purpose. The secretary of state Hillary Clinton <a href="http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Biden-Iran-Must-be-Held-Accountable-131586333.html">describes</a> the operation as "a dangerous escalation of the&nbsp;Iranian government's longstanding use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism". Iran strenuously denies any role in what it regards as based on a fiction concocted by the country's adversaries. The <a href="http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=48506">affair</a> is thus already becoming another episode in an enduring <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/again_3267.jsp">pattern</a> of enmity between the two states.</p> <p>There is as yet little&nbsp;substantive detail on an investigation that US federal agencies had apparently been pursuing for four months. Some of the alleged plot elements are odd, not least an amateurish approach that is <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1012/Used-car-salesman-as-Iran-proxy-Why-assassination-plot-doesn-t-add-up-for-experts">untypical</a> of the IRGC&nbsp;- as in the supposed hiring of a drug-gang associate who turned out to be a federal informant (see Joby Warrick, "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/checkpoint-washington/post/us-initially-doubted-plot-had-iran-ties/2011/10/12/gIQA2HUdfL_blog.html">Investigators initially doubted plot had Iran ties</a>", <em>Washington Post</em> 12 October 2011).</p> <p><strong>The logic of confrontation</strong></p> <p>Washington shows every degree of confidence that it can justify the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/12/us-usa-security-iran-plot-idUSTRE79B50420111012">charge</a> of senior Iranian participation in an actual operation. If the available information <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/10/would-iran-really-want-to-blow-up-the-saudi-ambassador-to-the-us/246505/">proves</a> to be accurate, this raises two questions: how senior were those in Tehran behind the plan, and what does this and their involvement reveal about the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">current</a> political context in Iran?</p> <p>Iran's <span><span>power-structures</span></span>&nbsp;are factional and rivalrous. There has for some years been regular jockeying for position and prestige, a situation that long preceded the presidential election of 2009 which gave rise to&nbsp;huge street-protests. The regime's crackdown on the reformist tendencies that came to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">prominence</a> then has now been followed by a new phase of barely concealed intra-elite manouevring between the various camps (see Nasrin Alavi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran-elite-at-war">Iran: an elite at war</a>", 27 May 2011).</p> <p>The IRGC, which established its reputation during the destructive <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/iran_iraq_war/iran_iraq_war1.php">Iran-Iraq war</a> (1980-88), is a vital part of the regime's armoury. It is close to being "a state within a state", in that it both has powerful and autonomous economic interests activities and is determined to present itself ideologically as the truest guardian of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">revolution</a> of 1979. This image is becoming harder to uphold in a situation where millions of young Iranians have little interest in distant heroics and are more concerned with the difficult <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran-fire-amid-ashes">realities</a> of their present.</p> <p>The Revolutionary Guards need an enemy to justify their purpose and project their legitimacy. The Americans filled this role with the abrasive <a href="http://www.acronym.org.uk/dd/dd63/63nr04.htm">rhetoric</a> of the George W Bush administration against Iran following 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 gave Tehran no reason to change its attitude. A number of mini-crises in the years since, especially <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/iran/nuclear_complex">over</a> Iran's nuclear plans, has always found the IRGC among the most combative of Iran's power-centres.</p> <p>Yet the regional environment is changing, and with accelerating speed. Most US troops are now leaving Iraq; several Arab regimes hostile to Iran have collapsed in the face of largely non-violent uprisings, and others (including Iran's ally, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syria</a>) are threatened; Iran's <em>Shi'a</em> co-religionists are at the forefront of protest (and the prime targets of repression) in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/christopher-m-davidson/bahrain-crisis-of-monarchy">Bahrain</a>; of the Arab states only <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/madawi-al-rasheed/saudi-complex-power-vs-rights">Saudi Arabia</a>, now also determined to subdue dissent among the <em>Shi'a</em> of the eastern region, presents a strong diplomatic challenge to Iran (as does <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/gunes-murat-tezcur/akp-years-in-turkey-third-stage">Turkey</a>).</p> <p>This combination - the IRGC's rooted sense of self-interest and destiny, and a new geopolitical context where many strategic calculations are under review - suggests that what may underlie the Washington plot is the desire of elements within the IRGC to justify its own continued importance and relevance. A serious crisis, one that might even spill over into war, would certainly satisfy that requirement.</p> <p>The Washington plot may thus turn out to be a deliberate provocation intended to incite a US response. There is an echo here of the argument of some analysts that al-Qaida conducted the 9/11 attacks in order to lure the "<a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1167753/?site_locale=en_GB">far enemy</a>" into Afghanistan, and then mire it in an <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/911-and-lost-decade">unwinnable</a> war (as the Soviet Union had been in the 1980s). How far ahead the IRGC has calculated, if this is indeed part of&nbsp;its logic, it is at present impossible to say.</p> <p><strong>The new ingredients</strong></p> <p>But irrespective of the validity of this analysis, three further substantial points need to be factored in. The first is that the more hawkish foreign-policy voices and figures in Washington have <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203914304576627160079958084.html?mod=googlenews_wsj">alighted</a> on the assassination plot with enthusiasm, for two reasons. It confirms their critique of Iran as the leading regional foe of the US - the <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/01/30/iran.bush/index.html">pivot</a> of the "axis of evil"; and the timing is very good in electoral terms.</p> <p>The presidential-election campaign for 2012 is gathering <a href="http://www.gallup.com/tag/Election%2b2012.aspx">pace</a>. There will be great pressure on Republican candidates to take a very hard line against Iran, and the contenders will be drawn to outbid each other over what robust action is needed. Indeed, a political sense of the need to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/godfrey-hodgson/america-against-tide">appear</a> patriotic and not be outflanked may well inform the Obama administration's reaction to the plot.</p> <p>The second point, which applies to both sides in the domestic American debate, is the growing US <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance">concern</a> over the independence of Nouri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad. This does not automatically translate into excessive Iranian influence, for the Iraqis are conscious of their own distinct religious history and not amenable to manipulation (see Tim Arango, "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/world/middleeast/if-united-states-leaves-vacuum-in-iraq-disliked-iran-may-not-fill-it.html?ref=world">Vacuum is Feared as U.S. Quits Iraq, but Iran's Deep Influence May Not Fill It</a>", <em>New York Times, </em>9 October 2011). But it is troubling to Washington that the Iraqi prime minister and his foreign-affairs officials have offered support to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus, effectively siding with the Iranians on this issue (see Joby Warrick, "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iraq-siding-with-iran-sends-lifeline-to-assad/2011/10/06/gIQAFEAIWL_story.html">Iraq, siding with Iran, sends essential aid to Syria's Assad</a>", <em>Washington Post, </em>9 October 2011).</p> <p>It is relevant here that a signal if unacknowledged aim of terminating the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization/article_1673.jsp">Saddam Hussein</a> regime in 2003 was to establish a pro-American order in Iraq in parallel with a similarly pliant government in Kabul. These, along with the US navy's fifth fleet, would (it was believed) constrain Iran. Instead, the overall outcome of the decade's intervention for Iran - for all the latter's internal problems - has been to strengthen rather than weaken its regional position. Iraq's support for al-Assad is a specific example.</p> <p>The third point concerns<strong> </strong>Iran's nuclear programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (<a href="http://iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iaeairan/index.shtml">IAEA</a>) has in recent weeks been more forthright in its concern over Iran's nuclear programme; the IAEA's former deputy director, Olli Neinonen, says that Iran could reach a state of "breakout" with enough highly enriched uranium by the end of 2012 (see "<a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,790042,00.html">The Iranians 'Tricked and Misled Us'</a>", <em>Spiegel Online, </em>10 October 2011). This would not in itself entail a direct nuclear-weapons capability, but it would mean that the <a href="http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20111011_1121.php">potential</a> for that can be realised within months.</p> <p>Neinonen does not advocate a military strike; neither, as far as can be judged, does the Obama administration. But other influential&nbsp;voices in Washington, and some senior figures in Israel, do (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance">Israel vs Iran: the risk of war</a>", 11 June 2010).</p> <p><strong>The next phase</strong></p> <p>The alignment of the murder plot, the nuclear issue, international sanctions, and the changing regional enviroment suggests that a move is underway towards another period of potential clash of arms with Iran.</p> <p>In such periods, crises can quickly erupt and escalate in uncontrollable fashion. The possibility of a military confrontation between the United States (or Israel) and Iran is one such danger (see "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict/war_iran_3274.jsp">The next Iran war</a>" [16 February 2006];&nbsp;"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/global_security/spark_of_war">America and Iran: the spark of&nbsp;war</a>" [20 September 2007]; and&nbsp;"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-america-israel-the-nuclear-gamble">Iran, America, Israel: the nuclear gamble</a>" [2 October 2009]).</p> <p>If a significant group within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps really has been preparing a violent and brutal attack within the United States, knowing that&nbsp;its action&nbsp;will make outright war a real <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2011/1011/How-will-US-retaliate-against-Iran-for-alleged-assassination-plot">prospect</a>, then this <a href="http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=48500">danger</a> will be harder than ever to contain. All the more reason for the US not to give the group what it wants. This will require astute and far-sighted leadership in Washington. In the event of a real crisis in the coming months, a persuasive argument for a constructive and peaceful resolution that avoids the catastrophe of a new war must be made at the highest level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">Department of peace studies</a>, Bradford University</p> <p><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a></p> <p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;"><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em></a> (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010)</p> <p><em></em><em><a href="http://www.longwarjournal.org/">Long War Journal</a></em></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers"><span><span>Iran: Consequences of a War</span></span></a></em> (Oxford Research Group, February 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><span><span>Iran and IAEA</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.sustainablesecurity.org"><span><span>Sustainable Security</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.iaea.org/About/index.html"><span><span>International Atomic Energy Agency </span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/e/index.htm"><span><span>Geneva Centre for Security Policy</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.thebulletin.org/"><span><span>Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists </span></span></a><br /><a href="http://www.acronym.org.uk/"><br /><span><span>Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy</span></span></a></p> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Paul Rogers is professor in the <a href="http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/peace/">department of peace studies</a> at Bradford University, northern England. He is <strong>openDemocracy's</strong> international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the <a href="http://oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/">Oxford Research Group</a>. His books include <a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745641962,subjectCd-PO34,descCd-authorInfo.html"><em>Why We’re Losing the War on Terror</em> </a>(Polity, 2007), and <a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745329376&amp;" target="_blank"><em>Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century</em> </a>(Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: <span class="screen-name screen-name-ProfPRogers pill">@ProfPRogers</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-iraq-iran-new-balance">America and Iraq-Iran: a new balance</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom">Tehran: glimpses of freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/iran-vs-israel-risk-of-war">Israel vs Iran: the risk of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/paul-rogers/america-and-iran-big-bombs-and-base-politics">America and Iran: big bombs, base politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-fallout-of-war">Israel vs Iran: fallout of a war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/road-to-endless-war">The road to endless war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-rumours-of-war">Israel vs Iran: rumours of war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/carsten-wieland/syria-tale-of-missed-opportunity">Syria: a tale of missed opportunity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">America and the world’s jungle</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-washington-factor">Israel vs Iran: the Washington factor</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/libya-and-decisive-moment">Libya, and the decisive moment </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-panoptic-shiver">America: the panoptic shiver</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/conflict/war_iran_3274.jsp">The next Iran war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-america-israel-the-nuclear-gamble">Iran, America, Israel: the nuclear gamble</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/globalization/iran_2860.jsp">The Iranian nuclear chess-game</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/israels-shadow-over-iran">Israel&#039;s shadow over Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/conflicts/global_security/israel_united_iran_the_tipping_point">Israel, the United States and Iran: the tipping-point</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/america_and_iran_the_spark_of_war">America and Iran: the spark of war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-america-israel-the-nuclear-gamble">Iran, America, Israel: the nuclear gamble</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/israel_2974.jsp">The Iran-Israel cold war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-israel-and-the-risk-of-war">Iran, Israel, and the risk of war </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics Globalisation global security democracy & iran democracy & power Paul Rogers Security in North America Security in South and Central Asia Thu, 13 Oct 2011 07:05:45 +0000 Paul Rogers 62007 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tehran: glimpses of freedom https://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/tehran-glimpses-of-freedom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iranians in 2009 led the kind of street-protest that was in 2011 to inspire their Arab neighbours. Now, repression rules in Tehran. But in the textures of everyday life as much as in political or cultural currents the gulf between people and regime is evident, finds R Tousi. </div> </div> </div> <P>“They’ve hacked into our accounts. Why don't they just take the trouble of responding to all my unopened emails too?” Samira’s reaction to news of a major cyberattack <A href="http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/09/post-mortem-iranian-diginotar-attack">operation</a> on Iranian netizens is typical of the psychic tension, even paranoia - but also acid scorn - provoked in them by living under the shadow of permanent surveillance.</p> <P>The number of internet-users whose emails were intercepted in this incident may have been around 300,000 (most of them Iranian), but the insinuating power of its invasiveness was to make everyone feel watched. The new instruments of control are physical as well as virtual. The new term at Tehran University faced students with having to negotiate a labyrinth of barriers and electronic turnstiles on the various campuses, watched over by a network of surveillance cameras.</p> <P>Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president - and former mayor of Tehran - may have turned the famous old university into a fortress. But his authority over it is fragile. For one who has never been shy to mount a podium, it is notable that for the last two years he has broken with routine presidential practice and avoided attending the opening ceremony of the new academic year.</p> <P>The crowds that filled the streets before the presidential election of June 2009 and expanded in the <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">tumultuous</a> protests that followed it have departed. The young, educated generation at the forefront of defiance, however, is still at odds with its rulers, even if it may be biding its time and speaking more circumspectly.</p> <P>The generational tensions also go beyond the more liberal colleges and networks. The clerical elite's esoteric worry about its own inheritance is expressed by a&nbsp;<A href="http://www.entekhab.ir/fa/news/38286">warning</a> of the powerful Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi in September 2011&nbsp;that a “wave of infestation” has reached religious circles, embodied in “seminarians who pass the night in front of the internet”.</p> <P>Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi regrets that "most young seminarians around the country do not <A href="http://hawzahnews.com/index.aspx?siteid=6&amp;pageid=1804&amp;newsview=66252">wear</a> their clerical robes”, instancing Isfahan as an institution where only a thousand out of nine thousand clerics wear theirs, including turbans.</p> <P>A country where the religious rule is one that grants numerous everyday privileges and benefits to those adorned with the signs of faith. The reluctance of a clear majority of young clerics to display their atttire is a telling if indirect sign of underlying tensions, exemplified in several recent attacks (highlighted in the state media) against some of these religious trainees.</p> <P>In October, for example, a cleric called Abbas Rosmeh was violently attacked by a crowd <A href="http://www.daneshjouonline.com/2010-08-01-07-25-39/2010-08-01-07-28-32/5921-tuesday-forbids-clergy-denied-beating-the-street.html ">following</a> a minor traffic-accident in one of south Tehran's poorest areas. He told reporters that he found the “curses to the sacred, the revolution and the state" more unbearable than the beatings. The media accompanies its coverage of such cases with calls for better security to “protect the people against thugs”. There are nightly checkpoints at the main city thoroughfares, while the "morality police" continue their important work of roaming around the shopping-centres and parks.</p> <P><STRONG>The zigzag of dogma</strong></p> <P>Outside Tehran, security acquires its own flavour. The entrance to the town of Tafresh (some 200 kilometres southwest of Tehran) is a maze of policed and cordoned roads at every turn. I fasten my Islamic <EM>hejab</em>, making sure any unruly strands of forbidden hair remain firmly hidden. This is a region, only an hour away from the holy city of Qom, often described as Iran’s conservative rural heartland.</p> <P>There is soon a reminder that this is one of the most important days in the Islamic republic's calendar: the last Friday of Ramadan where the state-sponsored “Quds day” rallies of solidarity with the Palestinian people are underway. Beside the mosque near Fam square we wait behind a barricade alongside a handful of cars and twice as many dilapidated mopeds.</p> <P>The <EM>imam's</em> voluble sermon resounds through the otherwise peaceful streets. I can’t help but smile with bemusement as the speaker defends Palestine and compares the United States president, Barack Obama to a doomed Egyptian pharaoh. The Quds-day rallies are rooted in historic <EM>Shi’a</em> tenets of the oppressor and the oppressed. Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the revolution, had said: “We are on the side of the oppressed whichever pole they may be in. Palestinians are oppressed by the Israelis, therefore we side with them.”</p> <P>Yet the combined winds blowing from Iran’s green movement and the Arab spring are rendering a great deal topsy-turvy around here. The region's shifting political landscape sees Iran rejecting Palestinian calls for full state membership at the United Nations, and thus in effect siding with Israel. Iran also supports Bashar al-Assad’s murderous Syrian regime.</p> <P>The&nbsp;authorities in Tehran&nbsp;have lost whatever credibility&nbsp;they had in the largely <EM>Sunni</em> Arab street. It is hard for ordinary Iranians to keep up with a rotating ideology that seeks to justify so much that looks indefensible.</p> <P>Behind the cordons in Tafresh, I look on as the tightly packed Quds-day marchers - no more than 200 - finally come through. It feels strangely like a film set. The small relaxed crowd of locals, many with weathered features, squint in the midday sun and chat gently away. A grey-haired man is teasingly congratulated by his fellows for finally replacing his donkey with a moped.</p> <P>A couple of young uniformed policemen walk past, respectfully greeting the bystanders. “What would those Palestinians do without Tafresh’s million-man march?”, someone says. In reality the inhabitants of this town of 50,000 seem largely uninterested, and as puzzled as we visitors about why it has all to be shut down for the rally. They stand as casual spectators of an authoritarian state's theatrical display, which in Tafresh to be marginalised even in its conservative would-be bastions.</p> <P><STRONG>The Qajar echo</strong></p> <P>For three months an entirely different show has kept audiences captive at Tehran’s Iran-Shahr theatre.The musical <EM>Khordeh Khanoum</em> begins with the silver-screen broadcast of a famous television film of the mid-1970s <A href="http://www.archive.org/details/Sultan-eSahebgharantvSeries1976">depicting</a> the assassination of Naseredin Shah of the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925). The packed audience whoop in the darkness as the king widely referred to as the “pivot-of-the-universe” is killed.</p> <P>The Qajars have an abysmal standing in Iranians' collective memory. Alexander the Great (in 331 BCE) laid waste to much of Persia and burned down the grand capital, Persepolis. The Mongols are said to have raped and pillaged as they conquered Iran in the 13th century. An old Iranian saying goes: “what Alexander did not reduce to ashes and the Mongols did not demolish was sold off by the greedy Qajars.”</p> <P>The Qajar-era comparisons seem powerfully to resonate in Iran these days. When a time-travel sitcom entitled <EM>Bitter Coffee</em> - set in a corrupt, sycophantic court at the turn of the 19th century - was rejected by the state’s official Islamic broadcaster (IRIB), its renowned producer Mehran Modiri made it a straight-to-DVD product. The local press reported in January 2011 that sales quickly <A href="http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE70I44C20110119">rose</a> to 14 million.</p> <P>In September, the <EM>Shahrvand-e-Emrooz</em> newspaper was shut down following a frontpage image that depicted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and members of his cabinet in the robes of Qajar courtiers.</p> <P>The smash-hit Qajar era play in Tehran is less direct, yet filled with political <EM>double-entendres</em>. The audience claps wildly as Mirza, one of the main protagonists, announces: “This orchard lies barren due to our abandon”. The play ends with a rapturous standing ovation as the entire cast sings: “There is no other cure for our homeland but unity and resistance”.</p> <P>I watched the play in late August, at a time when Libyan resistance fighters were celebrating the fall of Tripoli. An estimated 50,000 people have been killed in Libya since the start of the armed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's rule. In Syria over 2,000 are said to have perished.</p> <P>The sing-along resistance that I had witnessed that night was far removed from these seismic changes in the wider region. Iranians have a very different kind of fight on their hands, one that builds on their achievement a century ago, in 1905-06, when tribal leaders and their armed battalions were pivotal in wounding&nbsp;the Qajar dynasty and setting up the first constitutional parliament in the middle east. Today, I cannot even imagine armed combatants amongst this land’s largely educated youthful population.</p> <P>The casualties at the frontline of our democratic struggle - whether the fallen, or those now in <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">prison</a> - are mostly students, labour activists, journalists, writers, politicians and clerics. The deadliest weapons they possess are their pens.</p> <P><STRONG>The boat of state </strong></p> <P>The backlash against this civil society has used real weapons, and been ruthless. Yet this can cause such <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran-elite-at-war">inner</a> turbulence as to present the security apparatus with difficulties.</p> <P>When the student and political activist Somayeh Tohidlou was <A href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2011/09/somayeh-tohidlou/">summoned</a>&nbsp; to the courthouse at the feared Evin prison to receive her punishment of fifty lashes, not a single employee - male or female - was willing to carry out the deed - forcing the sentencing judge himself to administer the vicious punishment. There have been countless such violations, which have for now curbed the street-protests.</p> <P>Yet the regime protests too much: every day, some state official proclaims the death of the green movement and claims to represent the people’s hatred for the “traitorous” Mir-Hossein Moussavi, who remains under house-arrest. An unsubstantiated rumour circulated that in a recent meeting with his daughter, Moussavi told her: "If anyone wants to know about my situation in captivity, they can read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's <EM>News of a Kidnapping</em>. Within days the book <A href="http://www.rferl.org/content/news_of_a_kidnapping_hit_in_iran_after_musavi_tip/24328771.html ">became</a> a bestseller, sold out and could not be found anywhere.</p> <P><A href="http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1982/marquez-bio.html">Marquez's</a> story is one of strength and survival in a tough time of being held hostage by the mob. For many, the Colombian author's magical-realist depiction of corrupt mob tactics and political duplicity involving huge financial sums is not so far removed from the realties on the ground here.</p> <P>Today, Ahmadinejad - who <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/result_2629.jsp">came</a> to power in 2005 with the promise of fighting corruption - is himself embroiled in a $2.6 billion fraud case <A href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jn5jLwKqLRqs4dZjNeEQR5gym3Tw?docId=CNG.fbefe72f09caceb93685db9278d8374e.a11">described</a> as the biggest financial scam in the country’s history. Ahmadinejad charges his opponents with even bigger corruption. In July 2011, he accused even his putative allies, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), of cigarette smuggling.</p> <P>On 3 October 2011, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for restraint in public arguments over such scandals. He asked the media to “stop stringing [things] along” because of the risk that "ordinary people" would be "discouraged" by its reports.</p> <P>It is hard to understand the reference to “ordinary people”. For&nbsp;at its core&nbsp;this is ultimately a story of a society at odds with&nbsp;its rulers. The aforementioned Ayatollah Mesabh-Yazdi, a senior clerical ally of Khamenei, professes to “feel that the danger facing us today is <A href="http://news.gooya.com/politics/archives/2011/06/122747.php">more</a> threatening than the regime has ever faced”;&nbsp;he <A href="http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/06/03/151668.html">adds</a> that “even some of the highest officials in the state do not believe in the supreme leader”.</p> <P>Thirty-three years after the revolution of 1978-79, the Iranian establishment’s ruling sphere has narrowed to the extent that three ex-presidents - Mir-Hossein Moussavi (1981-89), Akbar-Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), as well as the large political networks connected with them - are now its internal enemies.</p> <P>This last-stand revolutionary <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/iran_2642.jsp">consolidation</a> has occurred under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. The same political logic means that a new “deviant current” now presses on the man whose regime <A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">stole</a> an election, whose adherents regard senior members of his administration (such as his chief-of-staff Esfandiar-Rahim Mashaei) almost as subversive as members of the opposition.</p> <P>The cleric and (real) opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, the former parliamentary speaker, puts it well: “The ship of state is today no more than a boat”. The winds of change are blowing outside and inside Iran, and it is now for this boat to weather coming storms.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P><A href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm"><SPAN><SPAN>BBC - Iran crisis</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://iranbodycount.blogspot.com/">Iran Body Count</a></p> <P>Annabelle Sreberny &amp; Gholam Khiabany, <EM><A href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Computing%20%20information%20technology/Computing%20general/Ethical%20%20social%20aspects%20of%20computing/Blogistan%20The%20Internet%20and%20Politics%20in%20Iran.aspx">The Internet and Politics in Iran</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2010)</p> <P><A href="http://www.gooya.com/">Gooya</a></p> <P>Ali Ansari, <EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/">Crisis of Authority: Iran's <EM>2009</em> Presidential </a><EM><A href="http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/books/view/-/id/972/">Election</a> </em></em>(Chatham House, 2010)</p> <P><A href="http://en.irangreenvoice.com/">The Green Voice of Freedom</a></p> <P><A href="http://www.chrr.biz/index-en.php">Commitee of Human Rights Reporters</a></p> <P><A href="http://planet-iran.com/"><SPAN><SPAN>Planet Iran</span></span></a></p> <P><A href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/"><SPAN><SPAN>Tehran Bureau </span></span></a></p> <P>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <EM><A href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <P><A href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <P>Ali M Ansari, <A href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><EM>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <P>Nader Hashemi &amp; Danny Postel eds., <A href="http://mhpbooks.com/book.php?id=493"><EM>The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Freedom in Iran</em></a> (Melville House, 2011)</p> <P>Nikki R Keddie, <A href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><EM>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <P>Michael Axworthy, <A href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><EM>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>R Tousi is the pseudonym of an Iranian writer</p> <P>Also by R Tousi in <STRONG>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" (28 October 2009)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a>" (11 December 2009)</p> <P>"<A href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/iran-surface-truths-inner-lives">Iran: surface truths, inner lives</a>" (16 September 2010)</p> <P>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/irans-green-movement-life-death-rebirth">Iran&#039;s green movement: life, death, rebirth</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-votes-evolution-in-revolution">Iran&#039;s evolution and Islam’s Berlusconi </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/tehran_voices_4302.jsp">Voices from Tehran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">Iran’s hidden prisoners </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> Iran politics of protest democracy & iran democracy & power middle east R Tousi Thu, 06 Oct 2011 09:36:24 +0000 R Tousi 61879 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran's green movement: life, death, rebirth https://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/irans-green-movement-life-death-rebirth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The movement sparked by Iran's fraudulent election of 2009 is history. The potential exists now for a bolder and clearer opposition to emerge, says Nazenin Ansari. </div> </div> </div> <p>The first months of 2011 have been marked by people’s struggle for democracy across the Arab middle east. In contrast to the moment of hope and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/arab-spring-protest-power-prospect">opening</a> there, the dominant sense in Iran is one of frustration and closure.</p><p>It is not so long since millions of Iranians took to the streets in vigorous protest at the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">fraudulent</a> presidential election of 12 June 2009 under the capacious banner of the opposition “green movement”. In the event it faced intense state repression, and made its own share of strategic and tactical errors. The result is that almost two years on the movement’s vitality is drained and its momentum lost. But this is not by any means the end of the story: for from the ashes a bolder and more resolute opposition force can emerge.<br /><br />The green movement that emerged from the 2009 elections in Iran is now <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">history</a>. Its original aims buckled under the strain of their inherent contradictions, its leadership has been swept away, and its originating hope is now acknowledged as having been false: the full application of the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution.php">constitution</a> of the Islamic Republic could not after all be used to support free expression and fair elections.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The protest moment</strong></p><p>The green movement has in its short life <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12475139">undergone</a> several transformations. At its height it was a union of distinct groups (both secular and religious) aspiring to social freedom, democracy and human rights. Most of these groups, whatever their place in Iran’s political <a href="http://worldwright.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/iranian-opposition-players-by-nancy-matthis-thanks-to-lissnup/">spectrum</a>, chose to participate in the 2009 elections by supporting (directly or indirectly) one or other of the opposition candidates, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Even the <a href="http://www.irancpi.net/shakhe/keshver_1.html">Constitutionalist Party</a> referred the decision to participate or not to individual choice; an <a href="http://www.wpiran.org/English/english.htm">exception</a> was the Worker’s Communist Party, which argued for a boycott.<br />&nbsp;<br />The next transformation followed the announcement of the disputed election results.&nbsp;People from <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition">all</a> walks of life took to the streets without prior structure and organisation. The huge <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">protests</a> in Tehran on 15 June 2009, numbering 3 million people, broke new ground. The force of their spontaneity took the regime by surprise.</p><p>By 20 June, the two presidential <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12599837">contenders</a> had begun to challenge the regime of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in stark terms. Moussavi told a crowd in Tehran’s Imam Square: “I have prepared for martyrdom; if I am arrested, go on national strike.” Yet within a month, the seeds of dissension had begun to take root. <br /><br />A key moment was when Iran’s former president Hashemi Rafsanjani - who at the time both headed two of the Iranian <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">power-structure’s</a> institutions, the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, and played an important role of figurehead for many greens inside <a href="http://www.geographicguide.net/asia/iran.htm">Iran</a> - reached an accord with the <a href="http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/">supreme leader</a>, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.</p><p>The deal was that in return for persuading the new opposition to swear allegiance to the constitution of the Islamic Republic, he could maintain his position within the political establishment. On 17 July, Rafsanjani led the symbolically important Friday prayers for the first time since <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mahmadinejad/mahmoud_ahmadinejad.php">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s</a> “re-election” of a month earlier.</p><p>This was a turning-point, since - unlike <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tarek-osman/egypt-after-revolt-transition">Egypt's</a> opposition in 2011, or indeed Iran's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">revolutionaries</a> in 1979 - it revealed that Iran's current secular and non-secular groups had failed to unite behind a single central demand. There were instead multiple claims, from “Ahmadinejad is not my president” to “where is my vote?” and “down with the Islamic Republic.”<br />&nbsp;<br />The dominant faction was composed of religious greens, who sought to&nbsp; bring about change within the parameters of the constitution. By thus seeking an "inside track" to reform, the religious greens transformed their civil-rights movement into a power-struggle between camps vying for dominance in the Islamic Republic. In contrast, secular greens insisted that the regime could not be reformed from the inside: it had to be changed, in a process instigated and completed by Iranians. This faction's respective thought-leaders held many meetings (including via Skype, Paltalk, and other <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,631170,00.html">forms</a> of telecommunication), though the focus was often less to plan coordinated action than to deliberate over political, legal, and social matters in the hope of resolving differences.</p><p>While the greens engaged in such disputes (which ranged from sanctions to the commemoration of International Women’s Day), the regime in Tehran consolidated its position through <a href="http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2011/iran">repression</a> and the imposition of a state of siege. Its international <a href="http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=China-Iran-Russia_axis">allies</a> Russia and China came to its support by providing expertise to combat the threat of non-violent revolution, including armoured anti-riot vehicles and satellite technology to jam communications. The situation was made worse by the reveltion that Haystack, the software created to help <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">activists</a> to circumvent the government’s filtering system (and granted an export license by the United States government) was <a href="http://www.boingboing.net/2010/09/14/haystack-is-burning.html">found</a> actually to expose their identities.</p><p>It appears now that the strategy of the movement’s senior <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/09/3159722.htm">leaders</a> (and regime loyalists), of winning in as cost-free a way as possible, has backfired.&nbsp;Hashemi Rafsanjani has been virtually eliminated from the upper echelons, and <a href="http://www.mir-hosseinmousavi.com/profile.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> and Mehdi Karroubi are <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/funeral_renews_focus_musavi_karrubi_house_arrests/3544006.html">under</a> house-arrest. Their followers have lost all confidence.</p><p><strong>The next opposition</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/irans-resilient-rebellion">resilient</a> protest-wave of 2009 and its aftermath have transformed Iran’s intellectual landscape and debilitated - if as yet far from destroyed - the Islamic Republic's political foundations. The regime may have succeeded in quelling the massive street protests, but it has been unable to eliminate the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran-after-darkness-before-dawn">sources</a> of discontent among Iranians.</p><p>The uprising was as much for good governance and economic prosperity as it was for social freedoms and democracy. These the regime cannot <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/0415/Mideast-unrest-could-boost-Iran-but-it-faces-upheaval-at-home">deliver</a>; and its own excesses - naked brutality, increased corruption and a tighter state of siege - are deepening its factionalism. Moreover, the burdens of economic <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">sanctions</a> are multiplying and the withdrawal of subsidies is <a href="http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2011/feb/28/iran%E2%80%99s-economy-shadow-regional-upheaval">increasing</a> inflation and unemployment.</p><p>The regime is also coming under increasing pressure in the international arena.&nbsp; It has increasing difficulty in finding its <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arshin-adib-moghaddam/postmodern-islam-and-arab-revolts">bearings</a> among the political <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/vicken-cheterian/arab-revolt-and-colour-revolutions">uncertainties</a> of the Arab sandstorm; and Tehran’s decision-makers are facing a more punitive response from the international community over their abuse of human rights.</p><p>These circumstances create space for an emerging opposition committed to the objective of regime change conducted by Iranians in their own interests. This objective is even more evidently on the right side of history in 2011 as it was in 2009.&nbsp;This new Iranian force is intent on broadening its appeal, finessing its organisational structure, and developing a strategic plan.&nbsp;Those who risked their lives by taking to the streets in Iran in 2009 can take pride in the fact that their democratic spirit and bravery helped inspire the wind of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east">change</a> across the Arab middle east. They still aspire to reclaim their country and their destiny.<br /><br /></p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p><p><a href="http://www.kayhanpublishing.uk.com/"><em>Kayhan</em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p>Nader Hashemi &amp; Danny Postel eds., <a href="http://mhpbooks.com/book.php?id=493"><em>The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Freedom in Iran</em></a> (Melville House, 2011)</p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <a href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>Annabelle Sreberny &amp; Gholam Khiabany, <em><a href="http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Computing%20%20information%20technology/Computing%20general/Ethical%20%20social%20aspects%20of%20computing/Blogistan%20The%20Internet%20and%20Politics%20in%20Iran.aspx">The Internet and Politics in Iran</a></em> (IB Tauris, 2010)</p><p><a href="http://www.chrr.biz/index-en.php">Commitee of Human Rights Reporters</a></p><p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/"><span><span>Planet Iran</span></span></a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/"><span><span>Tehran Bureau </span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm"><span><span>BBC - Iran crisis</span></span></a></p><p><a href="http://iranbodycount.blogspot.com/">Iran Body Count</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nazenin Ansari is diplomatic editor of <a href="http://www.kayhanpublishing.uk.com/"><em>Kayhan</em></a>, a weekly Persian-language newspaper published in London, and vice-president of the <a href="http://www.fpalondon.org/index.pl?n=1">Foreign Press Association</a> (FPA) in the city. She contributes regularly to the BBC, CNN, VOA and other broadcasters&nbsp;</p><p>Also by Nazenin Ansari in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p><br />“<a href="democracy-irandemocracy/freedom_path_3264.jsp">Iranians on the freedom path</a>” (14 February 2006)</p><p>"<a href="democracy-irandemocracy/ayatollah_3965.jsp">An ayatollah under siege - in Tehran</a>" (4 October 2006)</p><p>“<a href="democracy-irandemocracy/internal_dynamic_4531.jsp">Tehran's new political dynamic</a>” (16 April 2007)</p><p><br /> “<a href="article/the-rights-of-irans-women">The rights of Iran's women</a>” (18 May 2009)<br /><br />“<a href="article/iran-s-unfinished-crisis">Iran’s unfinished crisis</a>” (16 September 2009) <br /><br />“<a href="nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture%20">Iran's pre-revolutionary rupture</a>” (8 December 2009)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a>" (18 February 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/tehran_voices_4302.jsp">Voices from Tehran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition">Iran&#039;s women: a movement in transition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/iran-surface-truths-inner-lives">Iran: surface truths, inner lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power IDEA Nazenin Ansari Sat, 16 Apr 2011 23:50:33 +0000 Nazenin Ansari 58950 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt, and the post-Islamist middle east https://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/egypt-and-post-islamist-middle-east <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The portrayal of Egypt’s uprising in terms of its potential capture by Islamists is doubly misleading, says Asef Bayat: for this misses both the true character of the people’s movement and the transformation of the Arab world’s religious politics. </div> </div> </div> <p>For years, western political elites and their local allies have charged the Arab peoples with political apathy and lethargy. The argument that Arabs are uninterested in seeking to wrest greater democratic freedoms from their authoritarian rulers always rested on shaky foundations. But now that millions of Egyptians, following the Tunisians’ example, have proved it wrong by mobilising against power, the sceptical ground has adjusted: toward the murmured fear that Egypt’s uprising would develop into an “Islamist revolution” along the lines - demagogic, violent, intransigent, expansionist, anti-western - of that of Iran in 1979.</p> <p>The idea of an “Islamic revolution in Egypt” is voiced by four sources. The first is the Hosni Mubarak regime, in the attempt to dissuade its western allies from supporting the uprising. The second is Binyamin Netanyahu’s Israel and its allies in the United States and Europe, which wish to maintain the autocratic regime more or less intact by keeping such players as Omar Suleiman (the new&nbsp;vice-president and former intelligence chief) in power after Mubarak. The third is Iran’s Islamist hardliners, who are making a desperate effort to downplay the democratic thrust of the Egyptian revolution and present it as Islamic and Iran-inspired one. The fourth is a section of Egypt’s own citizens who express genuine concerns about a possible new Islamic revolution in the heart of the Arab world.</p> <p>It is true that there are some similarities between today’s Egyptian uprising and the Iranian revolution of 1979. They share the quality of being nationwide revolutions in which people from different walks of life - religious, secular, leftist, men and women, middle classes, working classes - participated. Both movements aimed at removing western-backed autocratic regimes; both&nbsp;sought to establish democratic governments that would ensure national and individual dignity, social justice, and political liberties.</p> <p>But there are also fundamental differences. In ideological terms, the Iranian revolution was a nationalist, third-worldist, and anti-imperialist movement, which took a strong stance against the US government for its continued support of the Shah (whom the US had reinstated via a CIA-engineered coup in 1953 against the secular-democratic government of Mohammad Mosaddeq).</p> <p>In addition, the Iranian revolution - unlike the Egyptian upheaval of 2011 - was led by a religious figure, Ayatollah Khomeini, backed by an elaborate <em>Shi’a</em> clerical hierarchy and religious institutions. So, once the Shah had fled, the Islamist hardliners and the new revolutionary organisations combined - the former using religious institutions (mosques, <em>madrasas</em>, and shrines), the latter mobilising support while marginalising liberals, democrats, and other non-conformist - in a final push to establish <em>velayat-t faqih</em> (the rule of the supreme jurist), i.e. a semi-theocratic state. The Islamic revolution then ushered a new era of Islamism which&nbsp;was to dominate the middle east and Muslim world for the next two decades.</p> <p><strong>A political-religious shift</strong></p> <p>But today’s Egyptian uprising is also different. It is neither nationalist, anti-imperialist ,nor third-worldist.&nbsp;The largely civil, peaceful, and jubilant mood of the protesters (until the pro-Mubarak thugs triggered a vicious spate of violence on 2 February) and their demands are more reminiscent of the democratic revolutions of east-central Europe in 1989. In Egypt, there have been no chants against foreigners, westerners, or Americans.</p> <p>Moreover, it is significant that the uprising is not guided by any single organisation, ideology, or personality - let alone an Islamic figurehead. Rather, this monumental upheaval is composed of different political and civil organisations with diverse religious, secular, and political affiliations, and a collective “leadership”. I am not aware of any religious slogans in the street rallies; on the contrary, at least one chant, sung by the crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 28 January 2011, projects a very different meaning - “our revolution is civil; neither violent, nor religious” (<em>al-Thowratna Madaniyya, la Sayfiyya, la Diniyya</em>).</p> <p>Islamic organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood are present in the movement, though they make up only one segment of its very broad constituencies. But still there is little resemblance between Egyptian political Islam and that of Iran’s Islamist rulers. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most organised Islamic opposition, is not leading the uprising. The Brothers were even ambivalent in participating in the street demonstrations in the early days, largely for&nbsp;fear of state reprisals. In strategic terms, the Brothers have refrained from confrontation with the state and not resorted to violence during the three decades of the Hosni Mubarak era.</p> <p>Moreover, in deciding eventually to take part in the current uprising they made it clear that they did not wish to participate in any post-Mubarak administration. Unlike the Iranian Islamists in 1979, the Muslim Brotherhood has not tried to appropriate the movement nor even give it a religious colouring. Instead, they have joined (as they did during the <em>Kefaya</em> mobilisations of the mid-decade) a coalition of various opposition groups consisting of political currents with variegated (nationalist, secular, leftist, and civil) orientations.</p> <p>The Muslim Brotherhood’s disinterest in governmental power in a possible post-Mubarak administration seems genuine, given that in free and fair elections they would be able to gain substantial votes. In political terms, the Brothers may appear to be somewhat similar to Jordan’s <em>Ikhwan</em> or Lebanon’s Hizbollah, though with probably smaller support. But ideologically, Egypt’s Muslim Brothers remain very different from these groups (and, for that matter, Iran’s Islamists).</p> <p>In fact, the Brothers are in the throes of an ideological transformation. An internal debate involving discord between the old guard and the “young” leadership has engulfed the movement in recent years. Indeed, its ability and desire to enter Egypt’s political life has intensified the ddiscussion about what the Muslim Brotherhood ultimately wants to achieve.</p> <p>While the older faction remains in an ideological quandary - at times repeating the ambiguous and anachronistic dictum “Islam is the solution” - the “young” elements (represented by such figures as Essam al-Erian and Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh) view Turkey’s ruling <em>Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi</em> (Justice &amp; Development Party / AKP) as their favoured model of Islamic governance. This embrace of a modern concept of democracy is a radical departure from the group’s adherence in the early 1990s to the Qur’anic concept of <em>shura</em>, a vague conception of authoritarian but just rule subject to the principle of consultation.</p> <p>The shift in Egypt’s religious politics goes beyond the Muslim Brothers. <em>Al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya</em>, the Islamist group that inflicted atrocious violence on officials, Copts, and foreign tourists in the 1980s and 1990s in pursuit of an Islamic state in Egypt, underwent a significant change by the late 1990s; it laid down its arms, abandoned its violence and radical Islamism, and opted to work as a political party to pursue peaceful <em>da‘wa</em> (proselytising) within Egypt’s legal framework (though the government refused to give the group a permit).</p> <p>Even before the transformation of <em>al-Gama‘a al-Islamiyya</em>, the <em>Hizb-ul-Wasat</em> had defected from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood to pursue its own very different trajectory. <em>Al-Wasat</em> now privileges modern democracy over the Islamic <em>shura</em>, embraces pluralism in religion, welcomes gender mixing, supports women’s prominent public roles, and ideological diversity. It’s not merely that (Christian) Copts are admitted to the party; a Christian, Rafiq Habib, serves as the group’s key ideologue.</p> <p><strong>A deeper transformation</strong></p> <p>Indeed, there are indications that the entire region is experiencing a shift in religious politics. In Tunisia following the revolt which overthrew the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali, the largest Islamic group is <em>al-Nahda</em>, represented by the ex-leftist Rashed al-Ghannouchi. But <em>al-Nahda </em>is not an Islamist party - that is, its aim is not to seize power and to establish an Islamic state; rather, it wishes to nurture pious Muslims within a democratic polity. Rashed al-Ghannouchi has categorically rejected the Islamic <em>khalifa</em> (caliphate) in favour of parliamentary democracy, and his <em>al-Nahda</em> is committed to social justice, multiparty democracy, and religious pluralism.</p> <p>The model of “Islamic governance” that Tunisia’s <em>al-Nahda</em>, the “young” Egyptian Muslim Brothers, and Iran’s reformist and other groups project is the AKP in Turkey, which has governed that country since November 2002. This Islamic party has - amid much and continuing political controversy - implemented important reforms that have had an overall democratising effect.</p> <p>It has (for example) abolished the death penalty, ended army-dominated security courts, removed curbs on free speech, brought the military budget under civilian control, authorised Kurdish-language broadcasting, and established workable relations with both the west and the rest of the Muslim world. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister and the leader of the AKP, is now one of the most popular leaders in the Muslim-majority middle east.</p> <p>This is not to downplay the&nbsp;limitations of these Islamic organisations’&nbsp;stance&nbsp;in the areas of&nbsp;individual rights, religious pluralism, and democratic practice. Yet the legitimacy crisis that Islamism is experiencing on account of its neglect and violations of people’s democratic rights is a signal of an emerging new era characterised by the search for a different kind of religious polity: one which both wishes to promote pious sensibilities in society and takes democracy seriously.</p> <p>In this incipient post-Islamist middle east, the prevailing popular movements assume a post-national, post-ideological, civil, and democratic character. Iran’s green movement, the Tunisian revolution, and the Egyptian uprising represent the popular movements of these post-Islamist times. They strive to achieve social justice, dignity, and a form of democratic governance that can protect citizens’ fundamental rights.</p> <p>So: what is there to fear from these historic social revolutions? They are too important to leave judgment of their character and legitimacy to the likes of Hosni Mubarak and Binyamin Netanyahu; that would be a betrayal of common sense and political expediency, even an act of moral bankruptcy. A people on the move and hungry for freedom deserve better.<br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asef Bayat, <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><em>Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2010)</p> <p>Asef Bayat, <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=10420"><em>Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2007)</p> <p><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/"><em>Foreign Policy</em></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.merip.org/index.html">Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP)</a></p> <p>Paul Rogers, <a href="http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/monthly_briefings/tunisia_and_egypt_context"><em>Tunisia and Egypt in context </em></a>(Oxford Research Group, January 2011)</p> <p>Tarek Osman, <em><a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300162752">Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak</a> </em>(Yale University Press, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asef Bayat is professor of sociology and middle-east studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His books include<em> <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=10420">Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn </a></em>(Stanford University Press, 2007; <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080">Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</a> </em>(Stanford University Press, 2010);<em> </em>and (with Linda Herrera)<em> <a href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/academic/series/politics/rgp/9780195369212.do?sortby=bookTitleAscend%20">Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North</a> </em>(Oxford University Press, 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Egypt Civil society Democracy and government International politics institutions & government Globalisation faith & ideas democracy & iran democracy & power middle east Asef Bayat Tue, 08 Feb 2011 15:43:37 +0000 Asef Bayat 57934 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil Resistance and the New Global Ferment: read on https://www.opendemocracy.net/civil-resistance-and-new-global-ferment-read-on <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Jack%20DuVall_0.jpg" alt="" width="120" align="right" /></p> <p><!--StartFragment--></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-US;"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/authors/jack-duvall">Jack DuVall</a>, writer and international civil society leader based in Washington, D.C., is presently President of the </span><a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/"><span style="font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-US;">International Center on Nonviolent Conflict</span></a><span style="font-family: Helvetica; mso-bidi-font-family: Helvetica; mso-ansi-language: EN-US;">, a private nonprofit educational foundation. He describes himself as a radical democrat opposed to all forms of human oppression. As openDemocracy's first guest editor, in the week starting November 15, 2010, he chose as his editorial theme: "<strong>Civil Resistance and the New Global Ferment</strong>".</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">DuVall, is the co-author of&nbsp;<a href="http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OVtKS9DCN0kC&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=A+Force+More+Powerful:+A+Century+of+Nonviolent+Conflict&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=QvjNUL_C1d&amp;sig=zK8AcYSWhJVdATTvkdZTtQEYhk8&amp;hl=en&amp;ei=tkjgTL_JMcOFhQe76-ScDQ&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=5&amp;ved=0CEQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false"><em>A Force More Powerful</em></a><em>: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict</em>, St. Martin's Press (2000) which has become &nbsp;the leading text and trade book on the history of nonviolent struggle in the 20th century; he was also executive producer of a documentary film series of the same name.&nbsp;From the Green Movement in Iran to the Mapuche people's struggle in Chile, from West Papuans struggling for independence from Indonesia to Egyptian students and bloggers campaigning for wider political rights, societies and governments&nbsp;in the world today are being rocked far more by civil resistance than by armed insurrection or terrorism (notwithstanding the media's mesmerism by violent conflict). As a strategic instrument of political and social change rather than merely the exhibition of rage, civil resistance - using nonviolent tactics such as strikes, boycotts and civil disobedience - has a surprisingly effective record, as this week's articles on civil resistance discussed.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">Jack introduced his front pages as follows:</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">"The author of the week's&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/stellan-vinthagen/people-power-and-new-global-ferment">lead article</a>, Dr. Stellan Vinthagen, is a Swedish scholar and activist who is one of the most recognizable and popular figures in international resistance work. Also featured on Monday was a&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/tom-hhastings/anishinabe-and-unsung-nonviolent-victory-in-late-twentieth-century-wisconsin">sparkling article</a>&nbsp;on the successful nonviolent struggle of the Anishinabe native Americans, in the 1980s - one of the hundreds of less well-known civil resistance campaigns of recent decades. Its author, Tom Hastings, has taught and inspired generations of university students and antiwar and other activists, from his base in Portland, Oregon.</p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">Tuesday&rsquo;s lead article was on the&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/lester-r-kurtz/repression%E2%80%99s-paradox-in-china">paradox of repression</a>, i.e. the more repression a government uses to control dissidence, the greater the cost to its legitimacy, both inside and outside the country. Those using civil resistance can exploit this by mobilizing more people in a movement and enlisting more global support for its cause. Dr. Lester Kurtz of George Mason University, and the co-editor of Nonviolent Social Movements, takes stock of the paradox as it affects China today, in the midst of its effort to discredit the Nobel Peace Prize given to a leading Chinese dissident. The second featured article on Tuesday was by Dr. Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco, bringing us up to date on&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/stephen-zunes/upsurge-in-repression-challenges-nonviolent-resistance-in-western-sahara">new events in Western Sahara</a>, where the Sahrawi people are under Moroccan occupation. Dr. Zunes is the author of a new book on this struggle,&nbsp;<em>Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;"><span style="font-style: normal;">Wednesday's&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/cynthia-boaz/red-lenses-on-rainbow-of-revolutions">lead article</a>&nbsp;by Dr. Cynthia Boaz examines a host of largely unacknowledged and only faintly visible 'frames' through which news media see, describe and report on civil resistance movements. Citing numerous examples from Burma to Iran to the U.S. civil rights movement, she explains how assumptions about power, violence and repression are embedded in media attitudes and, in various ways, underestimate the leverage that nonviolent movements can wield in their struggles for rights.&nbsp; The&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/olena-tregub-oksana-shulyar/struggle-after-people-power-wins">second featured article</a>&nbsp;on Wednesday, by Olena Tregub and Oksana Shulyar, assesses the political withdrawal of many Ukrainians in civil society who were part of the Orange Revolution, but it also notes how they&rsquo;ve translated their passion for change into social and economic work that is keeping civil society on its toes, ready for perhaps another engagement should democratic freedoms badly deteriorate.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination: none; mso-layout-grid-align: none; text-autospace: none;">Thursday's&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/al-giordano/authentic-journalism-weapon-of-people">lead article</a>&nbsp;by Al Giordano of Narco News offers a radical new&nbsp;view of the future of the media and its relationship to civil resistance: that institutionalized media will surrender further ground to alternative and digital media, as citizen or authentic&nbsp;journalism expands to cover&nbsp;popular movements and campaigns from the bottom up, which are the authentic source of&nbsp;social and political change.&nbsp; Our&nbsp;<a style="color: #0061bf; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/shaazka-beyerle/resisting-corruption-recent-progress-in-indonesia-and-kenya">second featured article</a>&nbsp;on Thursday was by the acknowledged world expert on how civil resistance can propel campaigns against corruption, Shaazka Beyerle, and she gives us accounts of how clever, passionate campaigns in Indonesia and Kenya have added to our understanding of how the people can force rulers to stop stealing from the people.</p><p>Finally this week, our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/jack-duvall/civil-resistance-and-language-of-power">lead article</a> is by myself, and it's a commentary on the nature of the political language used by leaders and key figures in movements and campaigns of civil resistance, noting that to be effective, language that summons mass participation in pre-democratic or democratic societies must rouse an existential commitment on the basis of a substantive vision. The article accompanying it, by Hardy Merriman, explores the "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/hardy-merriman/trifecta-of-civil-resistance-unity-planning-discipline">trifecta</a>" of key factors in organizing movements: unity, planning and nonviolent discipline. Lastly, Jason MacLeod <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/jason-macleod/west-papua-from-morning-star-to-mourning">shows us</a> how, inspired by the US civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the movement for democratic self-determination in West Papua has deployed new tactics of nonviolent action to advance its cause."</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><h5>Jack DuVall's Front page</h5></p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/selection/10/11/15">November 15, 2010 - Monday</a> <br /> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/selection/10/11/16">November 16, 2010 - Tuesday</a> <br /> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/selection/10/11/17">November 17, 2010 - Wednesday</a> <br /> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/selection/10/11/18">November 18, 2010 - Thursday</a><br /><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/selection/10/11/19">November 19, 2010 - Friday</a></p><p></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> Civil society Democracy and government Ideas Internet politics of protest non-violent action membership & movements human rights democratic society democracy & iran Burma ukraine: the orange revolution democracy & power conflicts openResistance Jack DuVall - guest editor 16 November 2011 Western Sahara conflict Internal conflict in Burma Security in Sub-Saharan Africa Mon, 15 Nov 2010 11:45:23 +0000 openDemocracy 56850 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran's women: a movement in transition https://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/irans-women-movement-in-transition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The women’s movement for gender equality in Iran has for thirty years been at the heart of wider political struggles in the Islamic Republic. Sanam Vakil tracks three major phases in its development and identifies the ingredients of a fourth. </div> </div> </div> <p>The headline news of Iran continues to be dominated by hard, often menacing political news - from Tehran’s nuclear programme and the international tensions it raises, to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/10/13/iran.ahmadinejad.lebanon/index.html">visit</a> to Lebanon and the <a href="http://www.naharnet.com/domino/tn/NewsDesk.nsf/getstory?openform&amp;30FB5B03A7772FD8C22577BC0058D857">acclamation</a> the president received as he denounced Israel from just across the border.</p><p>But behind the headlines, Iran's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">everyday</a> life - including the way that Iran’s citizens cope with the many social and political challenges pressing them -&nbsp; offers an often more revealing insight into the <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">country’s</a> true reality.</p><p>The battle for gender equality in Iran continues to be one of these. The daily struggles of Iranian women may have receded from international attention since the government’s vicious crackdown in the wake of the presidential <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">election</a> of June 2009, but they still provide an essential prism through which to understand the inner life and the dynamics of change in the Islamic Republic.</p><p><strong>Women vs the state</strong></p><p>Women were prominent participants in the post-election demonstrations, and many activist women were targeted by the regime or caught up in its dragnet during the months of protest. Indeed, scores of women have been detained and jailed since June 2009, and several have received unprecedentedly long jail sentences. An equally damaging measure to women is the return to parliament of a controversial “family-protection” bill whose provisions would (among other things) make polygamy easier.&nbsp;</p><p>The overall purpose of the regime’s strategy here is to quash the momentum and impact of Iran’s <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521595728">women’s movement</a>. This very objective indicates that women’s rights remain a potent element of the contests - factional, political and ideological - that&nbsp; dominate Iran’s domestic frontier.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">fraudulent</a> re-election of Mahmood Ahmadinejad and the rise (before and after the election) of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">opposition</a> “green movement” are but a phase in the long-running tensions between state and society in Iran. Since the revolution that led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic in <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">1979</a>, women have been at the forefront of these tensions - and in particular, at the head of a three-decade struggle for improved gender rights (see Nikki R Keddie, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iranian-women-and-the-islamic-republic">Iranian women and the Islamic Republic</a>", 24 February 2009).</p><p>Across this period in Iran’s modern history, the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">varying</a> trajectory of the women’s movement - and the government's reaction to it - helps explain the rise and fall of wider political trends: reformism, secularism and the conservative backlash evidenced in the <a href="www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/result_2629.jsp">election</a> of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005. This point can be illustrated by reference to three historic turning-points in which changes in the Iranian women’s movement were enmeshed with key political and ideological arguments in Iran as a whole.</p><p><strong>A new horizon</strong></p><p>The first major transition for women since the formation of the Islamic Republic came with the death of <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/rkhomeini/ayatollah_khomeini.php">Ayatollah Khomeini</a> in 1989. This, combined with the election of Hashemi Rafsanjani as president in the aftermath of the devastating <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/iran_iraq_war/iran_iraq_war1.php">Iran-Iraq war</a> (1980-88), ushered in a period of economic reconstruction and moderation designed to stimulate the Iranian economy and return Iran to the international community.&nbsp;For women, this was a period of greater economic investment in the country’s institutions, with an expansion of the education system in particular opening doors and opportunities.</p><p>Yet greater educational access did not translate into increased levels of employment. The vice that trapped many women - an ailing economy with double-digit unemployment and a dominant patriarchal culture - hampered their entrance into the job market and forced them into gender-acceptable professions.&nbsp;At the same time, the resources of a better education and the increased expectations it brought, combined with the restrictions of a gender-unequal society, also motivated a new generation of women to demand more from the government.</p><p><strong>A rainbow moment</strong></p><p>The second big transition for women arrived in May 1997, when women played an indispensable part in the election of Rafsanjani’s successor Mohammad Khatami as president. The reformist leader’s promise of greater political liberalisation and an enlarged role for&nbsp;civil society - the so-called “Tehran spring” - was reflected both in the media and on the streets: by a newly vibrant press, greater openness in social and political dialogue, and a relaxing of Islamist restrictions on the dress code and everyday behaviour.</p><p>An increased provision of government licenses during Khatami’s tenure (1997-2005) meant that the women’s press too blossomed in this period. The magazine <em>Zanan</em> was the most effective at addressing controversial gender issues.&nbsp;In this atmosphere of government encouragement and approval of NGO activity, female activism flourished. Though Khatami’s administration proved ineffective in securing substantial legal improvements, the liberal ferment created new spaces of dialogue and interaction among women’s activists (both secular and Islamic).&nbsp;This cooperation led, for example, to direct protests and petitions in favour of gender equality, and to public <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/mar/1128.html">celebrations</a> of International Women’s Day.</p><p>The election of a reformist <em>majlis</em> (parliament) in 2000 increased the sense of momentum behind the campaign for legal reforms.&nbsp;Yet the parliament had limited success in passing gender legislation, including the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (<a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a>).</p><p>A conservative backlash against the reform movement grew during Khatami’s second term in office (from 2001) - evident in the closing of newspapers, institutional constraints on the president’s powers, the repression of the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/In_Iran_Renewed_Efforts_To_Keep_University_Students_In_Check/2194096.html">student</a> movement and the barring of would-be parliamentary candidates by the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/">Guardian Council</a>.</p><p><strong>A reversing tide</strong></p><p>This conservative restoration, capped by the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005, propelled the women’s movement into a third transition. The new president sought to revive the “authentic” ideology of the revolution in order to consolidate the Islamic state against its social critics, in part by reimposing strict social mores. The result was to&nbsp;shift Iran’s political landscape decisively to the right.</p><p>Women’s activists, still intent on fulfilling the potential the reformist wave had created, responded by initiating a direct challenge to the regressive gender laws still enshrined in the Iranian constitution. The most visible example was the “one million signatures” campaign that began in 2006, which sought through a referendum-type model of collective action both to increase public awareness and exert pressure on the government to implement gender-law reform. The campaign did generate public attention, but also provoked the government into severe repression of activists through <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6416789.stm">arrests</a> and detentions (see Nasrin Alavi, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_alavi_4406.jsp">Women in Iran: repression and resistance</a>", 5 March 2007).</p><p>In 2007, Ahmadinejad’s government proposed a new and retrograde family-protection bill. The most deleterious clause is Article 23, which would institutionalise polygamy. The Islamic law applied in Iran permits men to have up to four wives, though in practice polygamy is rare (and indeed is widely condemned).&nbsp;The existing statute requires a man to have permission from his first wife before taking another, and that they should treat their wives equally.&nbsp;The new provision on polygamy would allow a husband to take a second wife without permission from his current wife on a number of grounds (including the first wife becoming sterile, and her contraction of a terminal illness). In addition, the bill reduces the age of (female) eligibility for marriage from 16 to 13; and its Article 25 would require a woman to pay taxes on money received from her marriage contract.</p><p><strong>A fourth phase</strong></p><p>For three years, women <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100039579">activists</a> have agitated against the bill, arguing that these measures would damage (rather than protect) the family structure and reduce women’s marriage and divorce rights. These protests were vital in the bill being referred to the parliament’s legal committee for more work in 2008, when the <em>majlis</em> was due to vote on it. Now, as the post-election wave of <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Thousands_Cash_With_Police_In_Tehran_After_Disputed_Election/1753774.html">suppression</a> fuels the government’s desire both to reassert its conservative agenda and subdue the undefeated women’s movement, the bill has resurfaced on parliament’s agenda.</p><p>For many Iranian women, such setbacks are also a tribute to the <a href="http://www.iranfemschool.biz/english/">challenge</a> their activism continues to present to the authorities. In the thirty years since the revolution, women have sought to build on every opportunity to advance the movement for gender equality.&nbsp;So far, the hardest actions of a powerful state - arrests, exile, legal sanction - have been unable to destroy the wellsprings of women’s awareness and agency, which continue to blossom in the face of great pressure. The potential for a fourth transition is there.&nbsp; <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.iranfemschool.biz/english/">Iran Feminist School</a></p><p>Nikki R Keddie, <a href="http://www.yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?K=9780300121056&amp;sf1=author&amp;st1=Nikki%20R%20Keddie&amp;m=1&amp;dc=1"><em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> </a>(Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8281.html">Women in the Middle East: Past and Present</a></em> (Princeton University Pres, 2007)</p><p>Janet Afary, <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521898461"><em>Sexual Politics in Modern Iran</em> </a>(Cambridge University Press, 2009)</p><p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p> <p>Pardis Mahdavi, <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?isbn=0804758565">Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution</a></em> (Stanford University Press, 2009)</p><p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sanam Vakil is a adjunct <a href="http://www.jhubc.it/Our-Faculty/profprofile.cfm?PROFID=199">professor</a> and visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is the author a forthcoming book, <a href="http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157763&amp;SntUrl=152636&amp;SubjectId=1023&amp;Subject2Id=1600"><em>Women and Politics in Iran: Action &amp; Reaction</em></a> (Continuum Press, 2011)</p><p>Also by Sanam Vakil in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <p>“<a href="../../democracy-irandemocracy/iran_gamble_4305.jsp">Iran’s nuclear gamble</a>” (1 February 2008)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="../../democracy-irandemocracy/hostage_vakil_4493.jsp">Iran’s hostage politics</a>” (2 April 2007)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="../../democracy-irandemocracy/dialogue_enemies_4666.jsp">The Iran-American dialogue: enemies within</a>” (4 June 2007)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="../../article/iran-s-political-shadow-war">Iran’s political shadow-war</a>” (16 July 2008)</p> <p>“<a href="../../article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system</a>” (21 April 2009) - with David Hayes</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a>" (19 February 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">The children of Iran: lives in tumult</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/iran-surface-truths-inner-lives">Iran: surface truths, inner lives</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iranian-women-and-the-islamic-republic">Iranian women and the Islamic Republic</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/politics/middle_east_feminism_two_pioneers_remembered">Two feminist pioneers: Iranian, Lebanese, universal </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-rights-of-irans-women">The rights of Iran&#039;s women</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/people-irandemocracy/article_1557.jsp">Shirin Ebadi and Iran&#039;s women: in the vanguard of change</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power IDEA Sanam Vakil Tue, 19 Oct 2010 13:23:51 +0000 Sanam Vakil 56451 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: surface truths, inner lives https://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/iran-surface-truths-inner-lives <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> There is calm and normality to be found in everyday urban Iran. But a series of conversations reveals a more fluid picture, finds R Tousi in Tehran. </div> </div> </div> <p>It’s what passes for an Iranian society wedding these days. The bride is beautiful in an Italian handmade gown; the groom as sleek as a member of the “rat pack” in a vintage suit that his father had worked in in the 1960s. There are smartly uniformed ushers and waiters in each corner ready to serve the 300 guests spread around a country-villa in the northeastern outskirts of Tehran.</p><p>Some are lavishly hosted in a grand hall where a Persian classical ensemble gently plays in the background; others are seated around sumptuous lantern-lit tables in the garden filled with fragrant pots all evidently in full bloom; while the huge indoor pool has been covered and a large youthful crowd dance the night away to a live pop band.&nbsp;It’s a mixed family crowd and seemingly there are as many women in headscarves as there are in low-cut slinky gowns.</p><p>Mixed-sex parties are illegal in <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">Iran</a> and as far back as I can remember have risked being raided by the “morality police". I raise this point with the sister of the groom. After I am gently chided for my negativity during such a happy occasion; the sister then says, “we’ve been remarkably lucky to get <em>the</em> wedding planners. They have assured me that they have not been raided even once in the last year - ‘they’ just don’t do that anymore”.&nbsp;She then whispers loudly: “Did you know that even all their waiters are graduates?”.</p><p>The Iranian government’s statistics bureau, soon after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in <a href="www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/result_2629.jsp">June 2005</a>, conveniently decided to define anyone who worked for as little as a single hour as fully employed. This allowed it to reclassify the <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/aug/1091.html">unemployment</a> rate to “only” 20% - though even by official figures it is 40% among under-35s (who make up 74% of Iran’s population). In recent months alone I’ve met a history graduate who worked as a live-in school janitor, and counted himself lucky to have got a job that came with accommodation; a <em>maître d’</em> in a popular Tehran restaurant who is a qualified lawyer;&nbsp; and countless taxi-drivers who have told me that they were graduates.</p><p>Zohreh, a science graduate tells me: “I can’t even get a permanent job teaching at a primary school. What I’ve found so far are sales jobs that start by paying commission only... I’m forced to consider a job in Italian furniture store with a two-hour daily commute”.&nbsp;She adds: “It seems to be all about jobs where the have not’s’ like me serve the whims of the haves and I was stupid to imagine that I could get a job where I made a difference...”</p><p><strong>The money trap</strong></p><p>The president, during his first term in office, adopted a novel form of job-creation: using part of the revenue from record oil-prices to offer business-setup loans to poorer Iranians. This pump-priming injected billions of dollars into the social economy, promoted dreams of affluence, cushioned resentment, stoked <a href="http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=222478">inflation</a>, nurtured “quick-return” thinking - and was constantly proclaimed as central to the government’s planned transformation of Iran’s <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/publications/?fa=view&amp;id=40354">economy</a>. But in Ahmadinejad’s annual economic report to the <a href="http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/">supreme leader</a> Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the end of August 2010, there was not a single mention of the policy. It seems that, even for its architects, the whole thing&nbsp; - including the vast <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6433OE20100504">sums</a> of money still owed to the banks - has evaporated.</p><p>But not quite - for this vast oil-fuelled liquidity has dramatically changed Iran and many Iranians’ lives. The ensuing <a href="http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LI15Ak01.html">inflation</a> made the rich richer, <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j_fPN75FagjMHFzEi_YyKkNVHNfg">squeezed</a> the middle classes and put most goods (including housing) even further from the working classes’ reach. Mr Amiry, a businessman in his 60s, tells me: “My Japanese car is considered an average family car in most societies, even in a neighbour of ours like Turkey. But as I drive from my home in north Tehran to a working-class district of the capital my car is likely to be worth more than most of the homes around me. Such economic divisions are unprecedented and feel almost ominous...”. He adds: “I always wanted my children to have more opportunities than I had; but they don’t even have a fraction of what I had... I grew up and started my business in south Tehran forty years ago, but today both my sons are graduates and they begrudgingly have to work for me”.</p><p>Against Mr Amiry’s gloomy outlook, I find a student activist called Vahid –and many others like him - determined and confident about the future. He says: “Many have suffered most cruelly in the security backlash that followed the election [in June 2009]... but I remember exactly two years ago feeling isolated within a society that was uninterested in our democratic demands. I took part in the rally on election-day, 12&nbsp;June, that their own Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf [the <a href="http://www.citymayors.com/mayors/tehran-mayor.html">mayor</a> of Tehran] had estimated at 3 million people. Today I know we are in this to win and&nbsp;&nbsp;we have the majority of the people with us. When I hear the [leaked-speech] <a href="http://www.eurasiareview.com/201008096690/iranian-reformists-press-charges-against-revolutionary-guards.html">tapes</a> of those like 'Commander Moshfeq' [of the Revolutionary Guards] who shamelessly talks of engineered election results; I don’t feel despondent, but happy that the vast majority of the country is with us...”.</p><p>Roya, a nursing student, believes that Iran is full of catalysts for change that will unite the people. “There is a lot of panic, anger and bewilderment at the government’s removal of energy subsidies. Many people are finding themselves with hugely increased electricity bills.&nbsp;Yet the government has not even bothered to reveal what the new prices are based on or what they apply to. It already feels impossible for a lot of us to make ends meet. There is only so much that we will take. There were teachers&nbsp;protesting outside the parliament again, and if things carry on like this many others will join them...”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The long view</strong></p><p>A few weeks ago I talked to Farid, a 20-something member of my family,&nbsp; about the decision of the imprisoned 62-year-old journalist <a href="http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/free-journalist-keyvan-samimi.html">Keyvan Samimi</a> to begin a protest hunger-strike. Farid’s full-grinned response&nbsp;&nbsp;startled me: “That is so old-school - so very Che Guevara...We’ve got to stay strong and live through this. We’ve been lucky to have leaders like [Mir-Hossein] <a href="http://www.irantracker.org/tehran/mir-hossein-mousavi-biography-and-campaign-news">Moussavi </a>and [Mehdi] <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/09/12/119134.html">Karroubi</a>, who have not wavered... I am certain that twenty years from now I will proudly tell my children about being there in the 2009 summer protests that changed Iran forever... What&nbsp; people did to [Alireza] Eftekhari&nbsp;is the blatant reality of this country that&nbsp;our ruling system must face”.</p><p>Alireza Eftekhari has in recent decades become one of Iran’s best-selling popular singers - a sort of Iranian fusion of Perry Como and Barry Manilow (if such a thing can be imagined). Eftekhari’s troubles began when, during a media event, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad approached him and “proclaimed himself to be a fan”. The next day, Iran’s official state media - beside photos of the crooner and the president in a deep embrace - quoted <a href="http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100830/FOREIGN/708299876/1135/yourview">Eftekhari</a> as saying: “Mr President, I love you”.&nbsp;Soon after, he gave a newspaper interview describing how that hug had provoked many Iranians to “bad treatment” of him and his family - to the extent that he has been forced to emigrate.</p><p>On my last night in Tehran I went with some friends to Mohammad’s cafe on Mirdamad Square for a tall glass of freshly-squeezed pomegranate-juice. A little over a year ago the district resembled a war-zone. Now the "morality police” and <em>basij</em> <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Basij_Members_Trained_To_Conquer_Virtual_World/2134023.html">militia</a> that had dominated public space before the election and crushed <a href="http://www.iranrights.org/english/document-1409.php">protestors</a> after it are gone. These days a lot of our conversations seem to be punctuated by the signifiers “before” and “after” the election.</p><p>The opposition leader, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, dismisses the <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/sep/1124.html">threats</a> that he will be arrested by stating that the government “should fear not us but the growing anger of the people.” For my part I cannot relate the calm on the streets to the conversations we have behind closed doors and the reality of the lives around me.&nbsp; <br /><br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p><p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p><p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/">Planet Iran</a></p><p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=458"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>R Tousi is the pseudonym of an Iranian writer</p><p>Also by R Tousi in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran's ocean of dissent</a>" (28 October 2009)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a>" (11 December 2009)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis">Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">The children of Iran: lives in tumult</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">Iran’s hidden prisoners </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran International politics Democracy and government democracy & iran democracy & power R Tousi Thu, 16 Sep 2010 22:58:36 +0000 R Tousi 56013 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran, sanctions and war: fuel of crisis https://www.opendemocracy.net/rasool-nafisi/iran-sanctions-and-war-fuel-of-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The international sanctions on Iran reinforce conservative rule. The threat of a military attack by the United States or Israel offers no aid to democratic advance. The result is a standoff on the edge of escalation, says Rasool Nafisi. </div> </div> </div> <p>Beneath the noisy protests and the quiet remembrances that surrounded the 9/11 anniversary in Washington and across the United States, there is also hard calculation about a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. A striking fact at this stage is that proponents of an attack in America seem to prefer that the job were <a href="http://news.suite101.com/article.cfm/us-house-resolution-supports-israeli-action-against-iran-a266789">done</a> by Israel, whereas their Israeli counterparts favour a US <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/09/the-point-of-no-return/8186/">operation</a>.</p><p>But if there is increasing momentum behind the war option among decision-makers in Washington and Israel, many both in and beyond the inner-policy circles still argue cogently that a military assault will create more problems than it solves (see Paul Rogers, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-fallout-of-war">Israel vs Iran: fallout of a war</a>", 15 July 2010). A close look at current internal Iranian realities can only strengthen this conviction.</p><p><strong>A network state </strong></p><p>What makes the present situation even more complicated than it seems is that the preferred alternative to military action, namely sanctions against Iran, carries its own problems and contradictions. Barack Obama administration’s sanctions policy towards Tehran seeks to do several things: satisfy the US Congress, persuade (or force) Iran to make concessions on its nuclear <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">programme</a>, and postpone or prevent outright an Israeli attack on Iran. So far, however, the escalating sanctions - backed after intense diplomatic efforts by the United Nations Security Council - have been unable to divert Iran from its course of uranium-enrichment or more generally from making a priority of its nuclear policy.</p><p>Indeed, the occasional signals towards compromise that Iran has made, such as the suggestion in early September 2010 of new negotiations, are reactions to the danger of war rather than to the reality of sanctions. An Iranian regime which makes a virtue of intransigence and is concerned about losing face can compromise only with great difficulty and at the margins. Moreover, the regime needs the foreign threat to continue with its unannounced state of emergency (see Omid Memarian, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a>", 6 September 2010).</p><p>There is a further element in this complex game, namely that material interests and national pride are intertwined. In <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">Iran</a>, for example, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is a complex military-intelligence organisation which operates nationwide businesses; and a large network of former IRGC officers is purportedly the main <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Revolutionary_Guard_Has_A_Lot_To_Lose/1826074.html">beneficiary</a> of illicit trade involving Iran.</p><p>In this respect, significant powers in Iran have a vested interest in the international sanctions continuing. The tightening control of such clientelist networks over the economy squeezes even further Iran’s middle class, which is the bastion of political opposition. A sanctions regime that pleases the United States and its western allies thus inadvertently also helps the cause of the hardliners in Iran.</p><p>This linkage between international politics and domestic realities highlights the key weakness of analyses that see the conflict between Iran and its major <a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003516">adversaries</a> (United States and Israel) solely through the prism of international relations. The role of internal politics in all the relevant states, including their impact on how important actors influence state behaviour, is too often ignored.</p><p><strong>A hybrid state</strong></p><p>This point is relevant to understanding current Iranian politics, both in relation to the sanctions regime and to the threat or reality of a military attack. If sanctions are operating to reinforce the power of regressive forces such as the <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/14324/irans_revolutionary_guards.html">IRGC</a>, it is plausible that a strike against Iran will have the same effect by enabling it to mobilise the population behind the patriotic cause of defence of the nation’s territory. The alternative view is that an assault could inflict a humiliating military defeat on Iran’s security <a href="http://hormuz.robertstrausscenter.org/iran_military">forces</a> (particularly the IRGC), and demonstrate both the regime’s impotence in face of the “forces of arrogance" and the failure of its brinkmanship diplomacy, thus emboldening the opposition forces.</p><p>The response of the opposition to a military attack will depend very much on its scale. If the human and physical damage is minimal, the regime’s critics may be able to seize the moment as an opportunity to demonstrate against the regime; but extensive destruction would leave no option for the opposition but to gather around the flagpole.</p><p>In any case, two factors make it hard to sustain the argument that a military attack on Iran would undermine the regime and enhance the <a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">democratic </a>cause in the country.</p><p>The first is Iran’s current political balance of forces, fifteen months after the fixed presidential <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">elections</a>` of June 2009 and the months of protest that followed. The regime’s ferocious repression, backed by the systems and networks of patronage that enable it to reward and buy the loyalty of important sectors, has allowed it to consolidate its power and prepare to survive an external assault.</p><p>The second is the evolution of Iran’s state <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">itself</a>, which from its inception has been a hybrid. The Islamic Republic of Iran was born of the popular uprising of 1978-79 against the Shah’s absolute monarchy, and this legacy endures in the “republican” language and forms of democratic legitimacy that it espouses; at the same time, the <a href="http://www.insideiran.org/news/clerics-not-judges-decide-who-is-mohareb/">clerical</a> rulers have sought in principle to impose on Iran (or return it to) an imaginary, pure Islamic polity and community based on <em>Sharia</em> law.</p><p>But this dual character, which has survived three tumultuous <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">decades</a> since 1979 and is still discernible in the constitution after two major overhauls, is now coming to an end. During the reformists’ period in office (under the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, 1997-2005), the republican elements if the state were emphasised; but increasingly since the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/result_2629.jsp">election</a> of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, and even more since his re-election in 2009, the archaic vision of an Islamic state has been rigorously pressed by a new and powerful political coalition of the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/akhamenei/ali_khamenei.php">supreme leader</a> Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad, and the IRGC.</p><p>In present conditions, this process will not be halted or even slowed by either sanctions or a military attack. In fact the response to a strike - depending on its magnitude and length - may allow the regime to use the resulting atmosphere of phobia and raw emotion to engage in even more <a href="http://planet-iran.com/index.php/news/22044">repression</a> of civil society and the opposition.</p><p>The Iranian regime thrives on chaos. A series of raids on the facilities at Isfahan, Arak, Natanz and <a href="http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Iran-Launches-First-Nuclear-Power-Plant-101214339.html">Bushehr</a> would create great loss of life, fear of nuclear contamination and mass evacuation; there might be riots and temporary anarchy, and minorities in Iran’s east and northwest might seek advantage from the crisis. But many Iranians will turn towards rather than away from the regime, whose most important firepower will be intact. If sanctions are in key respects working in favour of the Iranian regime, a military attack would equally give it another injection.</p><p><strong>A military state </strong></p><p>At the same time, Iran is if attacked unlikely to engage in major retaliation, for two reasons: the government would fear greater internal unrest if the war became protracted, and its limited arsenal could not seriously <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/asymmetric-war-iran-and-new-normal">counter</a> its major and well-resourced adversaries. The regime's retaliation would most likely be restricted to symbolic gestures such as the few missiles Saddam Hussein <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/18/newsid_4588000/4588486.stm">fired</a> at Israel during the United States-led <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB39/">Desert Storm</a> operation in January 1991.</p><p>A military attack on Iran’s <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8495086.stm">nuclear</a> facilities would be a disaster. Yet even were Iran left to acquire a nuclear-weapon capability, this could become more of a hazard to itself than to the outside world. A small nuclear <a href="http://www.insideiran.org/news/how-likely-is-an-iranian-nuclear-counterstrike/">arsenal</a> cannot guarantee the safety of a regime, and can create new dangers (by making it a more attractive target to terrorists as well as states, by encouraging proliferation in the Arab world, and by diverting resources from more important social goals).</p><p>Even independently of the stance of the United States and Israel, therefore, Iran’s <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">regime</a> has an interest in ending its brinkmanship, engaging with the international community, and focusing its energies on developing the country’s economy and improving the lives of its people. A wise leadership would also extend a hand to leading reformists such as <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mkhatami/mohammad_khatami.php">Mohammad Khatami</a> and <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/the-political-evolution-of-mousavi.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a>, and seek to bring them in to a broad-based government.</p><p>But Iran’s current balance, and the end of the dual character of Iran’s hybrid state, make such a change of course hard to imagine. It is more likely that a toxic mix of corporate and group self-interest, national ideology and emotional power, will continue to <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/">drive</a> Iran - and its adversaries - nearer to the brink.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/">Planet Iran</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/">Tehran Bureau </a></p><p><a href="http://www.iranwatch.org/">IranWatch</a></p><p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><span><span>Iran and IAEA</span></span></a></p><p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>Trita Parsi, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300120578"><em>Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States </em></a>(Yale University Press, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Rasool Nafisi teaches the sociology of development at Strayer University in Virginia. He contributes to various news agencies, including the Voice of America, BBC, and Radio France International. Rasool Nafisi is co-author of <a href="http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG821/"><em>The Rise of the Pasdaran</em></a> (Rand Corporation, 2009). His website is <a href="http://www.rnafisi.com/" target="_blank">here</a></p><p>Also by Rasool Nafisi in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_3545.jsp">The meaning of Ramin Jahanbegloo's arrest</a>" (16 May 2006)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/jahanbegloo_3867.jsp">Ramin Jahanbegloo: a repressive release</a>" (1 September 2006)&nbsp;</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/haleh_mind_4625.jsp">Haleh Esfandiari: Iran's cultural prison</a>" (17 May 2007)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/democracy_power/democracy_iran/majlis_elections_signals_of_change">Iran's majlis elections: the hidden dynamics</a>" (11 April 2008)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature</a>" (7 August 2009)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus">Iran: a political calculus</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/us_engage_4584.jsp">Iran and the United States: time to engage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/how-to-make-peace-with-iran">How to make peace with Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran_prepared_for_the_worst">Iran: prepared for the worst</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">Iran: what happened, where now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">The children of Iran: lives in tumult</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power Rasool Nafisi Mon, 13 Sep 2010 22:59:27 +0000 Rasool Nafisi 55971 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: a political calculus https://www.opendemocracy.net/omid-memarian/iran-political-calculus <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran’s hardline leadership is skilled at using external threats to its own advantage. By learning the lesson the United States could aid Iran's people and strengthen its democracy, says Omid Memarian. </div> </div> </div> <p>The summit meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington on 2 September 2010 testifies to the serious attention the Barack Obama administration is <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-09/02/c_13475828.htm">devoting</a> to this enduring middle-east conflict. But even these vital negotiations are overshadowed by an issue with a potentially greater destructive capacity: the future of <a href="http://www.geographicguide.net/asia/iran.htm">Iran</a>, and the calculations of the United States and the wider international community in relation to the country’s nuclear programmes and plans.<br /><br />These calculations are being made against the background of complex shifts and varying signals in Iranian domestic politics. An example of the latter came with the <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gmC__r5ybcCaHtphJmDuuUKqZsOw">remark</a> of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 18 August 2010, that if Washington were to drop its mix of “threats and sanctions" towards Iran, then Tehran might be prepared to negotiate. At the same time he emphasised that the country will continue to pursue its nuclear <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">project</a>, a pledge symbolised by the opening of the <a href="http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Iran-Launches-First-Nuclear-Power-Plant-101214339.html">Bushehr</a> nuclear plant on 21 August 2010. <br /><br /><a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/akhamenei/ali_khamenei.php">Khamenei’s</a> scornful description of the economic and political pressure being exerted on Iran highlights the way that western (especially American, but also European) policies and attitudes also become part of Iran’s own political calculations. The question then arises: how do sanctions, and the possibility of military <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-vs-iran-fallout-of-war">attack</a> on Iran’s nuclear facilities, play into current Iranian politics; will international <a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003516">pressure</a> on Iran of this kind help Iran’s opposition and even moderate conservatives to push towards democratic change, or rather contribute to strengthening the radical government in power?<br /><strong><br />The turning-point</strong><br /><br />The international community’s policy towards Iran is designed to contain its <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8495086.stm">nuclear</a> ambitions, specifically to prevent the transformation of a civil-nuclear programme into a military one (an intention that Iran has repeatedly denied). There is also great concern on the United Nations Security Council that Iran's nuclear <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2007/12/20085251853218888.html">path</a>, and the regional fears raised by the language and attitudes of its leaders, will lead to a nuclear race in the middle east and the end of the <a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dda/WMD/treaty/">non-proliferation treaty</a> (NPT). <br /><br />True, Iran’s leaders are used to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_perpetual_crisis_4128.jsp">living</a> with foreign pressure in the form of sanctions and military threats. These have even (as an Iranian official told me) “pumped blood” into the Islamic Republic. Its three decades of life has seen <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/iran_iraq_war/iran_iraq_war1.php">war</a> (with Iraq, 1980-88), regular sanctions, conflict on its <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">borders</a> (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan), the encouragement of “regime change”, and waves of internal opposition - yet the Islamic Republic survives, wields strong regional influence, and is led by a radical government that feels <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/09/2010939460259312.html">confident</a> in its own power. <br /><br />However, the current situation does present new difficulties for the government, in that the latest phase of external challenge coincides with major changes in Iranian domestic politics. The turning-point here was the presidential elections of June 2009 - of which the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quickly <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">declared</a> the winner - and the ensuing systematic, pre-planned <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Thousands_Cash_With_Police_In_Tehran_After_Disputed_Election/1753774.html">repression</a> of the opposition. <br /><br /><strong>The domestic struggle</strong><br /><br />The effort to impose a rigorous one-party style of governance on an Iran whose leadership had always been <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">balanced</a> between various factions met huge popular resistance and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">street-protest</a> in the second half of 2009. It also opened cracks within the clerical establishment, among moderate conservatives, and with groups (such as the <em>bazaaris</em>) traditional loyal to the Islamic Republic. A key faultline is between (on one side) radical conservatives led by Ahmadinejad, the security establishment and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (<a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/14324/irans_revolutionary_guards.html">IRGC</a>) and (on the other) reformist politicians, moderate conservatives, independent clergy in the holy city of Qom, and Iran’s civil society.&nbsp; <br /><br /><a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mahmadinejad/mahmoud_ahmadinejad.php">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's</a> aggressive consolidation of power in 2009 was enabled by securing absolute control over the electoral system, from the interior ministry to the Guardian Council (which is in charge of approving candidates); the force of the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Basij_Force_Mainstay_Of_Domestic_Security/1357081.html"><em>basij</em></a> militias and the IRGC secured his nationwide hegemony. But this centralisation of power is creating <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/After_Green_Movement_Irans_Conservative_Factions_Turn_On_Each_Other/2130118.html">tensions</a> even with the president’s fellow-conservatives, especially in the context of the parliamentary and city-council elections due in 2011. <br /><br />Ahmadinejad’s own <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/The_Language_Of_Ahmadinejad_The_Boogeyman_Snatched_The_Boob/2125263.html">tone</a> has fuelled discontent. When in 2009, for example, members of the <em>majlis</em> (parliament) questioned the qualifications of some of the president’s cabinet nominees, he asked the parliament to "trust" him on the grounds that he had more than 20 million votes against the few thousand gained by many in the <em>majlis</em>. In addition, the president’s failure to implement laws passed by parliament led to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">vocal</a> criticism from influential conservatives such as <a href="http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=224755">Ahmad Tavakoli</a>, Ali Motahari and the speaker of the <em>majlis, </em>Ali Larijani (albeit Larijani and Ahmadinejad <a href="http://enduringamerica.com/2010/08/23/iran-special-have-ahmadinejad-and-ali-larijani-kissed-and-made-up/">appeared</a> at a joint press conference on 22 August 2010 to emphasise their readiness to cooperate). <br /><br />Ahmadinejad’s absence since the 2009 election from meetings of the Expediency Council has also drawn criticism. This is the legal <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">body</a> that mediates between the <em>majlis</em> and and the Guardian Council, all of whose members are appointed by the supreme leader; it is led by the former president <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/arafsanjani/akbar_rafsanjani.php">Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani</a>. Ahmadinejad has criticised the Expediency Council for acting "beyond the constitution and <em>sharia</em>", a comment that <a href="http://www.irannewsdigest.com/2010/08/16/ali-motahari-iranian-mp-accuses-ahmadinejad-of-%E2%80%98despotism%E2%80%99/">Ali Motahari</a> called "a sign of dictatorship". The president’s statement that there is no political party but the party of <em>velayate faqih</em> (the rule of the jurist) is a further sign of his inclinations.<br /><br />All this suggests that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad intends to engineer the 2011 election as he and his allies did the 2009 one - and that this time, since leading reformists such as <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/the-political-evolution-of-mousavi.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> have already been banished from the political arena, it is the moderate conservatives who will be marginalised. The path to the next presidential election in 2013, and the conversion of Iran into a populist dictatorship in perpetuity, will then be clear. It seems that Ahmadinejad feels confident that he has all the major tools to complete this job - strong support from Ayatollah Khamenei’s office, control of Iran’s state broadcaster, command of the <em>basij</em> militias and the IRGC, domination of the Guardian Council, and reliable backing from influential pro-government clerics such as <a href="http://www.mesbahyazdi.org/english/">Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi</a>.<br /><br />Such political calculations raise questions over the role of Iran’s traditional and independent clergy, and whether they might challenge the <a href="http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php">supreme leader's</a> (to date) unconditional support for President Ahmadinejad and the growing departure of the country’s leadership from the constitution of the Islamic Republic. <br /><br />Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is formally accountable to the Assembly of Experts, an elected <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE61L0ZR20100222">body</a> of eighty-six high-ranking clerics charged with that role. Some of its members, such as Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib, have been openly <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iranian_Officials_Close_Opposition_Ayatollahs_Mosque/1920954.html">critical</a> of the supreme leader. But in reality, the assembly is incapable of seriously endangering Khamenei's position. <br /><br />In fact, the radical faction in power has used all the great resources of propaganda at its disposal to project the idea that Khamanei is beyond the constitution and any form of democratic accountability. In July 2010, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council, even <a href="http://www.abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&amp;id=192553">said</a> that Ayatollah Khamenei had been delivered by God to his position as leader.<br /><br />There is a pattern here, whereby Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies are attempting to put the legitimacy of <a href="http://www.electionguide.org/country.php?ID=103">power</a> beyond the people's vote; to put their own thoughts and beliefs beyond Iran's constitution and political institutions; and to form a new discourse in Iran's politics. All this may be part of a political project that echoes developments in Russia, with Ahmadinejad <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/july/12//desire-to-turn-ahmadinejad-into-putin.html">playing</a> the role of Vladimir Putin by putting in place mechanisms that entrench his and his <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/09/hardliners-tighten-grip-on-academia.html">allies</a>’ rule. <br /><br />It is likely now that new, reliable members of parliament will be handpicked, more than ever, in the 2011 election and that the choice of the next president will be made in the same way. Such a transformation in Iran's politics will end the political life of many leading conservative figures, creating a homogeneous political world that reflects the will of Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The danger of a return of reformists, or of a threat to the monopoly of the IRGC over politics and the economy, will be ended. In this sense, the severe post-election crackdown on reformist politicians and human-rights activists was the first stage of the show - 2011 will be the the final episode.<br /><br />Thus, the coming year in Iran’s domestic politics is crucial. The moderate conservatives know that they have just over a year to reverse the current course. They have resources: one of their number, <a href="http://www.citymayors.com/mayors/tehran-mayor.html">Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf</a>, is a popular mayor of Tehran; the city-council there is relatively moderate and diverse (including four reformist members); and moderates still have a voice within the parliament, bazaar, and media. It is an unequal struggle, but the moderate conservatives have no choice but to wage it. <br /><br />This is also true of the opposition, both the outright anti-regime forces and “inside-opposition” figures such as the reformist presidential candidates of 2009, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and <a href="http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/iran-guards-stop-opposition-leader-from-joining-mass-rally-20100903-14u46.html">Mehdi Karroubi</a> - both of whom are still capable of affecting the political equation. <br /><br /><strong>The danger of war</strong><br /><br />This domestic picture helps to clarify the impact of external pressure on Iranian politics. A former high official in Tehran told me recently that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomes this pressure and uses it as a means to isolate his opponents even more. "When the country is in danger, everybody has to support the government and criticising the government would be equal to helping Iran’s enemies", he said. <br /><br />Iranian leaders are masters at turning foreign threats to their advantage. This includes the international concern with Iran's nuclear programme, which (contrary to the image of rule by fanatics) the radicals in Tehran are rational in seeking to use for bargain and leverage. <br /><br />The Iranian leadership has managed to reach a situation where negotiation with Washington - and even a limited military attack - could serve its domestic goals and guarantee its survival. If it chooses to compromise, Iran could in principle offer measures that would lift international <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/What_If_Sanctions_On_Iran_Dont_Work/2028299.html">sanctions</a> in exchange for less foreign pressure over its internal politics and human-rights situation. And even if negotiations fail or prove abortive, leading to a United States or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites, the government - fuelled by a strong wave of nationalist sentiment - can use this as an opportunity to establish total control. <br /><br />A military <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/iran-vs-israel-risk-of-war">assault </a>on Iran will have other disastrous effects: it would lead to more human-rights violations, worsen the situation for Iran’s middle class, push Iran further towards dictatorship, and end any prospect of a more democratic country in the near future. For the Iranian leadership, there are many positives in this scenario; the elite has prepared for it for a long time and knows how to make the best of it. In this sense those who support the option of military attack against Iran in Washington and Tel Aviv are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hidden allies.&nbsp; <br /><br />The United States has fewer <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-barack-obama-iran">options</a>. But by removing the threat of a military attack, Washington would make the job of Tehran’s hardliners more difficult, and encourage fragmentation among the top <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">layers</a> of the political elite. In the present circumstances, the end of the military option would create space for those in Iran seeking to hold the hardliners in check, and offer an opening to Iranian democracy and the Iranian people. <br /><br /></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ali M Ansari, <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415454865/"><em>Iran under Ahmadinejad: The Politics of Confrontation</em></a> (Routledge, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/">Planet Iran</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/">Tehran Bureau </a></p><p><a href="http://www.iranwatch.org/">IranWatch</a></p><p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.org/www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><span><span>Iran and IAEA</span></span></a></p><p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>Trita Parsi, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300120578"><em>Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States </em></a>(Yale University Press, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Omid Memarian is an Iranian journalist and civil-society activist. He was awarded Human Rights Watch’s highest honour, the Human Rights Defender award, in 2005. His website is <a href="http://omidmemarian.com/about-me/short-bio/">here </a></p><p>Also by Omid Memarian in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/radar_3828.jsp">Under the radar: an Iranian and America</a>" (16 January 2006)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/election_ahmadinejad_4248.jsp">Ahmadinejad, Iran and America</a>" (15 January 2007) - with Dariush Zahedi</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran_prepared_for_the_worst">Iran: prepared for the worst</a>" (30 October 2007)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-on-the-move">Iran on the move</a>" (11 June 2009)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/us_engage_4584.jsp">Iran and the United States: time to engage</a>" (1 May 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">The children of Iran: lives in tumult</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">Iran: what happened, where now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/how-to-make-peace-with-iran">How to make peace with Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power Omid Memarian Mon, 06 Sep 2010 22:54:27 +0000 Omid Memarian 55856 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brazil-Turkey and Iran: a new global balance https://www.opendemocracy.net/mariano-aguirre/iran-turkey-brazil-new-global-balance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The tripartite nuclear-fuel agreement signed in Tehran is a watershed in the emerging configuration of a multipolar world, says Mariano Aguirre of the Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre. </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span>The balance of power that has reigned in the international system since the end of the cold war is undergoing profound shifts. Iran’s <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20100516-turkey-brazil-say-they-have-sealed-deal-iran-nuclear-fuel-swap"><span><span>agreement</span></span></a> with Brazil and Turkey on 17 May 2010 over the treatment of its enriched uranium, and the sanctions that the United States wishes (through a United Nations resolution) to impose on the Tehran government over Iran’s nuclear programme, reveal this system’s deep cracks. The <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/10/19/new_order">change</a> can be measured in the way that (as an editorial in <em>Le Monde</em> noted) discussion of issues such as nuclear proliferation, which used to be confined to permanent members of the UN Security Council, now finds countries from the global south playing a key role (see <span><em><a href="http://www.lemonde.fr/opinions/article/2010/05/19/nucleaire-iranien-le-sud-emergent-veut-sa-place-dans-la-negociation_1353888_3232.html">Nucléaire iranien: le Sud émergent veut sa place dans la négociation</a>,&nbsp; Le Monde,</em> 19 May 2010).</span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span><span>Turkey and Brazil are classic examples of such countries – and their influence is increased by their current presence (as non-permanent members) of the Security Council. The fuel-swap deal they agreed with Tehran provides for the transfer of that part of the uranium&nbsp; enriched at Iranian <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4617398.stm"><span><span>laboratories</span></span></a> - initially to Turkey, then to France and Russia - in order for it to be processed for peaceful (specifically medical) purposes. The material would subsequently be returned to Iran. The three signatories indicated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (<a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml"><span><span>IAEA</span></span></a>) – to which Iran formally <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/10148376.stm"><span><span>submitted</span></span></a> the deal on 24 May - would verify this cycle of transfer and return.&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p> <p><span>&nbsp;</span><span><span>The <a href="http://www.irna.ir/En/View/FullStory/?NewsId=1120821&amp;idLanguage=3"><span><span>document</span></span></a> signed in Tehran does not envisage that <em>all</em> Iranian-enriched uranium&nbsp; would be involved&nbsp;(only the amounts enriched to the higher level <a href="http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article54577.ece">required</a> in principle for weapons-production); but it does&nbsp;create the possibility of a formal accord on the issue with the UN Security Council.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><strong>The question of UN sanctions...</strong></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span></span></span><span><span><span>Washington’s immediate response was to step up negotiations with the permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council to impose a harsh tranche of <a href="http://www.dfat.gov.au/un/unsc_sanctions/iran.html">further</a> sanctions on Iran in the next few months. These would <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8690206.stm">include</a> cargo-inspections on tankers entering and exiting the country, restrictions on diplomatic mobility, freezing the funds of Iranian state employees abroad, and restricting the sale of heavy weapons to Iran.&nbsp; </span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span></span></span></span><span>It is not yet clear whether the ten non-permanent members of the UN Security Council will support such a resolution. Turkey and Brazil seem&nbsp; most <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7742621/Brazil-and-Turkey-urge-UN-Security-Council-against-Iran-sanctions.html">inclined</a> to reject it outright. The fact that Turkey and Russia are scheduled to hold the rotating <a href="http://www.un.org/sc/members.asp">presidency</a> of the Security Council in August-September&nbsp;2010 adds further pressure to an already straitened timetable.</span></p> <p><span></span><span>The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton issued a pithy rejection of Tehran’s agreement with Brasilia and Ankara on 18 May, implying that the timing was designed by Iran to avert the threat of sanctions (see Daniel Dombey et al, “</span><span><a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/58caa4b4-62a4-11df-b1d1-00144feab49a.html"><span><span>Clinton attacks Turkey-Brazil deal with Iran</span></span></a>”, <em>Financial Times</em>, 18 May 2010)</span><span>. Yet only a few months earlier, Washington was trying to reach a very similar pact with the Iranian, French and Russian governments. The Turkish government has declared itself deeply dissatisfied with the situation, indicating that the United States requested its help in negotiating with Iran (see Trita Parsi, "<a href="http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/05/17/the_turkey_brazil_iran_deal_can_washington_take_yes_for_an_answer">The Turkey, Brazil-Iran deal: Can&nbsp; Washington take 'yes' for an answer?",</a> <em>Foreign Policy</em>, 17 May 2010).&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span><strong>...and of US strategic goals</strong></span></p> <p><span></span><span><span>However, the swap agreement reached by Iran with Brazil </span></span><span><span>and Turkey has highlighted that what the United States really wants is for Iran to shut down its <a href="http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iran/index.html"><span><span>nuclear programme</span></span></a> and to cease processing any uranium whatsoever. This is also a strategic goal for Israel. Tehran argues that it cannot be forbidden from developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as the nuclear-weapons non-proliferation treaty (<a href="http://www.un.org/Depts/dda/WMD/treaty/"><span><span>NPT</span></span></a>) allows such activity.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span><span></span></span><span><span><span>Washington’s attitude disappointed Ankara. The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that “this is the moment to discuss if we believe in the supremacy of law or in the law of the supremes and superiors”. He added: “while [the United States] still has nuclear weapons, where does it get the credibility to ask other countries not to have them?” (see Paul Woodward, </span><span>“<a href="http://warincontext.org/2010/05/20/for-the-world-has-changed-and-we-must-change-with-it/"><span><span>’For the world has changed, and we must change with it’</span></span></a>”, <em>War in Context</em>, 20 May 2010).</span><span> The NPT establishes that nuclear powers should negotiate disarmament while ensuring that other countries do not develop their own nuclear weapons. In reality, neither of these two objectives seems very likely to succeed, even if countries such as Brazil, Argentina and South Africa have explicitly renounced nuclear escalation.&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><strong>The role of the UN</strong></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span></span></span></span><span><span><span><span>The forceful American <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37104068/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/#storyContinued">rejection </a>of the Brazilian-Turkish-Iranian diplomacy is itself under fire. The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon <a href="http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34791&amp;Cr=iran&amp;Cr1=">told </a>reporters in New York on 24 May that&nbsp;the tripartite agreement to be an important "confidence-building" initiative. In welcoming the role played by Turkey and Brazil, he expressed the hope that “these and other initiatives [would] open the door to a negotiated agreement” involving the IAEA.&nbsp; This would seem to suggest that the sanctions that the US seeks are unlikely to be forthcoming (see), though the UN report published on 31 May <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/world/middleeast/01nuke.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss"><span><span>saying</span></span></a> that Iran has sufficient fuel to make two nuclear weapons highlights the delicacy of the current diplomatic balance.&nbsp;&nbsp;</span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span></span></span></span></span><span><span><span><span><span>For Turkey, the fuel-exchange accord is proof of its growing <a href="http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=58848">influence</a> as a regional power in the middle east and parts of Asia, and even beyond (Ankara <a href="http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-198783-difficult-road-ahead-for-turkish-foreign-ministry-restructuring.html">plans</a> to open thirty new <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e755653e-6100-11df-9bf0-00144feab49a.html%20">embassies</a> in Africa and Latin America). While the European Union <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/katinka-barysch/turkey-and-europe-shifting-axis"><span><span>blocks</span></span></a> its membership, Ankara is actively pursuing a diplomatic role in open-ended talks with countries caught in a stalemate (see David Gardner, "<a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9f8ae0b2-614b-11df-9bf0-00144feab49a.html%20%20">Determined Turkey aims to show EU it is an asset</a>", <em>Financial Times</em>, 17 May 2010). An example is its role in facilitating dialogue between Israel and Syria.</span></span></span></span></span></p> <p><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Yet despite this shift, Turkey <a href="http://www.mfa.gov.tr/synopsis-of-the-turkish-foreign-policy.en.mfa">remains</a> a key geopolitical ally for Nato in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, any tension between Turkey and the US is not easy for Washington; nor is it very comfortable for London and Paris&nbsp;<span>(see </span><span>Carsten Wieland, “<a href="http://article/turkeys-political-emotional-transition"><span><span>Turkey’s political-emotional transition</span></span></a>”, 6 October 2009)</span><span>. </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>The same is true in the case of tension between Turkey and Israel, acutely highlighted by the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/international-reaction-turkey-demands-that-israel-be-punished-1988973.html">crisis</a> over the Israeli <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/10203726.stm">commando-raid</a> on 31 May on a flotilla of international activists intent on carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza (see Kerem Oktem, “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings"><span><span>Turkey and Israel: ends and beginnings</span></span></a>”, 10 December 2009). </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></span></span></span></span></span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><a href="http://www.presidencia.gov.br/ingles/president/"><span><span>Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s</span></span></a></span><span> government firmly believes that the UN should not ban any country from developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Brazil’s voice, moreover, speaks with authority: the country wants to <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,696553,00.html"><span><span>become</span></span></a> a permanent member of the UN Security Council; plays a key role in relations between Washington and Latin America; and has now passed the test as a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arthur-ituassu/brazils-new-political-identity"><span><span>recognised</span></span></a> world power. </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><strong>The sanctions faultline</strong></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span><span>Hillary Clinton’s instant criticism of the Brazil-Turkey agreement included the confident statement that the United States has the backing of the other four permanent Security Council members - Russia, China, France and Britain - against it. But Moscow and Beijing have denied that the oil-and-gas trade is <a href="http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N19206884.htm">included</a> in the <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/22155"><span><span>draft resolution</span></span></a> on sanctions on Iran (as published by the <em>Washington Post</em>); and China has indicated that, even were it to support sanctions, it is still interested in collaboration between emerging economies.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span><span><span></span></span></span></span><span>Russia sees the sanctions issue as a matter of its own international reputation far more than one of American credibility. The <em>Washington Post</em> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052102590.html"><span><span>reports</span></span></a> that the draft resolution would exempt a set of weapon-systems that Russia intends to sell to Iran. In fact, Washington also lifted other restrictions constraining official Russian institutions and companies with respect to the arms they may sell to Iran and to Syria. There are questions here over the consistency of the Barack Obama administration’s policy (see Paul Woodward, “<a href="http://warincontext.org/2010/05/28/is-obamas-word-worth-anything/"><span><span>Is Obama’s word worth anything?</span></span></a>”, <em>War in Context</em>, 28 May 2010).&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span></span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>The agreement between Iran, Brazil and Turkey may not resolve all the tensions surrounding Iran. But it is a watershed in the configuration of a new <a title="multipolar" href="http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/after-empire-birth-multipolar-world">multipolar</a> world. </span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no">Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre</a> (Noref)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iaea.org/">International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)</a></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.tehrantimes.com/">Tehran Times</a></em></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.un.org/news/">UN News Centre</a></em></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/">Foreign Policy</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p>Fareed Zakaria, <em><a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4459">The Post-American World</a> </em>(WW Norton, 2008)</p> <p>Dilip Hiro, <em><a href="http://www.nationbooks.org/book/204/After%20Empire">After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World</a> </em>(Nation Books, 2009)</p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mariano Aguirre is managing director of the <a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no">Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre</a> (Noref)</p> <p>This article&nbsp;is a revised version of one&nbsp;published&nbsp;by <a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no/">Noref</a></p> <p>Also by Mariano Aguirre in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-election2004/article_2228.jsp">America underneath New York</a>" (18 November 2004)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-multiculturalism/article_2342.jsp">The many cities of Buenos Aires</a>" (16 February 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/jefferson_2679.jsp">Exporting democracy, revising torture: the complex misions of Michael Ignatieff</a>" (14 July 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/response_2734.jsp">Mr Rogers&nbsp;'democracy by force':&nbsp;America goes to war</a>" (4 August 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-climate_change_debate/disaster_2802.jsp">The hurricane and the empire</a>" (4 September 2005)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/state_violence_3187.jsp">Failed states or weak democracies? The state in Latin America</a>" (17 January 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/conflict-madridprevention/11-M_3341.jsp">Spain: 11-M and the right's revenge</a>" (10 March 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/bush_security_3408.jsp">Bush's security's strategy: defend the nation, change the world</a>" (30 March 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/bolivia_reform_3908.jsp">Bolivia: the challenges to state reform</a>" (14 September 2006) - with Isabel Moreno</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/un_paradox_4073.jsp">Power and paradox in the United Nations</a>" (7 November 2006)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy_power/blair_legacy/tony_blair_farewell">Tony Blair: farewell letters</a>" (27 June 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="Mercenaries%20and%20the%20new%20configuration%20of%20world%20violence">Mercenaries and the new configuration of world violence</a>" (16 October 2007)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/israel_palestine/annapolis">Annapolis: how to avoid failure</a>" (12 November 2007) - with Mark Taylor</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/haiti-unravelling-the-knot">Haiti: unravelling the knot"</a> (2 September 2008) - with Amélie Gauthier</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/47701">Barack Obama and Afghanistan: a closer look</a>" (8 April 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/48212">Torture: America's policy, Europe's shame</a>" (19 June 2009) - with Jan Egeland</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/48347">Democracy-promotion: doctrine vs dialogue" </a>(14 July 2009)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/49998">Haiti: the politics of recovery</a>"&nbsp;(with Tone Faret) (28 January 2010)</p> <p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/50914">Israel-Palestine: a frontline report" </a>(26 March 2010)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerem-oktem/turkey-and-israel-ends-and-beginnings">Turkey and Israel: ends and beginnings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arshin-adib-moghaddam/how-to-make-peace-with-iran">How to make peace with Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/the-guns-of-august-non-event-with-consequences">The guns of August: non-event with consequences</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/stephen-ellis/saharas-new-cargo-drugs-and-radicalism">The Sahara&#039;s new cargo: drugs and radicalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/katinka-barysch/turkey-and-europe-shifting-axis">Turkey and Europe: a shifting axis </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arthur-ituassu/brazil-after-lula-left-vs-left">Brazil after Lula: left vs left</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-israel-historic-choice">America and Israel: a historic choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/tale-of-three-cities-washington-baghdad-tehran">A tale of three cities: Washington, Baghdad, Tehran </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/america-and-worlds-jungle">America and the world’s jungle</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/world-on-margin">A world on the margin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-irandemocracy/israel_2974.jsp">The Iran-Israel cold war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/leslie-bethell/brazil%E2%80%99s-election-year-politics-and-personalities">Brazil&#039;s election: politics and personalities</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/a-new-world-order">A new world order </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Turkey Brazil Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics the future of turkey democracy & iran american power & the world democracy & power conflicts middle east Mariano Aguirre Wed, 02 Jun 2010 23:47:21 +0000 Mariano Aguirre 54546 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to make peace with Iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/arshin-adib-moghaddam/how-to-make-peace-with-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The case for diplomatic engagement rather than military confrontation with Iran is well-founded in principle and achievable in reality, says Arshin Adib-Moghaddam.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>There seems to be a growing international consensus that the search for a “cold peace’ with Iran is a desirable, even essential approach on the part of the international community. Indeed, successive “war games” at specialised institutions in the United States have shown that bombing Iran’s nuclear installations is militarily unviable. Even some Israeli and American military officials have indicated the same.</p> <p>Many Iranian <a href="http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/index.php?Lang=en&amp;Page=00">analysts</a> continue to see in the stance of the United States and some of its allies a permanent, if often veiled, threat to the country. At the same time, from the American side the “military option” does not appear to be realistic. On one side, it is a strategic tool, part of the gunboat diplomacy that has characterised US foreign policy <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_perpetual_crisis_4128.jsp">toward</a> the Islamic Republic for quite some time. On the other, it is continuously emphasised in order to signal to Iran that worse things than <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/What_If_Sanctions_On_Iran_Dont_Work/2028299.html">sanctions</a> could be in store. At this stage, the war option is a rhetorical means to an end: getting concessions from Iran on the nuclear <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2007/12/20085251853218888.html">issue</a>.</p> <p>But that may be the wrong approach. A growing number of peace activists and scholars have been arguing that positive diplomacy is the only route beyond the current <a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">impasse</a>. The rhetoric of threats and sanctions as a part of what President Obama called a “<a href="http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/index.php?Lang=en&amp;Page=21&amp;TypeId=12&amp;ArticleId=7426&amp;BranchId=31&amp;Action=ArticleBodyView">dual-track</a> approach to Iran” is only effective if the second track, that of engagement, supersedes the rhetoric of threats. Positive diplomacy toward Iran links up exactly with the multilateral strategy that the Barack Obama <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-barack-obama-iran">administration</a> has been stressing, most recently at the nuclear-security <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8613810.stm">summit</a> on 12-13 April 2010 in Washington. Now is the time to extend the scope of that multilateral approach to include Iran, in order to pre-empt any concerted movement toward war in the post-Obama period.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A matter of trust</strong></p> <p>A number of substantial trust-building measures could be taken. The first is that both the European Union and the United States should make more effectively use of the amicable relations that Brazil, Japan and Turkey have with Iran. These three countries share a common commitment to find a diplomatic solution to the present standoff.</p> <p>A series of recent diplomatic exchanges illustrates the point. Japan’s foreign minister Katsuya Okada, in a <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/feb/1200.html">meeting</a> with the influential speaker of Iran’s <em>majlis</em> (parliament) Ali Larijani on 24 February 2010, <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=119384&amp;sectionid=351020104">offered</a> to provide Iran with enriched uranium as a means of easing tensions; <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/leslie-bethell/brazil%25E2%2580%2599s-election-year-politics-and-personalities">Brazil’s</a> President Lula has expressed his opposition to the renewal of United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran, and is scheduled to <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=125875&amp;sectionid=351020101">visit</a> Tehran on 17 May; and Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who joins Lula at a gathering of the “<a href="http://www.g15.org/history.html">Group of Fifteen</a>”) describes Iran a “strategic partner” and is equally <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20100406-diplomacy-should-settle-iran-nuclear-question-erdogan">opposed</a> to a further round of sanctions.</p> <p>Brazil and Turkey are at present non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Japan retains considerable <a href="http://www.mofa.go.jp/">international</a> influence. All three countries are crucial interlocutors with all the necessary diplomatic capital to position themselves as <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64C4RI20100513">intermediaries</a> between Iran and the United States.</p> <p>By contrast, the European Union has disqualified itself from assuming such a role. The hardline <a href="http://www.ynet.co.il/english/articles/0,7340,L-3442638,00.html">statements</a> of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel have <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6382C820100409">helped</a> deprive these countries of the diplomatic credibility that their predecessors were intent on keeping. Britain too has consistently failed to take a lead in international negotiations; whether the new prime minister <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8675265.stm">David Cameron</a> and foreign secretary William Hague will <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hurvhWUcTMelMRiRnb5AVLwV4mAQ">chart</a> a different course remains to be seen.</p> <p>In this overall situation, the responsibility for progress falls on the states that have retained their independence from the dominant western discourse of threat and coercion towards Iran, and who are as a result considered by the Iranians to be trustworthy brokers.</p> <p><strong>A different path</strong></p> <p>There is room for progress. Since the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iran_Powers_Get_Draft_Nuclear_Deal_For_Approval/1857327.html">talks</a> in October 2009 under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">(IAEA</a>), the Iranian government has repeatedly stressed that it accepts in principle the idea of an exchange-deal whereby it would supply <a href="http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/04/13/6350822.html">enriched</a> uranium to be processed in Russia and then returned to the country; this is <a href="http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-02/09/c_13168671.htm">designed</a> to ensure that it would be used for civil purposes rather than (as Iran’s western critics state or insinuate) military ones.</p> <p>President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated this position in his <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iran_Says_US_Should_Be_Punished_For_Nuclear_Threats/2031487.html">speech</a> on 3 May 2010 at the start of the month-long review conference in New York on the non-proliferation treaty. On the sidelines of an international conference in Tehran in April that had advocated “nuclear energy for all countries and atomic weapons for none”, Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry, <a href="http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=123615&amp;sectionid=351020104">reiterated</a> the country’s wish “to exchange 3.5% enriched uranium, 1 tonne, for 100 kilogrammes of 20% enriched nuclear fuel inside Iran under the supervision of the IAEA”.</p> <p>Those opposed to a coherent diplomatic outreach towards Iran make two arguments. First, they say that this should wait until Iran’s domestic political scene shifts. This however underestimates the nationalist sentiment that is shared across the political <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">spectrum</a> and which animates much of the support for Iran’s diplomatic stance on the nuclear issue.</p> <p>For example, it was the leader of the opposition and former prime minister <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/the-political-evolution-of-mousavi.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> who attacked the Ahmadinejad administration for even being prepared to consider the export of uranium to Russia for processing. The history of Iran, and the way it is embedded in the national consciousness, signal to any Iranian politician that compromising the country’s independence is unacceptable. All the upheavals in Iran’s modern <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=458">history</a> - the tobacco revolt of 1891, the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/constitutional_revolution/constitutional_revolution.php">constitutional revolt</a> of 1906-09, the popular support for <a href="http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/biography/">Mohammad Mossadeq</a> in 1951-53, the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">revolution</a> of 1978-79, and the post-election <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">uprising</a> of 2009 - were motivated by profound nationalistic fervour. Anyone wishing for a change of course from Tehran on matters of perceived core national interest will have a long wait (see <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=467"><em>Iran in World Pol</em><em>i</em><em>tics: The Question of the Islamic Republic</em></a> [C Hurst/<a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70046-7/iran-in-world-politics">Columbia University Press</a>, 2008]).</p> <p>Second, the critics of compromise with Iran say that with the Ahmadinejad administration in power there is no “partner for peace”. They are partially right, in that Iran’s current political <a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">constellation</a> offers no space for a “grand gesture” comparable to Richard Nixon’s <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB106/index.htm">trip</a> to China in February 1972. This is indeed part of the cost of the violent <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/bahareh-hedayat-and-heroes-of-iran">crackdown</a> on the demonstrations that erupted <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">after</a> the disputed election of June 2009.</p> <p>But in a long-term perspective it should be noted that Nixon’s opening came at the end of a realistic strategic assessment of the future of Chinese-American relations, one that went beyond the personalities who happened to be in power at the time. In the early 1960s, at the height of the cold war, the US considered destroying Chinese nuclear <a href="http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/prc64.htm">installations</a> - only to accept that such a step would be militarily impossible and politically disastrous. It took time, but from that sober assessment the policy of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/kerry-brown/chimerica-obama-visits-beijing">engagement</a> emerged.</p> <p>If the same approach were conducted today, it would surely start with the acknowledgment of a fundamental geo-strategic reality: that there is no military solution to the nuclear issue. Iran, by virtue of its size and history, is fundamentally embedded in the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/The_Middle_East_Is_Watching_Irans_Nuclear_Program/2035383.html">region</a>, with influence in all its major points of tension (and others further afield). The implication is that the time to begin exploring the road to a future “grand opening” with Iran is now.</p> <p>These larger factors suggest that the case for peace is well-founded - and that&nbsp;&nbsp; the leading politicians just need to seize it. A policy of engagement that replaces rhetoric with positive diplomacy in the interest even of a “cold peace” would be of immeasurable benefit to both sides. In 2010, peace with Iran is the single most important challenge facing the world community. Everyone has a stake in achieving this goal. The alternative scenario is death, destruction, and unimaginable mayhem, for “them” and for “us”.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=467"><em>Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic</em></a> (C Hurst, 2009)</p> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.irdiplomacy.ir/index.php?Lang=en&amp;Page=00">Iranian Diplomacy</a></p> <p><a href="http://planet-iran.com/">Planet Iran</a></p> <p><a href="../../www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">Iran and IAEA</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.gcsp.ch/e/index.htm">Geneva Centre for Security Policy</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://disarmament.un.org/wmd/npt/npttext.html" target="_blank">Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> <p><a href="http://www.thebulletin.org/">Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists </a></p> <p><a href="http://www.acronym.org.uk/">Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is <a href="http://www.soas.ac.uk/staff/staff36949.php">lecturer</a> in the comparative and international politics of the middle east at SOAS, London. His books include <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=467"><em>Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic</em></a> (C Hurst, 2008 / <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-70046-7/iran-in-world-politics">Columbia University Press</a>, 2008)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare">Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">Iran: what happened, where now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun">Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Conflict Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power conflicts Arshin Adib-Moghaddam Security in Middle East and North Africa Diplomacy Fri, 14 May 2010 21:31:17 +0000 Arshin Adib-Moghaddam 54285 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: torch of fire, politics of fun https://www.opendemocracy.net/asef-bayat/iran-torch-of-fire-politics-of-fun <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The doctrinal contempt of Islamist regimes for popular festivals such as the Iranian nowrooz (new year) extends to suspicion of every expression of spontaneous life. The result is to conjure the very rituals of resistance they fear, says Asef Bayat.  </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Chah</em><em>ā</em><em>rshanbe-S</em><em>ū</em><em>ri</em> ("wednesday feast") is an ancient Persian festival whose origins lie in the Achaemenid <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/achaemenids/achaemenids.php">era</a> of Persia’s civilisation (549-330 bce) and its successors, when Zoroastrian <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/zoroastrianism_under_achaemenids.php">beliefs</a> were strong. By tradition it is celebrated on the last Wednesday night before <em>nowrooz</em> (Iran’s new year) in mid-March. It is a jubilant collective <a href="http://www.parstimes.com/library/chrshnbsuri.html">moment</a> for Iranians in the country and among diaspora communities across the world. In Iran itself, people gather in streets and back-alleys to make bonfires and (in the case of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">younger</a> and more adventurous) jump over them; set off firecrackers; play music, dance and sing; and enjoy special foods and the joys of conviviality. In the life-affirming <a href="http://www.parstimes.com/library/chrshnbsuri.html"><em>Chah</em><em>ā</em><em>rshanbe-S</em><em>ū</em><em>ri</em></a>, modern Iranians each year take the fire that was at the heart of the Zoroastrians’ sense of their world and their collective self-definition, and make it the centrepiece of their own modern ritual.</p> <p>This year, the approach to the <em>Chah</em><em>ā</em><em>rshanbe-S</em><em>ū</em><em>ri - </em>which fell on 16 March 2010 - was of a different character to any in the country’s history. Iran’s doctrinal regime politicised the ritual and made it an object of official fear. A campaign to discourage people from joining the celebrations began when the head of the national police warned parents to prevent their children from going out, and continued with plans by the state-run television to show popular movies to keep youngsters indoors. Then, the authorities <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/03/17/iran.new.year.crackdown/?hpt=T2">deployed</a> security forces (including <em>basij</em> militias armed with guns and batons) in the streets and around the strategic locations of Iran’s major cities. The campaign culminated in the issuing by Iran’s <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">supreme leader</a> Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of an unprecedented <em>fatwa</em> that castigated the ritual as both “irrational” and in Islamic terms “illegitimate” (<em>gheir shar‘i</em>). &nbsp;</p> <p>It didn’t work. As ever, millions of Iranians poured into their neighbourhoods&nbsp; to observe the national “calendar custom”. Many of them responded to the state’s politicisation of <em>Chah</em><em>ā</em><em>rshanbe-S</em><em>ū</em><em>ri </em>by using the occasion to express their own defiance of the clerical regime, chanting slogans and songs of resistance. In Tehran, fifty people were arrested after clashing with the police and <em>basij</em> vigilantes.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Repression as fear</strong></p> <p>Why does the Islamist <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">regime</a> express so much paranoia over Iran’s great annual festival with deep roots in the country’s <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=458">history</a>? The immediate answer would refer to the political context: in particular, the eruption of popular protest against the fraudulent presidential election of 12 June 2009, when Iranians <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">poured</a> onto the streets in a defiant affirmation of justice that only the most ferocious repression could subdue (see Farhang Jahanpour, “ <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran's stolen election, and what comes next</a>”, 18 June 2009). In these circumstances, the regime’s attitude can be seen as inspired by fear that any occasion when Iranians gather in numbers is now an opportunity for the opposition “green movement” to mobilise popular anger and demonstrate how hollow is the regime’s legitimacy (see “ <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty</a>”, 7 July 2009).</p> <p>The Islamic Republic’s deepening fear of the people since mid-2009 is a plausible explanation for its <a href="http://planet-iran.com/index.php/news/11046">animosity</a> towards the joys of <em>Chah</em><em>ā</em><em>rshanbe-S</em><em>ū</em><em>ri</em>. But if the first <em>nowrooz</em> since the election has provoked this stringent campaign, the suspicion of puritan Islamists towards many public expressions of human pleasure has been evident since the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">foundation</a> of the regime in <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">1979</a>. Any occasion of festivity and spontaneous life - informal gatherings at street-corners, concerts and sporting contests, student parties and even bustling shopping-malls - is regarded by Islamist zealots with profound disdain. In this context, Khamenei’s <em>fatwa</em> seeks to give a new doctrinal <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/03/15/iran.new.year.crackdown/">form</a> to this larger paradigm of disparagement.</p> <p>The zealots’ opposition even reaches into private and individual <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran%E2%80%99s-coming-of-age">expressions</a> of festivity. The many videos posted by Iranians of their <i>Chahārshanbe-Sūri</i> celebrations (and protests) onto the web includes a shocking attack by the police and <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Basij_Force_Mainstay_Of_Domestic_Security/1357081.html"><em>basij</em></a> on a late-night indoor private party in a Tehran neighbourhood on 16 March 2010. It shows the security agents dragging a screaming woman into custody - spreading terror among everyday citizens doing what people in normal countries do and take for granted across the world: having fun.</p> <p><strong>Life as politics</strong></p> <p>In its attitude to everyday enjoyment, the Iranian regime has - for all the political differences - much in common with fellow-Islamist states or movements such as <a href="http://www.cup.cam.ac.uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521858364">Saudi Arabia</a> and the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-neo-taliban-a-year-on">Taliban</a> in Afghanistan. There may be variations in what is regarded as “un-Islamic” (television, dance and even kite-flying in the latter case), but the mindset is the same. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The fear of enjoyment is a singular feature of these Islamist states and movements, whose doctrinal models are unable to accommodate - and so are compelled to reject and seek to deligitimise - expressive behaviours that are at the heart of human life: even including playfulness, laughter, and displays of fashion. These power-driven forces seek to reinforce their case by depicting such behaviours as as part of a “western cultural invasion” (see <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><em>Life as Pol</em><em>i</em><em>tics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> [Stanford University Press, 2010]).</p> <p>Here, the systemic intolerance towards so much that constitutes the human also reveals its inner weakness in face of its <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">innocent</a> enemy. To suppress fun in everyday life - including on festive and ritual occasions - is also to politicise it. The doctrinal compulsion to control turns the everyday into a site of struggle and defiance; such that each explosion of a firecracker in what would otherwise be a routine festival becomes a thunderous affirmation to the highest power: “I do not want you”.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asef Bayat, <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080"><em>Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2010)</p> <p>Asef Bayat, <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=10420"><em>Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn</em></a> (Stanford University Press, 2007)</p><p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059"><em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em></a> (Yale University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=458"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em> </a>(C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asef Bayat is professor of sociology and middle-east studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His books include<em> <a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=10420">Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn </a></em>(Stanford University Press, 2007; <em><a href="http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=17080">Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East</a> </em>(Stanford University Press, 2010);<em> </em>and (with Linda Herrera)<em> <a href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/academic/series/politics/rgp/9780195369212.do?sortby=bookTitleAscend%20">Being Young and Muslim: Cultural Politics in the Global South and North</a> </em>(Oxford University Press, 2010)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/democratising-the-muslim-world">Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics">Iran: from protest to politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult">The children of Iran: lives in tumult</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory">Iran: a phantom victory</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture">Iran&#039;s pre-revolutionary rupture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-unfinished-crisis">Iran&#039;s unfinished crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-archaeology-of-iran-s-regime">The archaeology of Iran’s regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government International politics politics of protest faith & ideas democracy & iran democracy & power Asef Bayat Wed, 24 Mar 2010 23:31:23 +0000 Asef Bayat 50888 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The children of Iran: lives in tumult https://www.opendemocracy.net/linda-herrera-s-deghati/children-of-iran-lives-in-tumult <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The emotional and psychological impact on children of the political crisis in Iran is an important and neglected issue, say S Deghati & Linda Herrera.  </div> </div> </div> <p>Iran’s months of street-demonstrations that erupted after the disputed presidential election of 12 June 2009 have hit the country’s young people - including children - especially hard. The effects are various, damaging, and in many cases. It is a phenomenon that deserves to be considered as a distinct part of the kaleidoscope of Iran’s collective social experience in these <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">dramatic</a> months.</p> <p>Children have been among the ranks of anti-government protesters, and some of those in their mid-teens are also represented in the paramilitary <em>basij</em> <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Basij_Force_Mainstay_Of_Domestic_Security/1357081.html">militia</a>. The conflict that divides their country - and especially the opposition “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">green movement</a>” - enters and shapes children's worlds in Iran. &nbsp;</p> <p>Some remarks of schoolchildren known to one of us illustrates the point:</p> <p>"I don't tell my classmates that I'm among the green, I'm afraid to let them know what I think."</p> <p>"I have a classmate who is not green, I hate sitting next to her. I asked my teacher to change my seat."</p> <p>"Since I've seen the protests, since I've seen those many Basijis, I'm not afraid anymore"</p> <p>"I'm tired of listening to the news. Can't we just have fun for one day?"</p> <p>"Please don't go to the rallies, you could be arrested."</p> <p>If young people played a central role as active subjects in the early weeks of the protest, they also soon became the targeted object of intense surveillance and policing action from the authorities. The immediate <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">post-election</a> wave caught Iran’s hardline rulers somewhat off-guard; but by the time of the protests around the religious festival of Ashura in late December 2009, they had established efficient <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/27/iran.protests/index.html">mechanisms</a> to identify, arrest and prosecute young demonstrators.</p> <p>A range of methods was used. The hardliners’ websites displayed multiple images of young protesters and invited users to identify them. In addition, headteachers in middle- and high-schools across Tehran were instructed to display posters featuring the images of hundreds of wanted teenagers, and students were told to provide information about anyone they recognised. Some middle-school pupils (12-14 year-olds) were taken on field-trips to <em>Ebrat</em>, &nbsp;a once-feared prison-turned-museum in Tehran that had been used during the reign of <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mohammad_rezashah/mohammad_rezashah.php">Mohammad Reza Shah</a> (1941-79) to incarcerate and torture political prisoners. These methods serve the dual purpose of delivering a lesson or warning (indeed, this is the meaning of <em>Ebrat</em>) to and instilling fear in a young (and potentially green) generation about the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran%25E2%2580%2599s-coming-of-age">consequences</a> of their involvement in the movement.&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the targeted young people have indeed been hunted down and arrested - and worse. For on 28 January 2010, in the approach to the high-tension thirty-first <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2010/0211/Iran-revolution-anniversary-sparks-clashes-arrests-in-Tehran">anniversary</a> of the 1979 revolution, two young men who had been arrested in April 2009 - Arash Rahmani and Ali Zamani - were <a href="http://www.iranhumanrights.org/tag/mohammad-reza-ali-zamani/">executed</a>. Arash was 19 at the time of his execution, though he had been charged with offences against national security that he was alleged to have committed when under the legal age of responsibility. That makes Arash’s case of under-18 execution one that international child-rights organisations have a responsibility to examine closely and seek to hold the Iranian state accountable to its obligations. &nbsp;</p> <p>The psychological effect of the state-security campaign against those who have raised a voice is often extreme. Every day, lists are issued of Iranian citizens - workers, artists, teachers, students - who have been arrested. This situation creates an atmosphere of fear and stress for everyone, not least children and teenagers who worry that their classmates and their teachers may be next. The state of fear deepened as the major anniversary of 11 February approached, with children from “green homes” especially filled with anxiety.&nbsp; Some cried and pleaded with their older family members - parents, brothers and sisters - not to go onto the streets.</p> <p><strong>A generation’s test</strong></p> <p>Iranian children are growing up as a highly politicised generation. As they watch and witness the protests, express civil disobedience in their own ways, experience and observe state violence or oppression, their views about citizenship are being shaped in ways that may have far-reaching consequences.&nbsp;</p> <p>The growing reports of children's involvement as actors and victims in the protests has led to a growing recognition of the need for Iranian civil society to be more proactive on children's issues. A few organisations in Iran are taking a lead as child advocates in the context of the security crisis; they include the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, an NGO founded by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-irandemocracy/article_1557.jsp">Shirin Ebadi</a>; among many other actions, it submitted an open letter to the judiciary to raise concerns about the arrest and imprisonment of adolescent children.</p> <p>But the scale of the problems affecting young people and children mean that it is time for activists and the larger civil society who work with children to explore other ways of advocating and promoting children's rights. Such initiatives as interactive and civic-education programmes that promote pluralism and dealing respectfully with difference - in contrast to the volatile “us” versus “them”&nbsp; polarisation of the current period - could be very beneficial. To recognise the roles and contribution of children is a valuable aim for all of those struggling for rights and justice in Iran; for how children learn about and “do” politics, to claim and protect their rights, will be of tremendous importance for them throughout their lives. &nbsp;</p> <p>More immediately, the aftermath of the revolution’s 2010 anniversary has been depicted as confirming the regime’s <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/02/20102117332284608.html">strength</a> and confidence. It is also a time when the opposition movement is beginning to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">consider</a> ways of refining its strategy for peaceful and democratic change. This will involve looking at tactics other than street protests as part of a medium-to-long-term campaign. A wise movement will include among its projects the need to engage with children and to address the fear and anxieties they are experiencing in these tense times. Such effects, internal to young people and families, are part of the wider agony that Iranians continue to live through.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Linda Herrera is <a href="http://www.iss.nl/iss/profile/AC1276">senior lecturer</a> in international development, and convenor of children and youth studies, at the International Institute of Social Studies (<a href="http://www.iss.nl/">ISS</a>) in Rotterdam<br /><br />S Deghati is a child-rights advocate, based in Iran</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & iran democracy & power S Deghati Linda Herrera Fri, 19 Feb 2010 21:10:30 +0000 Linda Herrera and S Deghati 50380 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: from protest to politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran-from-protest-to-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The contest between Iran’s state and the opposition movement that arose after the presidential election of June 2009 is now at a critical point. How confident is the regime, where is the “green movement” going, and what should the international community do? openDemocracy writers examine the impasse. </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p><ul> <li> <p><strong><a href="#1">Farhang Jahanpour: What happened, where now?</a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#2">Aziz Motazedi: The next anniversary<br /></a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#3">Mahmood Delkhasteh: A promise unfulfilled</a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#4">Nazenin Ansari: A time to rethink</a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#5">Sanam Vakil: A phantom victory</a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#6">Potkin Azarmehr: Inside and outside</a></strong></p></li> <li> <p><strong><a href="#7">Nasrin Alavi: A coming of age</a></strong></p></li></ul> <p><strong>----------------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="1"></a></p> <p><strong>Farhang Jahanpour: What happened, where now? </strong></p> <p>The passing of eight months since the fraudulent presidential election in Iran on 12 June 2009, and the coincident thirty-first anniversary of the Islamic revolution of 11 February 1979, is an appropriate time to assess the current political situation in Iran; and especially the record of the “green movement” that acquired an incipient identity during the election campaign and emerged as a force in the series of protests that followed it (see “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran’s stolen election, and what comes next</a>”, 18 June 2009).</p> <p>The official commemoration in Tehran of the 1979 events, and the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Opposition_Must_Take_Back_The_Initiative/1956411.html">absence</a> of substantial mobilisation by the opposition, is significant only in relation to the false expectation that this moment would in some way signal the end of the Islamic Republic. Indeed, some observers have compared the current protests to the revolutionary wave that resulted in the relatively speedy downfall of Mohammad Reza Shah's government. However, a realistic assessment of events and in Iran suggests few similarities between the two <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">experiences</a>. The true import of the green movement’s challenge lies elsewhere.</p> <p><strong>To read more, click </strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now"><strong>here</strong></a><strong>...</strong></p> <p><em>Farhang Jahanpour is a former </em><a href="http://transnational.org/SAJT/tff/people/f_jahanpour.html"><em>professor</em></a> <em>and dean of the faculty of languages at the University of Isfahan. He is associate fellow of the </em><a href="http://www.orinst.ox.ac.uk/"><em>faculty of Oriental studies</em></a> <em>at the University of Oxford</em></p> <p><em>Also by Farhang Jahanpour,</em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now"><em>Iran: what happened, where now?</em></a>” <em>(16 February 2010) </em></p> <p><strong>-------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="2"></a></p> <p><strong>Aziz Motazedi: The next anniversary <br /></strong></p> <p>The commemoration of the thirty-first anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 2010 was held under very different circumstances from previous years. For the first time, another voice (albeit a weak one) was heard among the pro-government throngs. It belonged to the uninvited guests, the supporters of the “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">green movement</a>” in Iran. &nbsp;</p> <p>The annual event, the very early years after the 1979 revolution excepted, has always been an occasion tightly controlled by the government. This requires careful planning. In Tehran, the people prepared voluntarily to participate are rather scarce, so the regime cannot rely solely on their presence. Thus, the regime gathers a <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8509765.stm">significant</a> number of its supporters from Tehran’s suburbs and environs, who are supplemented by government employees and their families; they are given free transport and promised food and a financial reward to become party of the official rally in Azadi Square.&nbsp;</p> <p>The planning this year had to be mindful of the continuing public demonstrations of the opposition movement, including their efforts to use official events as a cover from which to launch protests. Some elements of the opposition managed to circumvent the high level of security, with the result that the regime’s gifts to the <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2010/0211/Iran-revolution-anniversary-sparks-clashes-arrests-in-Tehran">crowd</a> on 11 February 2010 included not just sweets and soft drinks but tear-gas, batons and paint-bullets (to identify targets for subsequent arrest).</p> <p>There may be some benefit in the latest event, in that some loyal citizens whose knowledge of the green movement may previously had been only second-hand and slanted by the biased reports of state television must have acquired first-hand <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/02/20102117332284608.html">experience</a> of their fellow-Iranian “adversaries” - and of the behaviour of the security forces.</p> <p>But the opposition has suffered an upset. It is now moving on to a phase of self-criticism and re-evaluation, aware that the state’s power and experience demands a revised <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/11/04/whos_really_running_irans_green_movement">strategy</a> of protest.</p> <p>The Islamic Republic is basking in its success, claiming that the revolution’s thirty-first anniversary was also the <a href="http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/9412">funeral</a> of what it calls the “green sedition”. But this state has in the past often boasted of a complete victory, and been proved wrong. Now it must plan for the thirty-second anniversary.</p> <p><em>Aziz Motazedi is an Iranian novelist and essayist. He has lived in Montreal since 1995. His website is </em><a href="http://www.azizmotazedi.com/2.html"><em>here</em></a></p> <p><em>Also by Aziz Motazedi:</em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter"><em>Iran: revolution for the hereafter</em></a>” <em>(25 August 2009)</em></p> <p><strong>-------------------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="3"></a></p> <p><strong>Mahmood Delkhasteh: A promise unfulfilled </strong></p> <p>The Iranian power-elite has once more deceived its opponents by using them to claim a propaganda victory. The significant numbers at the official anniversary celebration of the 1979 revolution in Tehran on 11 February 2010 (if fewer than claimed by the regime) and the lack of significant public protest, can indeed be regarded both as a success for the state and a setback for the opposition. But in a longer perspective this outcome was foreshadowed by the events that followed the presidential election of June 2009.</p> <p>At that time, weeks of political freedom and lively debates between presidential candidates inspired millions of people to vote in hope that the regime really could be reformed. These hopes were stung when they heard a near-instant announcement that the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had congratulated the incumbent <a href="http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?curTab=SERIES&amp;id=&amp;series=1648745&amp;parent_id=&amp;sku=&amp;isbn=9780415454865&amp;pc=">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad</a> on his “victory”.&nbsp;</p> <p>The humiliating sense of having been used and the bitterness of broken dreams of change provoked a collective refusal to accept this gigantic fraud, and fuelled the largest and most spontaneous demonstrations in Iran since 1978-79. The regime responded with contempt and an iron fist.</p> <p>The ensuing weeks of brutal repression taught protestors both that the regime would not tolerate any formal opposition, and that their hijacking of state-organised events could be an effective and economical way to make their continual presence known. The most daring such <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/world/middleeast/28iran.html">confrontation</a> took place during the religious festival of Ashura in late December 2009, when protestors effectively took control of parts of Tehran.&nbsp;</p> <p>This anniversary of the revolution presented another golden opportunity for the movement to subvert the regime’s political space. The rulers of <a href="http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/iran.htm">Iran</a> thus intensified their systematic terror-tactics - imprisonment, beatings, harassment, showcase executions - to prevent this from happening.&nbsp;The message was plain: stay away from the anniversary celebrations, or face harsh consequences.</p> <p>How did the movement’s reformist leaders and intellectuals respond? They called on their supporters to blend into the crowd, and only when they reached the president’s platform to flaunt their green credentials. But the regime deflected this tactic by barricading Azadi Square with metal gates and filling it in advance with loyalists transported from outside the capital. Many “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">green-movement</a>”activists were left feeling frustrated and demoralised.</p> <p>Why, after so much experience, did the greens on this symbolic <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/A_Government_Show_Of_Force/1956649.html">day</a> find themselves being counted among the regime’s backers rather than as its visible adversaries? The tension within the movement, which can broadly be described as a “reformist vs radical/revolutionary” one, is an important factor.</p> <p>Many green activists will settle for nothing than less than total political freedom. But the movement’s <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/february/10/preserve-your-identity-and-participate-in-rally.html">leading</a> politicians and intellectuals equate “revolution” with violence and despotism, and “reform” with non-violence and democracy.&nbsp;In a censored climate, their voices are the ones that seep through to the outside world (via outlets like the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/">BBC Persian service</a> and <a href="http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Analysts-Say-Irans-Revolutionary-Guard-Accumulating-Broad-Powers-84619362.html">Voice of America</a>) and then back into Iran.</p> <p>This discourse may have developed through a mixture of projection and self-defence. Many of today’s reformist intellectuals were involved in violent suppression of the freedoms that emerged after the 1979 revolution; but instead of accepting responsibility for their actions they have come to transfer it to the “monster” of revolution itself. In addition, the reformist leaders and their associated intellectuals remain ideologically and emotionally “inside” the <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">regime</a>. They advocate democracy and have a relatively freedom-based interpretation of Islam, but cannot follow the logic: the need to separate religion from the state, which would amount to the “revolution” they dread.&nbsp;</p> <p>The result is that the leadership is trapped between the regime and its supporters. It is likely to chastise the desire for regime-change among many of the grassroots activists as too “radical”.&nbsp;This prevents it from mobilising the movement’s actual potential. In effect the leadership’s dual identity - as at once opposed to and inside the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">elite</a> - traps the movement in turn. In this situation, there are two options: either the figureheads and strategists of the green movement embrace their followers’ more radical ambition to replace the totalitarian state with a democratic one, or the movement will have to bypass them and chart its own course.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Mahmood Delkhasteh is an independent researcher who specialises in the Iranian revolution of 1979, in which he was a participant</em></p> <p><em>Also by Mahmood Delkhasteh:</em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-archaeology-of-iran-s-regime"><em>The archaeology of Iran’s regime</em></a>” <em>(2 July 2009) </em></p> <p><strong>-------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="4"></a></p> <p><strong>Nazenin Ansari: A time to rethink</strong></p> <p>For the first time in thirty-one years, Iranians across the world and across the political spectrum welcomed the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979 as an opportunity to assert their sovereignty.&nbsp;The result may not have been what most of them wished for, but their expectation was justified in one respect: 11 February 2010 has indeed turned out to be a defining moment for the Islamic Republic and the “green movement”, as well as for the international community.</p> <p>The manner in which the regime enforced control and the huge cost of its operation confirm that it recognises its failure to command genuine popular support.&nbsp;But the greens too now recognise the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/-opinion-many-had.html">limits</a> of their capacity, not least that their dependence on domestic communication-networks to <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/february/14/government-supporters-in-gates-people-in-streets.html">mobilise</a> their supporters makes them vulnerable. As a result they understand that it is time to <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/feb/1133.html">refocus</a> their efforts: to propose more defined ideas, to articulate ultimate goals, to refine tactics, and to establish <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/In_the_News_Twitter_doesnt_start_a_revolution_people_do/1952783.html">other</a> (non-internet-based) means of communication.</p> <p>In the approach to 11 February, green voices in Iran campaigned hard with the intention of bringing millions of their supporters onto the streets.&nbsp;Some even announced plans to storm the dreaded Evin prison to free political prisoners, and to seize the state’s <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/january/26/what-is-happening-at-the-state-radio-and-television.html">broadcasting</a> facilities. Their allies abroad disrupted official Iranian engagements and organised demonstrations in major capital cities.&nbsp;The most fervent greens had such high expectations that they genuinely believed that the final victory was in sight.</p> <p><strong>To read more, click </strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink"><strong>here</strong></a><strong>....</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;<em>Nazenin Ansari is diplomatic editor of Kayhan, a weekly Persian-language newspaper published in London. She She is vice-president of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London</em></p> <p><em>Also by Nazenin Ansari:</em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture"><em>Iran's pre-revolutionary rupture</em></a>” <em>(8 December 2009) </em></p> <p><strong>---------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="5"></a></p> <p><strong>Sanam Vakil</strong>: <strong>A phantom victory</strong></p> <p>“Revolutions are born out of hope”, wrote Crane Brinton in his classic work <a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780394700441"><em>The Anatomy of Revolution</em></a><em>. </em>The entire cycle of events in Iran since the contested presidential election of June 2009 - including vibrant demonstrations that have drawn worldwide attention - suggests that Iran is not in a revolutionary condition. At the same time, the state is facing the most serious challenge since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979.</p> <p>The convergence of widespread social and political disenchantment, elite fissures, economic dislocations and international pressure together present a severe test of legitimacy. Even if the state proves able to quell the opposition “green movement” and suppress dissent - as it was able to do on 11 February 2010, the thirty-first anniversary of the revolution of 1979 - it is guaranteed no respite.</p> <p>The green movement that emerged during the election campaign of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/the-political-evolution-of-mousavi.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> in 2009 has offered a formidable challenge to Iran’s state.&nbsp;Its eight months of intermittent but passionate and varied <a href="http://iranmozaik.com/">protest</a> has&nbsp; revealed a resilient movement fuelled both by public anger and widening political cleavages among the Iranian elite. The popular outrage over the election gradually <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iranian_Revolution_PostElection_Unrest_Reveals_Cracks_In_The_Republic/1954539.html">spread</a> into the expression of larger political grievances, including the state’s coercive policies.</p> <p>At the same time, the <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/11/the_rial_problem">divisions</a> within the Iranian elite are deeper than ever.&nbsp;The hardline cadre around the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - which includes the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - uses the ideology and tradition of the revolution as weapons in its attempt to retain a monopoly of power, while the reformist factions and pragmatic backers around Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi (both reformist presidential candidates in the 2009 election) <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mkhatami/mohammad_khatami.php">Mohammad Khatami</a> (Iran’s president, 1997-2005) have rode the social demand for political change.</p> <p><strong>To read more, click </strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory"><strong>here</strong></a><strong>...</strong></p> <p><em>Sanam Vakil is a adjunct </em><a href="http://apps.sais-jhu.edu/faculty_bios/faculty_bio1.php?ID=255"><em>professor</em></a> <em>and visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is writing a book on women’s activism in Iran</em></p> <p><em>Also by Sanam Vakil: </em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-political-shadow-war"><em>Iran’s political shadow-war</em></a>” <em>(16 July 2008) </em></p> <p><strong>----------------</strong></p> <p><a name="6"></a></p> <p><strong>Potkin Azarmehr: Inside and outside</strong></p> <p>The Islamic Republic is its own worst enemy - and its best friend is the opposition outside Iran. This comment, made to me many years ago, has come back to my mind in these days of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">turmoil</a> in Iran.</p> <p>Most informed observers of Iran have known for a long time that the vast majority of the Iranian population - and most of all the young generation - want change. The reason why it has not happened yet can be explained in part by divisions among the opposition. There have been many examples in the Iranian <a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300121056">past</a> of popular upsurges of anger or civic initiative which have won broad support without being able to have a transforming impact. The student uprising in July 1999 is one example, the referendum campaign of 2005 is another.</p> <p>This time, it looked like being different. The four weeks of relative freedom during the presidential-election campaign of 2009 gave millions of Iranians a taste of joyous freedom. The strength in numbers they found then gave them the confidence to behave as free and bold citizens - and made them feel all the more betrayed and angry by the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">deceit</a> of the election result.</p> <p>The civic mobilisation that had occurred before the election thus continued after it in the weeks of <a href="http://iranmozaik.com/">protest</a> that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “victory”. But the indiscriminate repression that followed brought many more people onto the streets. The regime - its own worst enemy - united Iranians in opposition to it. Now it did not matter if you voted in or boycotted the election, nor even if you voted for Ahmadinejad: to be “against the coup” was enough.</p> <p>The spontaneous mass movement showed its <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iranian_Revolution_PostElection_Unrest_Reveals_Cracks_In_The_Republic/1954539.html">confidence</a> and instinctive wisdom in appropriating the discourse of the regime for its own use. The chant of <em>Allah-u-Akbar</em> at night from the rooftops of houses, and of <em>Ya Hussein</em> during demonstrations, turned the state’s weapons against it. The breach of every religious sanctity by the Islamic Republic led Ayatollah Montazeri rightly to say:&nbsp; “This state is neither Islamic nor a Republic”. The regime had lost its political legitimacy, and now it lost its religious legitimacy.</p> <p>What became known as the “green movement” passed the test of survival and endurance over the months that followed, in the face of relentless repression and violence. Now, however, the events of 11 February 2010 - the thirty-first anniversary of the 1979 <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">revolution</a>, when the state was able to present the official rallies in Tehran as a success - makes clear that the movement is a <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Irans_Opposition_Must_Take_Back_The_Initiative/1956411.html">crossroads</a>.</p> <p>The path ahead for the opposition inside Iran is now a matter of intense debate. The precedents referred to above suggest that unity is essential to achieving decisive change. Here the diaspora can play an important part in helping the green movement to overcome obstacles, keep information channels open and keep hope alive. In the past, political divisions among the diaspora have - recalling the second part of the comment I began with - prevented it from realising its own potential and provided succour to the regime. Now is a time when it must lay unnecessary differences aside and use its numbers, resources, funds and organising skills to help its compatriots at home create a free, democratic and peaceful Iran.</p> <p><em>Potkin Azarmehr is a writer and blogger based in London. His website is </em><a href="http://azarmehr.blogspot.com/"><em>here</em></a></p> <p><strong>----------------------</strong></p> <p><a name="7"></a></p> <p><strong>Nasrin Alavi: A coming of age</strong></p> <p>What is happening in Iran cannot be reduced to a story of politics or power, nor understood only in terms of words and actions. The change that is underway is also taking place at a deeper level of sensibility and emotion - felt by many millions but only rarely expressed in ways that easily translate into the public arena.</p> <p>There are valuable ways of acquiring a surface feel for this change. One is to access some of the wealth of visual images and other communication networks that are a central feature of the Iranian protest-movement that has grown since the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">contested</a> presidential election of June 2009.</p> <p>On 16 February 2010, for example - the week of the anniversary of the revolution of 1979, marked by a huge official demonstration in Tehran - an anonymous video of the death of <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,639338,00.html">Neda Agha-Soltan</a> on 20 June 2009 was <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hr7Vqdwp1vH16odMZA2bHrry9bzw">given</a> the prestigious Polk <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/nyregion/16polk.html">award</a>. John Darnton, curator of the Polk awards described this record of the shooting of an innocent young student passer-by as the “iconic image of the Iranian resistance”. He added: “This award celebrates the fact that, in today’s world, a brave bystander with a cellphone camera can use video-sharing and social-networking sites to deliver news.”</p> <p>A few days earlier, the award for the <a href="http://www.worldpressphoto.org/">World Press Photo</a> of 2009 was given to an intimate <a href="http://www.worldpressphoto.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=1789&amp;Itemid=50&amp;bandwidth=low">photograph</a> taken (by Pietro Masturzo) on one of the boiling nights that following the election, when residents of Tehran would climb to their rooftops and voice their dissent in cries of <em>Allah-o-Akbar</em>.</p> <p>Ayperi Karabuda Ecer, the chair of the jury that chose the photo, said that the photo had touched her&nbsp;“both visually and emotionally".&nbsp;Indeed, Iran’s prodemocracy <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">movement</a> has been the source of many such poignant images. Another such, unforgettable for many people inside Iran is one of a young man called Sohrab Arabi. It was taken on the day that he was to disappear.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>To read more, click </strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nasrin-alavi/iran%25E2%2580%2599s-coming-of-age"><strong>here</strong></a><strong>...</strong></p> <p><em>Nasrin Alavi is the author of </em><a href="http://www.word-power.co.uk/catalogue/1846270030"><em>We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs</em></a> <em>(Portobello Books, 2005).</em></p> <p><em>Also by Nasrin Alavi:</em></p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-blind-leap-of-faith"><em>Iran: a blind leap of faith</em></a>” <em>(2 June 2009) </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><p class="Body"><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p></div></div></div></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/ali-reza-eshraghi/iran-and-america-obama-and-%E2%80%9Cvelvet-coup%E2%80%9D">Iran and America: Obama and the &quot;velvet coup&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">Iran: what happened, where now? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & iran democracy & power David Hayes Fri, 19 Feb 2010 17:12:24 +0000 David Hayes 50345 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: a phantom victory https://www.opendemocracy.net/sanam-vakil/iran-phantom-victory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Iranian state has won a round in the battle against the opposition "green movement". But the war of survival continues, says Sanam Vakil. </div> </div> </div> <p>“Revolutions are born out of hope”, wrote Crane Brinton in his classic work <a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780394700441"><em>The Anatomy of Revolution</em></a><em>. </em>The entire cycle of events in Iran since the contested presidential election of June 2009 - including vibrant demonstrations that have drawn worldwide attention - suggests that Iran is not in a revolutionary condition. At the same time, the state is facing the most serious challenge since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979.</p> <p>The convergence of widespread social and political disenchantment, elite fissures, economic dislocations and international pressure together present a severe test of legitimacy. Even if the state proves able to quell the opposition “green movement” and suppress dissent - as it was able to do on 11 February 2010, the thirty-first anniversary of the revolution of 1979 - it is guaranteed no respite.</p> <p>The green movement that emerged during the election campaign of <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/the-political-evolution-of-mousavi.html">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> in 2009 has offered a formidable challenge to Iran’s state.&nbsp;Its eight months of intermittent but passionate and varied <a href="http://iranmozaik.com/">protest</a> has revealed it to be a resilient movement fuelled both by public anger and widening political cleavages among the Iranian elite. The popular outrage over the election gradually <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iranian_Revolution_PostElection_Unrest_Reveals_Cracks_In_The_Republic/1954539.html">spread</a> into the expression of larger political grievances, including the state’s coercive policies.</p> <p>At the same time, the <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/11/the_rial_problem">divisions</a> within the Iranian elite are deeper than ever.&nbsp;The hardline cadre around the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - which includes the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - uses the ideology and tradition of the revolution as weapons in its attempt to retain a monopoly of power; while the reformist factions and pragmatic backers around Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi (each of whom was a reformist presidential candidate in the 2009 election) and <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/mkhatami/mohammad_khatami.php">Mohammad Khatami</a> (Iran’s president, 1997-2005) have rode the social demand for political change.</p> <p>Most analysts agree that the greens lost the battle over the anniversary commemorations, in that they were unable to mount large-scale protests in face of intense security.&nbsp;But the setback goes deeper, in that the regime - after eight months of defensive reaction to the unrest - proved able to&nbsp; last week stifle the movement’s disruptive capacity. Much of this effort took place before the anniversary events themselves in pre-emptive measures such as coordinated arrests and targeted intimidation of known opposition figures or sympathisers. This forceful operation - supplemented by the import into Tehran of large numbers of regime loyalists from provincial and rural areas - ensured that the momentum of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">green movement</a> was stalled at a high-profile moment.</p> <p>A key question now is whether this defeat is a temporary setback or likely to prove more enduring. The issue of leadership is an important part of the answer. The movement is amorphous, and the <em>de facto</em> triumvirate at its head - <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8492941.stm">Moussavi</a>, Karroubi and Khatami - has not provided strong direction or articulated clear goals and a coherent strategy. Perhaps this is not so surprising, since after all these men are also <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/iran_power/html/default.stm">establishment</a> figures who seek not to undermine the integrity of the Islamic Republic but to return it to the lost ideals of the 1979 revolution. This ambiguity of position and aim, coupled with stringent measures by the state, raises the prospect of drift and retreat unless the opposition can reinvent itself.</p> <p>The circles of pressure</p> <p>But the twist in the current Iranian situation is that the regime’s political “success” may be a phantom victory. Beyond the internal political battle that is consuming huge amounts of the state’s money, the regime faces two other grave problems.</p> <p>The first is the economy. Iran’s has been <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/economic-woes.html">buffeted</a> by the global recession, and is further affected by high unemployment, rising inflation, strikes by disaffected workers, and international sanctions over the country’s nuclear programme. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has proposed an ambitious (and unpopular) reform <a href="http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LB04Ak01.html">package</a> that would increase government spending and debt while replacing subsidies on consumer goods with cash payments to low-income families.&nbsp;The widespread social discontent is likely to influence the <em>majlis</em> (parliament) to reject the president’s plan, at least in its current form.</p> <p>The second problem is the issue of Iran’s <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">nuclear</a> plans (which is also an economic issue, since continuing tension increases the likelihood of a further round of United Nations sanctions). The Iranian government is continuing its policy of sending mixed signals over such matters as the transfer of uranium for enrichment outside the country, while pursuing a fundamentally <a href="http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?curTab=SERIES&amp;id=&amp;series=1648745&amp;parent_id=&amp;sku=&amp;isbn=9780415454865&amp;pc=">bellicose</a> line. Ahmadinejad’s <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/7213109/Iran-Mahmoud-Ahmadinejad-defies-world-over-uranium-enrichment.html">announcement</a> at the rally on 11 February&nbsp; that Iran has enriched uranium to a level of 20% (ostensibly for medical purposes) is but one source of fear in western capitals over Iran’s true nuclear intentions.&nbsp;The imposition of more sanctions by the <a href="http://www.ustreas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/iran/iran.shtml">United States</a> and United Nations would <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/02/11/the_rial_problem">burden</a> the economy and the regime harder at an already difficult time.</p> <p>These various sources of pressure - a fragile economy, elite factionalism, discontented people, international hostility and a still active (if now <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">rethinking</a>) green movement - ensure that the Islamic Republic will remain in the only stance it knows: combat-mode. Its protracted war for survival continues.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><p class="Body"><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p></div></div></div></div></div></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sanam Vakil is a adjunct <a href="http://www.jhubc.it/Our-Faculty/profprofile.cfm?PROFID=199">professor</a> and visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is writing a book on women’s activism in Iran</p> <p>Also by Sanam Vakil in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/iran_gamble_4305.jsp">Iran’s nuclear gamble</a>” (1 February 2008)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/hostage_vakil_4493.jsp">Iran’s hostage politics</a>” (2 April 2007)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/dialogue_enemies_4666.jsp">The Iran-American dialogue: enemies within</a>” (4 June 2007)&nbsp;</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-political-shadow-war">Iran’s political shadow-war</a>” (16 July 2008)</p> <p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system</a>” (21 April 2009) - with David Hayes</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-and-iran-s-system-0">Iran’s election and Iran’s system </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink">Iran: a time to rethink</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/democracy_power/iran/irans-political-shadow-war">Iran’s political shadow war </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & iran democracy & power Sanam Vakil Fri, 19 Feb 2010 17:11:52 +0000 Sanam Vakil 50378 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran: a time to rethink https://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/iran-time-to-rethink <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iran’s opposition movement must draw the lessons of its months of activism since the 2009 election and map a coherent political strategy, says Nazenin Ansari.</p><p>(This article was first published on 17 February 2010)</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>For the first time in thirty-one years, Iranians across the world and across the political spectrum welcomed the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in 1979 as an opportunity to assert their sovereignty.&nbsp;The result may not have been what most of them wished for, but their expectation was justified in one respect: 11 February 2010 has indeed turned out to be a defining moment for the Islamic Republic and the “green movement”, as well as for the international community.</p> <p>The manner in which the regime enforced control and the huge cost of its operation confirm that it recognises its failure to command genuine popular support.&nbsp;But the greens too now recognise the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/-opinion-many-had.html">limits</a> of their capacity, not least that their dependence on domestic communication-networks to <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/february/14/government-supporters-in-gates-people-in-streets.html">mobilise</a> their supporters makes them vulnerable. As a result they understand that it is time to <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/feb/1133.html">refocus</a> their efforts: to propose more defined ideas, to articulate ultimate goals, to refine tactics, and to establish <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/In_the_News_Twitter_doesnt_start_a_revolution_people_do/1952783.html">other</a> (non-internet-based) means of communication.</p> <p><strong>The planning game</strong></p> <p>In the approach to 11 February, green voices in Iran campaigned hard with the intention of bringing millions of their supporters onto the streets.&nbsp;Some even announced plans to storm the dreaded Evin prison to free political prisoners, and to seize the state’s <a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/news/newsitem/article/2010/january/26/what-is-happening-at-the-state-radio-and-television.html">broadcasting</a> facilities. Their allies abroad disrupted official Iranian engagements and organised demonstrations in major capital cities.&nbsp;The most fervent greens had such high expectations that they genuinely believed that the final victory was in sight.&nbsp;</p> <p>But while the <a href="../../../../../../../../article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">green movement</a> had been raising its hopes, the Tehran regime was making its plans. It implemented a dual strategy based on incentives and concessions mixed with increased repression and brutality. The results were pitiless but effective. The state’s security forces paralysed the greens’ own plans through mass-arrests of political and civil-society activists and journalists; they summarily executed two young students (but refrained from further executions); sought to divide the opposition, including by allowing some voices of dissent limited access to the media; declared a five-day holiday both to entice Tehran residents to leave town and prepare to transport core supporters and state employees to the official rally; and launched a cyber-war to cut their opponents’ access to the net and independent news-channels.</p> <p>This stringent approach extended to the day itself. Thousands of security personnel - including masked and plainclothed special units from the Revolutionary Guards - were deployed on the streets; around 300,000 people (the regime’s core supporters among them) were bused to the most strategic points in Tehran and the cordoned-off area where <a href="http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?curTab=SERIES&amp;id=&amp;series=1648745&amp;parent_id=&amp;sku=&amp;isbn=9780415454865&amp;pc=">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad</a> was to speak. The dissident analyst <a href="../../../../../../../../democracy-irandemocracy/article_2413.jsp">Mohsen Sazegara</a> estimates that the regime spent around $300 million to mount the entire operation.&nbsp;It was martial-law in all but name.</p> <p>Even then, the opposition managed to launch protests in Tehran and several cities around the country - albeit they fell well short of its stated plans. This suggests that the greens may have reached the limit of their present operational capacity. At the same time, the general disillusion and frustration that <a href="../../../../../../../../nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture">generated</a> the movement remains; the state’s economic policies are chaotic; and there are bitter enmities within the ruling elite.</p> <p>Abroad, a number of leading states have become more vocal in supporting the campaign for rights and freedom in Iran and condemning the regime’s behaviour. The discussions over a new round of United Nations Security Council <a href="http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?curTab=SERIES&amp;id=&amp;series=1648745&amp;parent_id=&amp;sku=&amp;isbn=9780415454865&amp;pc=">sanctions</a>, linked to concerns over Iran’s <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">nuclear</a> programme and intentions, are gathering pace. Iranian activists argue that sanctions should be targeted quite precisely at the pockets of the regime and its cronies, and should impose such measures as freezing foreign assets and bank-accounts and imposing travel restrictions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some activists - such as the Nobel peace-prize winner <a href="../../../../../../../../people-irandemocracy/article_1557.jsp">Shirin Ebadi</a> - go further by demanding that sanctions should be extended to western companies and banks that do business with Iran; among them, technology <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61E3SZ20100215">companies</a> (such as Nokia Siemens Networks and Sony Ericsson) whose products can be used for surveillance and censorship. These Iranians <a href="../../../../../../../../farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">struggling</a> for change are in desperate need of sophisticated technical assistance of their own in order to operate and protect their communications.</p> <p>The various groups that compose the green movement are entering a period of <a href="http://www.payvand.com/news/10/feb/1129.html">stocktaking</a> and reappraisal. The international community seems ready to prove to Iran’s people that it can play the role of a sincere and constructive partner. The Tehran regime continues to regard its own citizens’ aspirations as an existential threat. This is still an emergency.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><div class="content"><div class="odtab-content"><p class="Body"><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p></div></div></div></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nazenin Ansari is diplomatic editor of <em>Kayhan</em> (London)<br /><br />Also by Nazenin Ansari in <strong>openDemocracy</strong>:<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/freedom_path_3264.jsp">Iranians on the freedom path</a>” (14 February 2006)</p><p>"<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/ayatollah_3965.jsp">An ayatollah under siege - in Tehran</a>" (4 October 2006)</p><p>“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-irandemocracy/internal_dynamic_4531.jsp">Tehran's new political dynamic</a>” (16 April 2007)</p><p><br /> “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-rights-of-irans-women">The rights of Iran's women</a>” (18 May 2009)<br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-unfinished-crisis">Iran’s unfinished crisis</a>” (16 September 2009) <br /><br />“<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture%20">Iran's pre-revolutionary rupture</a>” (8 December 2009) <br /><br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/ali-reza-eshraghi/iran-and-america-obama-and-%E2%80%9Cvelvet-coup%E2%80%9D">Iran and America: Obama and the &quot;velvet coup&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-revolution-in-global-history">Iran’s revolution in global history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/farhang-jahanpour/iran-what-happened-where-now">Iran: what happened, where now? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics politics of protest democracy & iran democracy & power Nazenin Ansari Thu, 18 Feb 2010 23:37:30 +0000 Nazenin Ansari 50346 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran 2010-11: four scenarios and a nightmare https://www.opendemocracy.net/volker-perthes/iran-2010-11-four-scenarios-and-nightmare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The path to a resolution of Iran’s internal political crisis and its international nuclear confrontation is uncertain. Volker Perthes outlines four possible ways forward. </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">It is not possible to predict political developments in Iran, even over the short-term. It may be realistic to assume, though, that scenarios for Iran in 2010-11 will still be scenarios for the Islamic Republic of Iran – that, in other words, a replacement of the existing system by another is unlikely. True, changes within the Islamic Republic <em>are</em> to be expected. The precise depth and direction of such changes will depend on a variety of factors originating both within Iran and its external environment.</p> <p class="Body">A scenario is not a prediction; quite the contrary, it provides a picture or story of different possible outcomes. It does not tell policy-makers what they have to plan for, but suggests unexpected developments that they might find it useful to think about (see “<a href="../../../../../../../../article/conflicts/institutions_governments/iraq_2012">Iraq in 2012: four scenarios</a>”, 11 September 2007).</p> <p class="Body">But even the “best” scenarios tend to be far less complex than reality itself. It is thus with some inevitable simplification that two main variables can be put forward as likely to determine Iran’s political development in the near future:</p> <p class="Body">* “regime strength”, which is largely a function of the regime’s legitimacy, cohesion, and the availability of material resources</p> <p class="Body">* “external conflict”, which is largely (but not exclusively) tied to the nuclear tensions.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">These variables can be plotted against an imaginary graph. The “regime-strength” continuum forms the horizontal axis reaching from regime-consolidation to regime-fragmentation, and the “external-conflict” continuum forms the vertical axis reaching from military action to a nuclear agreement and an Iran-United States rapprochement.</p> <p class="Body">If this is done, four scenarios can be imagined in the short timeframe of eighteen months-to-two-years: that is, between early 2010 and the middle or end of 2011. This is a period when all the relevant players may try many possible options. How do these stories unfold?</p> <p class="Body"><strong>Scenario one: a circling of wagons</strong></p> <p class="Body">In early 2010, it is clear that the proposed nuclear agreement between Iran and the so-called “five-plus-one” (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) - <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Iran_Powers_Get_Draft_Nuclear_Deal_For_Approval/1857327.html">negotiated</a> in Geneva and Vienna in autumn 2009 - will not come to pass. Some inconclusive negotiations continue, but fail to result in an agreement. No one announces a failure, or an end to the diplomatic process. But the “<a href="http://www.iranreview.org/content/view/4746/36/">five-plus-one</a>” are clearly annoyed and disappointed.</p> <p class="Body">In March 2010, a new United Nations Security Council resolution denounces Iran’s failure to respond positively to former UNSC resolutions and to the package supported by the <a href="http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Focus/IaeaIran/index.shtml">International Atomic Energy Agency</a> (IAEA). These in essence stipulate that Iran’s enriched uranium is first processed and then converted into fuel-rods in Russia and France; call on Iran, one more time, to seek an agreement with the “five-plus-one”; and request UN member-states to be particularly vigilant in their transactions with Iran, in order to prevent any <a href="http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=23884&amp;prog=zgp&amp;proj=znpp">breach</a> of previously imposed sanctions (without at this stage imposing a new set of sanctions on Iran).</p> <p class="Body">The United States and the European Union publicly announce that they will further reduce trade and financial interactions with Iran; Russia silently withholds arms-shipments; China declares that all diplomatic options need to be tried before another round of sanctions should be declared. The Chinese oil company Sinopec, however, announces that it will not pursue further an earlier agreement to build an oil-refinery in Iran – solely from business considerations, of course.</p> <p class="Body">In several meetings of the “five-plus-one” in 2010, thresholds for further sanctions are discussed. Iran announces that it has installed a first cascade of centrifuges in its new enrichment-facility in Fordo, and that to mark the occasion of <em>nowruz</em> (Iran’s new year) in March 2011 it will undertake a trial run of the cascade. In response, a new sanctions resolution is tabled and eventually passed at the Security Council. The earlier sanctions (which the advanced powers unilaterally imposed) and the new round together fail to “cripple” Iran or its economy; but they critically hurt its private business sector and increase the weight of illicit trade, the latter predominantly controlled by a group within the <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/14324/">Revolutionary Guards</a>.</p> <p class="Body"><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4107270.stm">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad</a>, Iran’s president, had initially intended to make a deal with the “five-plus-one” and the IAEA. But realising that his opponents within the Iranian political elite will not allow this to happen, he again switches course after the negotiations’ failure. He returns to playing the populist card. The closing of ranks behind the government of opposition leaders (<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/22/world/fg-iran-mousavi22">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a>, Ali Larijani and Hashemi Rafsanjani) in response to open military threats from Israel, and huge demonstrations in defence of the Islamic Republic suggests that the tactic has succeeded. The opposition’s rallying around the flag is also encouraged by the increasing conviction in Iran that the United States and other western powers are behind repeated violent incidents in Baluchestan, and that Barack Obama’s administration has also failed to achieve <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/barack-obama-s-world">progress</a> in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.</p> <p class="Body">The number of centrifuges in the Natanz plant that are actually spinning has remained constant, even though the Iranian government had not announced any freeze. The Israeli air force undertakes highly publicised exercises that simulate long-range missions against heavily protected sites – but these stop short of actual attacks.&nbsp; Washington’s opposition to an Israeli strike is strong enough to prevent it - for now. A sense of confrontation, and that the stalemate will not last forever, remain in the air (see Paul Rogers, "<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israels-shadow-over-iran">Israel's shadow over Iran</a>", 14 January 2010). Iranians feel increasingly isolated as foreigners - visitors and investors - shun the country. But the domestic front is stable.</p> <p class="Body"><strong>Scenario two: a dysfunctional system</strong></p> <p class="Body">The nuclear standoff continues, and there is no deal. In this scenario, however, Russia and China agree to a new UN Security Council resolution in May 2010 that imposes a new round of sanctions. Both countries’ diplomats had made some efforts to rescue the IAEA-brokered draft agreement and moderated it in Iran’s favour; Moscow and Beijing now feel offended by Iran’s inability unambiguously to accept any of the new proposals.</p> <p class="Body">Indeed, Iran has engaged in new provocations: a missile-test, incendiary statements about Israel. A US navy frigate stops a ship loaded with arms of Iranian origin and allegedly destined for Gaza just outside Sudan’s territorial waters.</p> <p class="Body">The new sanctions imposed by the Security Council limit financial transactions with Iran and insurance for Iranian ships. G20 countries refuse to open letters of credit for trade with Iran, and Iranian imports collapse. The economic situation deteriorates visibly; sanctions hurt; in September 2010, the official inflation-rate reaches 37%. A delegation from Tehran’s bazaar demands an urgent meeting with the president, but is rebuffed.</p> <p class="Body">At the beginning of the new school year, protests erupt in universities across the country against stricter <em>basij</em> controls on campuses and the expulsion of activist students and professors. The students are joined by merchants; violent <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,633144,00.html">suppression</a> fails to quell the outbreaks of civil disobedience. The police manage to re-establish public order in the universities and the cities after each new wave of protest, but the intense effort this costs leaves the security forces unable to contain unrest in Sistan-Baluchestan and Kurdistan.</p> <p class="Body">There is no Israeli military strike against any nuclear installation. But there is an unexplainable explosion at the conversion-plant in Isfahan during a moonless night in October 2010, which causes an interruption of the uranium-hexafluoride (UF-6) supply to Natanz. A similar explosion in February 2011 at an electrical plant in Tehran that is known to manufacture centrifuge parts raises questions - even in the official Iranian media - about security at important sites.</p> <p class="Body">The political <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">elite</a> is increasingly unhappy with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The <em>majlis</em> (parliament) foils the president’s budget-proposal for the new-year beginning in March 2011. Ahmadinejad threatens to press his budget plans regardless; parliament delivers no-confidence votes to the ministers of finance, economy and energy. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, seems annoyed by the <a href="http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/11182.php">president’s</a> mismanagement; he does not make any public statements to that effect, but TV shows him more frequently in the company of the speaker of parliament (Ali Larijani) and the head of the experts’ council (Hashemi Rafsanjani). The president appears increasingly weak: unable to deal with dissent in Tehran or instability in the peripheral provinces, where <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8051750.stm">power</a> visibly slips away from government control.</p> <p class="Body">The European Union’s high representative for foreign and security policy makes some attempts to return the nuclear issue to diplomatic engagement, but failed to get a response from Iran’s foreign minister and national-security advisor. The regime seems more and more dysfunctional; both Iranian and foreign observers seem to be waiting for an event that could break the stalemate.</p> <p class="Body"><strong>Scenario three: a tightened fist </strong></p> <p class="Body">There is a waning of international attention on Iran as a result of the crisis in North Korea. Iran’s nuclear programme seems to have stalled, partly through a mix of technological problems. The domestic economic situation continues to deteriorate, and there are constant <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">protests</a> by students, merchants and public-sector workers.</p> <p class="Body">The opposition prepares for major demonstrations in June 2011, to mark the second anniversary of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">presidential elections</a> of June 2009. Two leaders of the opposition are arrested, and an assembly of clerics in Qom denounces the political repression. A group of <em>basiji</em> storms a gathering of clerics at Mofid University in the holy city; several clerics have to be hospitalised; the police do not interfere. A number of spontaneous demonstrations of solidarity erupt in Tehran and in other cities; prominent clerics ask the supreme leader to intervene and dismiss the leadership of the <em>basij</em>. Ayatollah Khamenei is silent.</p> <p class="Body">The rumours that Khamenei is seriously ill, even that he has died, spread. An open power-struggle erupts. Hashemi Rafsanjani convenes the experts’ council in order to prepare for the election of a new supreme leader; a detachment of Revolutionary Guards seals off the council building in order to prevent the meeting from taking place and Rafsanjani from engineering his own succession to Khamenei. The commander of the guards announces the establishment of an Interim Committee for the Rescue of the Islamic Revolution which temporarily, and as a collective <a href="http://www.iranonline.com/iran/iran-info/Government/Supreme-National-Security-Council.html">body</a>, assumes the functions of the leader. Parliament is dissolved, and president Ahmadinejad leaves for an urgent medical treatment in Venezuela.</p> <p class="Body">The Interim Committee sends interim foreign minister Saeed Jalili on a lightning tour to Riyadh, Moscow, Paris, and Vienna to reassure regional and international leaders that Iran is under control, but that the temporary government will need a couple of months before it can resume diplomatic action to deal with outstanding questions.</p> <p class="Body"><strong>Scenario four: a dual détente</strong></p> <p class="Body">The “five-plus-one” and the IAEA hold a new round of negotiations with their Iranian partners in February 2010 in the attempt to rescue some sort of deal with Tehran. They introduce some minor changes to the procedure envisaged in the nuclear package that was negotiated in Geneva and Vienna in 2009. A revised agreement allows for Iran to deliver two batches of low-enriched uranium (600 kilos each) in direct exchange for French-manufactured fuel-rods for the Tehran research reactor. The Iranian government pledges that, once the deal actually implemented, it would recommit to the rules of the additional protocol of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). French and American officials declare that the new package is flawed, but that they would accept it in order to build some confidence and start multilateral cooperation with Iran on the nuclear file.</p> <p class="Body">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad convinces Ayatollah Khamenei that a nuclear deal with the IAEA is actually in the best interest of Iran. It represents an implicit acceptance of Iran’s right to enrichment and the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme; it will lead to a freeze and probably a lifting of international sanctions and will thus ease the economic situation; it will reduce external threats to the regime.</p> <p class="Body">A phone-call from the Russian prime minister to the supreme leader, in which he reportedly announced that Russia would be obliged to halt deliveries of conventional arms to Iran if no agreement was reached over the nuclear issue, also helps to convince the leader that a compromise may be necessary. Barack Obama’s state-of-the-union address contains two <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/nowruz/">messages</a> to Iran: first, that the United States would seek and implement stronger sanctions if no deal was reached on the nuclear file within the next month; second, that Washington was prepared to solve all “other issues” with Iran (including the dispute over frozen Iranian assets in the US) if some confidence was restored.</p> <p class="Body">An agreement is signed at the beginning of March 2010. Soon after, experts from the United States and Iran meet and begin to establish Iran’s financial claims on the United States; and to discuss procedures for the establishment of a US visa-section in Tehran by the end of 2010. President Ahmadinejad, in a speech at Tehran University, declares that the engagement with the United States has to be seen as another achievement for the revolution.</p> <p class="Body">Iran’s opposition leaders, unable to stop the president from achieving a diplomatic coup, jump on the train to share the presumed success of a rapprochement with the United States. Ali Larijani announces that the NPT’s additional protocol would be tabled in parliament for discussion (and probably ratification) by autumn 2010. Hashemi Rafsanjani announces that Mahan Air would apply for a licence to fly the Tehran-Los Angeles route.</p> <p class="Body">The external détente is accompanied by attempts to achieve reconciliation within Iran’s political elite. Most of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">prisoners</a> that condemned for their part in the post-election unrest of 2009 are freed. In a speech at the private Azad University in Tehran, Ahmadinejad states “our internal disagreements are over.” he adds: “Those who relied on foreign support have had to realise that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has defeated all conspiracies and has thereby convinced the America, Great Britain, and France to seek friendly, productive relations with Iran.”</p> <p class="Body">Some students carrying anti-Ahmadinejad placards are removed from the auditorium by force, but overall the president’s appearance at a university so closely linked to his opponents is seen as an attempt to heal wounds. Many long-term green-movement supporters are not convinced that the regime’s interest in domestic détente is genuine, or will guarantee fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2013. But these dates are still distant: for the time being, most opposition leaders and many activists are prepared to forgive Ahmadinejad for still being president – as long as he now delivers better political and economic relations to the west and easier access to visas.</p> <p class="Body"><strong>All bets are off </strong></p> <p class="Body">This last may be the most unlikely story of all - but only because it assumes that Iranian as well as western leaders will be prepared to accept compromises they have so far refused. In that it offers a more peaceful path for Iran the region than the three others, it is also the most hopeful scenario.</p> <p class="Body">Behind all four, however, lies an extreme one that envisages all-out war between Iran and Israel and/or the United States. The danger of this wildcard scenario could arise within 2010-11, or beyond it. Its mere existence should be an incentive to all relevant actors: think, act, and move in a direction that makes the best outcome possible a reality.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body"><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Volker Perthes is <a href="http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/forscher/forscherprofil.php?id=41">director</a> of the <em>Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik</em> (<a href="http://www.swp-berlin.org/en/index.php?PHPSESSID=2c40a885ae9e26e5c5d96f8e427ddb5a&amp;active=home">German Institute for International and Security Affairs</a> / SWP) in Berlin</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-quantum-of-solace-step-back-look-long">Iran&#039;s quantum of solace: step back, look long </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-archaeology-of-iran-s-regime">The archaeology of Iran’s regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/ali-reza-eshraghi/iran-and-america-obama-and-%E2%80%9Cvelvet-coup%E2%80%9D">Iran and America: Obama and the &quot;velvet coup&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran">Voices of a new Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/r-tousi/irans-ocean-of-dissent">Iran&#039;s ocean of dissent</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture">Iran&#039;s pre-revolutionary rupture</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-unfinished-crisis">Iran&#039;s unfinished crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/iran%E2%80%99s-hidden-prisoners">Iran’s hidden prisoners </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> Iran democracy & iran democracy & power Volker Perthes Fri, 15 Jan 2010 23:37:34 +0000 Volker Perthes 49819 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Voices of a new Iran https://www.opendemocracy.net/r-tousi/voices-of-new-iran <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The young student protesters flocking in defiance onto the streets and campuses of Iran are prepared to fight until the end, says R Tousi. </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">The Iranian protesters are here to stay. On 7 December 2009, tens of thousands of students around the country once again raised their voices against authoritarian rule. Foreign journalists were prohibited from reporting the events, mobile-phone networks and internet access were severely restricted. But the news of the protests continued to flow out of Iran almost instantaneously (see Borzou Daragahi, “<a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-iran-protests8-2009dec08,0,7136715.story"><span>Iran streets and campuses erupt in protest</span></a>”, Los Angeles Times, 8 December 2009).</p><p class="Body">In one of the first <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQK9BBy2mpg"><span>films</span></a> to be circulated, students behind the gates of Tehran University can be heard taunting the surveillance-actions of the security forces. A young man raises his hand in a victory-sign and invites a close-up photo: “Filthy regime sell-out, take it”. A notable aspect of much of the footage is that it is the cameramen <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQK9BBy2mpg"><span>seen</span></a> working for the security forces that have their faces covered, be it from fear or shame. In this case, the masked cameraman draws back from the hand strapped in green ribbons, the campaign colours of Mir-Hossein Mousavi - the man millions of Iranians believe was the <a href="../../../../../../../../article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next"><span>true</span></a> winner of the presidential elections of 12 June 2009.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">These iron gates are a famous landmark in Tehran, the surrounding areas full of bookshops always bustling with young students. They have too been the backdrop of many student protests in recent years. Today, the confrontations have moved <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091208/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_40"><span>beyond</span></a> these gates to campuses that have been politically quiescent since the revolution of 1979.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body"><strong>The call of battle</strong><strong></strong></p> <p class="Body">A striking feature of the protests is the increasing presence of evidently politicised high-school students. What will happen to the schoolgirls who on 7 December were <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L-vwg8HYbY&amp;feature=player_embedded"><span>chanting</span></a>: “Honourable teachers, support us, support us”. Will the authorities deploy the <em>basiji</em> security forces against them, as they did against in a violent raid against university students at Tehran University on 8-9 December? The state media’s depiction of the events on campus was that there were minor skirmishes between “decent students” against a rabble dancing to the tune of its paymasters in the west.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">The protesters at Mashhad Azad University - not known for protests in the past - who <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUWC-6Ades4"><span>chanted</span></a> “<em>basij </em>get lost” had a different take on things. So too did the students at Amir Kabir, who taunted the <em>basij</em> by alluding to an all together different paymaster by <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTvJO5YOU5k"><span>waving</span></a> banknotes at them.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">A pair of anonymous cyber-citizen journalists put themselves in grave danger by <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0eZIX-XTDY"><span>tracking</span></a> <em>basij</em> militia as they left Tehran University and then passed through another set of familiar gates: those of the old American embassy compound, scene of the long hostage-crisis of 1979-80.</p> <p class="Body">The prosecutor-general of Iran, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, <a href="http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE5B71XY20091208"><span>said</span></a> on 8 December that “no mercy” will be shown against the protestors. Indeed, the show-trials, mass-arrests and ruthless killings of the six months since the presidential election have removed any expectation of justice from the state.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Against many odds, Iran’s students have shown that they are still capable of mounting major organised street-protests. On 7 December, those at the University of Science and Technology (<em>Elm va Sanat</em>) could be <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir8Az53U6sE&amp;feature=player_embedded"><span>heard</span></a> voicing what has become a familiar chant: “We are the men and women of war, fight us and we’ll fight back”. The cry is also a claim of ownership by the children of the post-war (the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88) baby-boom who have made themselves visible through the “green movement”.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">What is happening here is also a retrieval through very modern methods (including videos, tweets, and blogs) of the moral legitimacy of the Iranian “cause”. It is significant that the contest with an Islamic state is articulated in the Islamic battle-cry <em>Allah-o-Akbar</em>, heard now in every street-rally, and that (for example) the popular micro-blogger persiankiwi’s reports on the fight for democratic rights are threaded with verses from the Qur’an. This new generation is responding to tyrannical violence with democratic non-violence, and - to the outrage of its elders - calls the fallen in its protests <em>shahid</em> (martyrs). It is turning the language and symbols of the regime against it, to the regime’s fury and confusion.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body"><strong>The cry of freedom</strong><strong></strong></p> <p class="Body">This new tech-savvy generation has also managed to find ways of exasperating and outwitting the authorities. On 7 December, student leader Majid Tavokoli’s <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojeAIxXJt4o&amp;feature=player_embedded"><span>rousing</span></a> speech to his fellow-students calling on them to “make a stand against oppression” was soon online. In December 2006, Tavokoli and his peers at Amir Kabir were amongst the first group of students to mount a protest against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (elected in June 2005) as the president delivered a speech at their university. This was where the now common "death to the dictator" chants were first heard. Tavokoli was among those who paid heavily for it; he endured nearly two years in Iran’s dreaded Evin prison.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Soon after his brave speech on 7 December, Tavokoli was (according to his peers) viciously <a href="http://hra-iran.org/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=2279:majid-tavakoli-brutally-beaten-a-injured-during-arrest&amp;catid=66:304&amp;Itemid=293"><span>beaten up</span></a> and taken away by the security forces. In a typically inept effort at humiliation, the official Fars news agency <a href="http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8809171089"><span>published</span></a> photos of Tavakoli in a <em>hijab</em> (see Robert Mackey, “<a href="http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/irans-state-media-mocks-arrested-student-leader-pictured-in-womens-clothing/"><span>Iran’s State Media Mocks Arrested Student Leader Pictured in Women’s Clothing</span></a>”, <em>New York Times</em>, 9 December 2009). This met an instant and defiant response online, where Tavakoli is widely eulogised; in <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/Men_In_Hijabs_Iranian_Green_Movements_New_Tactic/1900501.html"><span>solidarity</span></a>, some Iranian men have even posted pictures of themselves on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=198929939029"><span>Facebook</span></a> wearing the <em>hijab</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Tavakoli’s last post on Facebook, in rough translation, reads:</p> <p class="Body">“Looking at my mother’s tearful eyes and father’s anxious glances, and despite all the difficulties, only the true wish for freedom can maintain my drive and steadfastness. And so once again I welcome and accept all dangers, next to my friends with whom I am honoured and proud on 16 <em>Azar</em> to stand together and shout against tyranny. For Freedom.”</p> <p class="Body">These young protesters will not be outwitted or ignored. Their voices will be heard. In a week it will be <em>Moharram</em>, the annual street-processions that have taken place since 1500 when the Safavi dynasty ruled Iran. The people of the street will use them to vent their anger. They are not going anywhere.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/BookDetails.aspx?BookId=458"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>R Tousi is the pseudonym of an Iranian writer</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">Iran&#039;s stolen election, and what comes next</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-archaeology-of-iran-s-regime">The archaeology of Iran’s regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-tide-of-history-counter-revolution-and-after">Iran&#039;s tide of history: counter-revolution and after</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-unfinished-crisis">Iran&#039;s unfinished crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture">Iran&#039;s pre-revolutionary rupture</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup">Iran&#039;s election: people and power </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-s-quantum-of-solace-step-back-look-long">Iran&#039;s quantum of solace: step back, look long </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-s-crisis-and-ali-khamenei">Iran&#039;s crisis and Ali Khamenei</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Iran Democracy and government International politics democracy & iran democracy & power R Tousi Fri, 11 Dec 2009 23:58:48 +0000 R Tousi 49429 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iran's pre-revolutionary rupture https://www.opendemocracy.net/nazenin-ansari/irans-pre-revolutionary-rupture <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The continuing, defiant protest-wave in Iran accentuates the ferocious crisis of legitimacy at the regime’s heart. The epic events of 2009 are at a historic turning-point, says Nazenin Ansari. </div> </div> </div> <p>Iran’s green wave remains defiant and undiminished. Across the country on 7 December 2009, thousands of people took advantage of the official students’ day to voice their adamant opposition to the “dictator” and his cohorts whom they charge both with <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-stolen-election-and-what-comes-next">stealing</a> the presidential election of 12 June 2009 and with inhumane <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,633144,00.html">repression</a> of peaceful protestors thereafter. The astonishing bravery of these demonstrating Iranians - knowing the probable fate that awaits them if they are arrested - is itself a potent indication of the depths of the crisis facing a desperate Tehran regime.</p> <p>Moreover, when it looks for support within its own circles of influence this regime can find little respite. A landmark survey of 11,000 Iranians conducted by scholars in Iran after the presidential election -&nbsp;&nbsp; published by <a href="http://www.insideiran.org/">InsideIran.org</a> - reveals that support is draining from the state’s most prominent figureheads in their own heartlands: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4107270.stm">president</a>, in rural areas; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, among high-ranking clerics.</p> <p>The survey finds that 39% of young people and 23% of the older age- group who had voted for Ahmadinejad now regretted their vote. The <a href="http://www.insideiran.org/featured/study-reveals-ahmadinejad-supporters-in-rural-areas-no-longer-back-him/">stated reasons</a>? “The raping, killing, and torture of young men and women who had participated in demonstrations after the June elections and the realisation that Ahmadinejad was to blame for the economic situation.”</p> <p>These - in additions to endemic economic worries and human insecurity - are the ingredients of a ferocious crisis of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8051750.stm">regime</a> legitimacy.</p> <p><strong>The regime’s fracture</strong></p> <p>Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the celebrated Iranian <a href="http://www.cineaste.com/articles/a-filmmaker-at-the-barricades-the-cinematic-and-political-evolution-of-mohsen-makhmalbaf">filmmaker</a> who is now the principal unofficial spokesman of the “green movement” - named after the campaign colours of the main reformist candidate in the June election, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/22/world/fg-iran-mousavi22">Mir-Hossein Moussavi</a> - offers four examples of fracturing within the elite:</p> <p>* Ayatollah Khamenei’s daughter-in-law, the sister of Iran’s former ambassador in Paris and former deputy foreign minister, has become a green supporter and is seeking a divorce from Said Khamenei</p> <p>* Ayatollah Khamenei rescinded the order of another of his sons, Mojtaba Khamenei, to release officers accused of the torture, rape and killing of protestors held in Kahrizak detention-centre</p> <p>* 8,000 of the 20,000 officers of the intelligence ministry have been discharged on suspicion of supporting the green movement</p> <p>* 180 of the 200 managers of the intelligence ministry have been removed from their positions for questioning the result of the presidential elections.</p> <p>Even the unity of the hardline <em>basij</em> militia is in question. A YouTube video dated 30 November 2009 shows the daughter of a “martyred” <em>basiji</em> - at a conference hosted by the militia’s supporters at a university law-faculty - condemning atrocities against protestors and dissidents. “If my father and my uncle were alive today, they would not have tolerated these atrocities carried out in the name of the martyrs by the <em>basij</em> against the people today. If they were alive today they would be in prison now.”</p> <p><strong>The movement’s dynamic</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.makhmalbaf.com/persons.php?p=2">Mohsen Makhmalbaf</a> is confident that the green-movement’s “decentred” strategy of avoiding a single point of command has been a key to its resilience.&nbsp; The engine of the movement is the student movement, whose proactive stance since the uprising of 1999 has been an education in the techniques of non-violent civil disobedience.</p> <p>Makhmalbaf told me:</p> <p>“The leaders of the movement are on the streets.&nbsp; In each neighbourhood, one young charismatic individual is leading five others.&nbsp; Each single journalist, intellectual and scholar is inspiring a number of these units. It is not Mr Moussavi who calls for demonstrations. People pour into the streets - he thanks them ten days later.&nbsp; No one can stop the power of love by arresting individual lovers.”</p> <p>This confident portrayal of the dynamic of events was vindicated in the courage displayed by so many young people on 7 December 2009.&nbsp; The vigorous street demonstrations - on a working day, against a background where Revolutionary Guards (<a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/14324/">IRGC</a>) commanders had pledged to confront any gathering not held on university premises - exceeded everyone’s expectation. This has now become a trial-run for another national day, 27 December: the anniversary the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, at the 7th-century battle of Karbala. It is also a further example of how the opposition movement is making its own symbols and dates that have long been used as weapons of power.</p> <p>In addition to the strong base of support amongst the children of the 1979 revolution, the greens also have leaders who embody particular aspects of the movement. They include Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the designated heir to Ayatollah Khomeini whose criticism of the executions earned him over twenty years of house-arrest; and the opposition presidential candidates, Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi.</p> <p>Mohsen Makhmalbaf himself claims that 70% of Iranians support the movement, and that only 10% of the remaining 30% are hard-core regime loyalists. “Mir-Hossein Moussavi appeals to the 20% who fear the personal repercussions of a change in regime - for example, the village <em>mullah</em> who might fear for his life because he led Friday prayers, or the <em>pasdar</em> (Revolutionary Guard) who fought in the Iran-Iraq war and might fear that a change of regime would lead to the execution of <em>basijis</em>. Moussavi reassures such people that no one will be executed once a civil government is instituted.”</p> <p>For his part, Hossein Ali Montazeri articulates the policies of the green movement to the outside world. He <a href="http://www.amontazeri.com/farsi/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=226&amp;FORUM_ID=2&amp;CAT_ID=2&amp;Forum_Title=%2526%25231582;%2526%25231576;%2526%25231585;%2526%25231606;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231605;%2526%25231607;&amp;Topic_Title=%2526%25231662;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231587;%2526%25231582;+%2526%25231576;%2526%25231607;+%2526%25231662;%2526%25231585;%2526%25231587;%2526%25231588;+%2526%25231607;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231740;%2526%25231740;+%2526%25231662;%2526%25231740;%2526%25231585;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231605;%2526%25231608;%2526%25231606;+%2526%25231587;%2526%25231604;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231581;+%2526%25231607;%2526%25231575;%2526%25231740;+%2526%25231607;%2526%25231587;%2526%25231578;%2526%25231607;+%2526%25231575;%2526%25231740">issued</a> a groundbreaking <em>fatwa</em> that declared nuclear weapons to be “un-Islamic” and instructed Muslims to take the lead in banning such weapons and seeking the assistance of international institutions to guarantee such a ban.</p> <p>Mehdi Karroubi, according to Makhmalbaf, symbolises the courage of the greens.&nbsp; “I spent three years in jail with Mr Karroubi. He was a man who would speak his mind despite beatings. Our people have suffered for thirty years. They were silent because they were fearful.&nbsp; What we had lost in that time was not our intelligence but rather our courage. Karroubi is one of Iran’s courageous leaders who inspire us, especially the students, to pay for our freedom with our cries on the streets.”</p> <p><strong>What next?</strong></p> <p>The greens are now working to undermine the support of the <em>basij</em> militia for the regime through religious decrees, statements and demands for “smart” sanctions against the IRGC commanders and their extensive business interests.</p> <p>Hossein Ali Montazeri has <a href="http://www.mowjcamp.com/article/id/70584">published</a> a decree that denounces the <em>basij</em> crackdown as un-Islamic. “Why do you beat people? The <em>basij</em> was founded to act within the path of God, not Satan. Isn’t it unfortunate to go to hell for the benefits of others?” In turn, Moussavi admonished the militia for taking money in exchange for arresting members of the opposition. “The <em>basij</em> was not supposed to become a force on the government’s payroll.”</p> <p>Mohsen Makhmalbaf, himself a veteran of the 1979 <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php">revolution</a>, told me: “Our generation, who believed in the revolution, can’t be compared to today’s 10% who support the regime because of financial gain. They have to be deprived of this material interest. It was the lack of funds that forced Ayatollah Khomeini to end the war with Iraq in 1988. The most sensible way the international community can resolve Iran’s nuclear crises while gaining support of Iranians is through smart, targeted sanctions aimed at the financial interests of the IRGC.&nbsp; It is for their financial gain that the IRGC is supporting the regime. If the international community identifies and targets their businesses, they will understand that they can no longer afford to stay in power.”</p> <p>This financial vulnerability is paralleled by a new political weakness. The quick resolution of the affair of the five British yachtsmen captured by the Revolutionary Guards navy command (which <a href="http://www.iranchamber.com/government/articles/structure_of_power.php">reports</a> to the supreme national-security council [<a href="http://www.iranonline.com/iran/iran-info/Government/Supreme-National-Security-Council.html">SNSC</a>] - and thus ultimately to the supreme leader - rather than to the government) suggests that&nbsp;&nbsp; Ayatollah Khamenei cannot afford to defy the international community while engaged in a desperate battle against an increasing confident opposition and the disloyalty of febrile regime insiders.&nbsp; Iran’s men of power are haunted by fear. The people wait, watch, and prepare.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nazenin Ansari is the diplomatic editor of Kayhan (London)</p><p><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/2009/iran/default.stm">BBC - Iran crisis</a></p> <p><a href="http://tehranbureau.com/category/election-coverage/">Tehran Bureau </a></p> <p>Juan Cole, <a href="http://www.juancole.com/">Informed Comment</a></p> <p>Ali Gheissari &amp; Vali Nasr, <em><a href="http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Islam/?view=usa&amp;ci=9780195189674">Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2006)</p> <p>Ali Ansari, <em><a href="http://www.perseusbooks.com/basic/book_detail.jsp?isbn=0465003508">Confronting Iran</a></em> (Basic Books, 2006)</p> <p>Ray Takeyh, <a href="http://www.cfr.org/publication/11118/"><em>Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic</em></a> (CFR, 2006)</p> <p><a href="http://www.iranian.com/main/">Iranian.com</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.roozonline.com/english/">Rooz </a></p> <p>Nikki R Keddie, <em>Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution</em> (<a href="http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=0300121059" target="_blank">Yale University Press, 2006</a>)</p> <p>Michael Axworthy, <a href="http://www.hurstpub.co.uk/bookdetails.asp?book=288"><em>Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran</em></a> (C Hurst, 2007)</p><p>Plus: Read “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/iran-s-election-democracy-or-coup%20" target="_blank">Iran's election: people and power</a>” (15-18 June 2009) - an openDemocracy symposium with Ramin Jahanbegloo, Anoush Ehteshami, Nazenin Ansari, Omid Memarian, Grace Nasri, Rasool Nafisi, Nasrin Alavi, Sanam Vakil, and Farhang Jahanpour</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/khamenei-s-choice-ahmadinejad-s-cost">Iran&#039;s coming storm</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/voices-from-iran">Voices from Iran</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-dialectic-of-revolution">Iran: dialectic of revolution </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/the-archaeology-of-iran-s-regime">The archaeology of Iran’s regime</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/iran-a-green-wave-for-life-and-liberty">Iran: a green wave for life and liberty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-beyond-caricature">Iran: revolution beyond caricature </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-a-political-shadow">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a political shadow </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/iran-revolution-for-the-hereafter">Iran: revolution for the hereafter</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opendemocracy-general/ali-reza-eshraghi/iran-and-america-obama-and-%E2%80%9Cvelvet-coup%E2%80%9D">Iran and America: Obama and the &quot;velvet coup&quot;</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> Iran Civil society Democracy and government democracy & iran democracy & power Nazenin Ansari Tue, 08 Dec 2009 23:59:32 +0000 Nazenin Ansari 49382 at https://www.opendemocracy.net