THE ELECTORAL FARCE IN PERSIA: A COMMENT
"While Mr Ahmadinejad’s win underscores support for a defiant position, the Supreme Leader has made clear that he is not interested in Mr Obama’s new tone if it doesn’t signal an end to Washington’s sanctions and its support for covert action against Iran’s regime. Mr Ross’s “bigger carrots, bigger sticks” approach to diplomacy is likely to fail, because most observers of the Iranian regime have concluded that it perceives such an approach as nothing more than going through the motions in the expectation that talks will fail – but that having held them will strengthen the U.S. case for harsher coercive action. And Mr Ross has argued that such efforts will show that the U.S. “went the extra mile”.
Despite sharp differences in their approach to handling the West, the substance of Mr Ahmadinejad’s and Mr Mousavi’s positions on the U.S. nuclear demands may not have been all that different. Both men insist on Iran’s right to nuclear energy, including the right to enrich uranium to fuel its reactors. Iran denies any intention to weaponize its nuclear material, which is currently under the scrutiny of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency – and representatives of the Supreme Leader have, at various points, signaled a readiness to negotiate over extending and tightening that monitoring regime to satisfy western concerns over the potential for nuclear material to be diverted into a bomb program (Thus far, the IAEA certifies that no such diversion has taken place)".
Tony Karon, "No new president - but a new red line for negotiations?", 13 June 2009, in
So, the electoral farce in Persia is most definitely finis. Of that there is no, if ands or buts. The 'supreme leader', aka chief Mullah Khamenei, has spoken and endorsed most overtly the election results. Results which the 'deep Persian state' (to borrow a term much used in Turkish politics) apparatus, ensured would occur as they so wished. A surprise opposition victory `a la that of 1997, was most definitely not something that the regime of Mullahs was interested in happening this time around. Notwithstanding the fact that some, but, unfortunately not enough in the more 'pragmatic' wing of the regime, those for instance close to the ex-President Rafsanjani, would no doubt like to be able to establish more 'normal' relations with the West and with the Sunni Arab countries in the Near and Middle East. For which the ouster of the Ahmadinejad would be a necessity, for reasons of publicity if nothing else. Whether or not such relations would also necessitate the jettisoning of Persia's nuclear enrichment programme is not entirely clear at this time. Either to myself or in fact to anyone outside of the ruling circles in Teheran. And, perhaps not even discernable to anyone outside of the Supreme Leader's immediate entourage.
The upshot of the elections are as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz put it: the election results are those which the current Netanyahu government in Tel Aviv and its American friends and supporters could most wish for. It shows that to the outside world the most lunatic and ne plus ultra face of the regime in Persia (see: Amos Harel, "Ahmadinejad win actually preferable to Israel," 14 June 2009, in http:///). Once that divide is crossed however were exactly does that leave us? If one judges the matter more rationally in terms not of hysterics, concerning what Teheran's possible, future intentions are, but in terms of strict realpolitik and machtpolitik, than the matter is a but less stark. So for instance in a new report, the American think tank, The Rand Corporation, punctures the idea that Persia is the future, Near Eastern hegemon, or the it has ambitions (nuclear or non-nuclear) to dominate the region. As it notes:
"The study concluded that the Islamic Republic does not seek territorial aggrandizement or even, despite its rhetoric, the forcible imposition of its revolutionary ideology onto neighboring states. Instead, it feeds off existing grievances with the status quo, particularly in the Arab world. Ideology and bravado frequently mask a preference for opportunism and realpolitik — the qualities that define “normal” state behavior.
Moreover, there are significant barriers and buffers to Iran's strategic reach, stemming from regional geopolitics and from Iran's limited conventional military capacity, diplomatic isolation, and past strategic missteps. Similarly, tensions between the regime and Iranian society — segments of which have grown disenchanted with the Islamic Republic's revolutionary ideals — can also act as a constraint on Iranian external behavior....
As noted above, Iran views itself as a status quo power, preferring to assert a greater role for itself within the existing regional system rather than refashion that system according to its revolutionary vision. This has resulted in an ambitious, activist policy that hinges on three themes: deterrence and homeland defense, support for Islamist militant groups (both for symbolic reasons and as a retaliatory capability), and the currying of favor with publics in the Arab world to circumvent official hostility from other regimes in the region. Within each of these vectors are factors that both aid Iranian power and circumscribe it.
Despite asymmetric doctrinal ambitions, Iran fields a weak conventional force. Iranian leaders have long trumpeted their shift to an asymmetric strategy of homeland defense that would exact intolerable costs from an invader. Much of this rests on notions of “mosaic defense,” partisan warfare, and popular mobilization of Basiji auxiliaries. On the whole, however, Iran’s military remains mired in conventional doctrine because of bureaucratic inertia in procurement and frequent infighting between the Revolutionary Guard and conventional forces. Most of Iran’s military equipment is out of date and poorly maintained, and its ground forces suffer from both personnel and equipment shortages. With its outdated aircraft, the Iranian Air Force, in particular, is no match for its neighbors and certainly not for U.S. airpower".
Frederick Wehrey, et. al., Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the reach and limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East. 2009. See: http:///
The report in essence endorses the current strategy of the American official allegedly in charge of policy vis-`a-vs Persia: the ultra-competent Dennis Ross. Said policy being a combination of engagement and tough-minded containment with an escalating round of sanctions being attached to the regime in hopes of changing its mind on in its nuclear enrichment programme. Will it work? We do not know yet. But, at present is is a much better option than pursuing the military one.