Thursday, April 26, 2007
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An Iran deal?
Time's Tony Karon reports that significant progress was made in the latest round of EU-Iran negotiations. In the process, Karon does an excellent job of describing how Iran's domestic politics affects their negotiating posture:
One problem in reading Iran's intentions is that it's very easy to forget who's in charge in Tehran. The fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the President doesn't mean that he is, in Bush parlance, "the decider." In fact, Iran's president has little executive authority over national security decisions (including the nuclear program), and his constitutional position makes him, if anything, probably less influential over those decisions than more pragmatic figures such as Larijani, who convenes the key foreign policy decision-making body, the National Security Council. In the end, though, there is a "decider" ó the supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But Khamenei wields his authority carefully, and in a consultative manner, seeking to maintain the unity of the competing factions of Iran's political class. So, while he is said to pay greater heed to the counsel of more pragmatic advisers such as Larijani and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Supreme Leader is careful to accommodate the popularly elected President Ahmadinejad. For example, while the recent compromise with Britain over the 15 Naval personnel captured at sea may have been brokered in substantial part in talks between Larijani and key British officials, it was Ahmadinejad who got to do the populist grandstanding in the ceremony accompanying their release.If this analysis is correct, then one has to expect Ahmadinejad to try and delay agreement for as long as humanly possible. The fact is, once the nuclear issue is settled, he will be hard-pressed to achieve any of his populist goals.
UPDATE: In the Financial Times, Najmeh Bozorgmehr decribes Ahmadinejad's five-day trip through the province of Fars. It presets a mixed picture of the president -- though Bozorgmehr concludes:
I canít help but ponder the recent analyses in political and intellectual circles in Tehran, most of which has argued that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is finished politically. After the five-day tour, this seems like wishful thinking. His rivals have a tough challenge ahead.ANOTHER UPDATE: Dennis Ross, on the other hand, argues over at TNR Online that Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards are waning in power. posted by Dan on 04.26.07 at 02:41 AM
Iran does remind me of the USSR in some respects. While Khruschev is out there banging his shoe at the UN, another group, cautious and fearful of its perogatives, is actually the one out there making the decisions.
In the era of the Soviet Union, what did we get as news coverage? Pictures of the leaders showing how fearsome and radical they were. When the reality was that the leadership was as cautious and careful and frightened of the scary new world as Emporor Franz Josef and Tsar Nicholas(all the while remaining convinced their view was better and would uly=timately triumph.
It's just a thought. But it does make me wonder whether strtegies that worked against the Soviet Union (containment and isolation from polite global society) will work with Iran. I do tend to doubt that the system the Iranians have in place can remain stable in the long term.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 04.26.07 at 02:41 AM [permalink]
Why do western journalists and "experts" always fall for this hard-cop, soft-cop stuff in totalitarian countries? There appear to be no "moderates" in the Iranian government at the level of objectives, and I've seen no evidence that there are even any at the level of strategy. At most, there are disagreements over tactical matters and personal conflicts over wealth and power.
Let's keep our eye on the ball. The most probable hypothesis is that the Iranian governing elite--all of it--wants nuclear weapons and knows that once it gets them it will be immeasurably more secure against regime change (see Pakistan for a good example of the inhibiting effect of nukes on foreign pressure). That increase in security will allow the mullahs to be even more aggressive in their grab for power in the Middle East and around the world. Their use of proxy terror groups will become more brazen because the level of deniability they need will go down, given the nuclear deterrent.posted by: srp on 04.26.07 at 02:41 AM [permalink]
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