Friday, September 23, 2005

Iran: Promises, Promises

I just got this note from the author of "We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs," who writes under the name of Nasrin Alavi. It's one of the most interesting takes I've seen on Iran's nuclear posturing:

Europe’s strategy of offering Iran the carrot of engagement - rather than the stick of regime change and war -- appears to be gradually crumbling away. Iran is emboldened by soaring oil prices and US entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also banking on the energy needs of Russia, China and India, with which it has fostered growing economic ties. Bowing to Russian and Chinese pressure, the European Union has for now backed off from a demand that the UN nuclear watchdog should report Iran to the Security Council.
President Ahmadinejad’s asserted at the 2005 U.N. General Assembly that Iran has an "inalienable right" to operate a nuclear power program. Europe and the United States took this as a sign of defiance. Yet there are also strong signals that Tehran wants to talk directly to the US and may feel that she can now engage with the US from a position of strength. Public announcements by many of Iran’s leading hardliners that Iran should pursue a ‘Chinese model’ of governance would mean liberalizing the economy and making peace with Europe and the United States – while maintaining political repression.
Iran’s eerie amorous offensive towards the US at the World summit appears to have gone completely unnoticed by Western audiences. Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian president for a quarter of a century who has had the go-ahead from Tehran to join World Summit leaders at their final photo call, thereby breaking the taboo of being photographed with the leaders of the US and Israel. Muhammad-Ali Abtahi, an ex-vice-president of the Iranian parliament describes in his blog how five years earlier ex-president Khatami, “aware of many consequences,” had refused to take part in such a photo.
Ironically, representatives of Iran’s hard-line parliament accompanying Ahmadinejad were muzzled as Tehran tried to put an amiable spin on Ahmadinejad’s visit to the UN. Mehranghiz Marouti, one of the MP’s, told the Aftab Daily on her return to Iran, “We expected to be able to put forward our viewpoints to the press, but did not have permission from Tehran.”
In a Newsweek interview when asked about US-Iran relations, Ahmadinajad declared that Iran, “would like to have relationships that are equal and just with all countries in the world.” This surpasses anything an Iranian President has ever uttered in reference to US relations. Yet regardless of what Ahmadinejad insisted in another US interview, “access to the nuclear supply process” was never an “election slogan” by him or any of the other prospective presidential candidates. And despite Tehran’s’ cocky attitude, Ahmadiinejad knows that his actual election platform of distributing oil wealth amongst the poor may come to nothing if Iran is isolated.
During his election campaign Ahmadinejad was promoted as the man of the people. He tapped into the vein of popular anger against corruption and cronyism. He appealed to the minds and hearts of jobless youth and underpaid workers promising food and housing subsidies for the poor. With hindsight, it seems anyone standing in the second round against the “corrupt Rafsanjani clan” was bound to become president. I was amazed at the number of people in Iran who told me that they had voted ‘tactically’ against Rafsanjani.
According to Behzad Nabavi, acting chairman of parliament during Khatami’s era, the modest looking mayor of Tehran backed by the establishment ‘was promoted as an anti-establishment figure.’ At one stage during his campaign Ahmadinejad even falsely complained that the ‘establishment’ had cut off the electricity supplies of large areas of Iran so that his campaign speeches promising a fight against corruption could not be heard by the ordinary people.
Ahmadinejad comes from and is endorsed by the hard-line core of the regime that has ultimately controlled power in Iran since the revolution. Ahmadinejad’s possible inability to keep his campaign promises in the next four years will be a critical challenge to the heart of Iran’s revolutionary elite.
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