Reading the Iranian tea-leaves (but not from neo-cons)

Many fear that this year will see aggressive action against Iran and “regime change” under the guise of supposedly freeing the Iranian people (witness Robert Kagan in the Washington Post this week making this very point; yet another man determined to install a friendly puppet in Tehran. A neo-conservative who doesn’t care one iota for the Iranians who would suffer in the chaos).

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam teaches comparative politics at SOAS at the University of London and writes that Iran’s internal politics are hardly stable but not as confused as many outsiders think:

Despite the systematic efforts of many commentators and media outlets to represent what is happening in Iran as a wholesale revolt against everything the Islamic Republic stands for, a sober analysis reveals that we are witnessing the renegotiation of political power in the country. The protagonists represent different wings within the system; the contours of their politics are drawn upon the expanding canvas of the Islamic Republic. In short: Iran is in a post-revolutionary state, not a pre-revolutionary one.

At the height of the demonstrations after the contested election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad during last summer, I argued, in an article that was disputed and challenged by many skeptics, that we were not witnessing another revolution. But simply because there is a consensus amongst many people with vested interests that the Islamic Republic must be subdued and vilified by any means, one should not be bullied into overlooking the nuances of the changing political landscape in Iran. Simply because the legitimate yearnings for democracy and justice by Iranians are misinterpreted as a rebellion against Iran’s bias toward the Palestinian cause or indeed Islam itself, one should not be fooled into underestimating the capabilities of the state-sanctioned proponents of the political order in the country. What supporters of “regime change” can hope for, and what every Iranian, Arab, Muslim and any other person who empathizes with the plight of the people in the region must fear, is an entrenched civil war that would rip the country apart.

But I don’t think it will come to that. We are already witnessing signs of accommodation. Mir-Hossein Mousavi has written a conciliatory letter, which was followed up by Mohsen Rezai in his own communication with the Supreme Jurisprudent Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Behind the curtains the political factions are negotiating in order to rescue the political system in Iran from further destabilization. The opposition figures, Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, Mohammad Khatami and most notably Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, emerged out of the revolution and would never devour the project they have been busy building up. They are disciples of the Islamic Republic, and they are revealing themselves as such at this very moment.