Sunday, February 17, 2008

Important developments in Iran that you may not have heard about

There are some big things going on in Iran lately, and they don’t all involve ticking time bombs being set and sent over to Iraq, secret deals to help its enemies hop onto planes headed for the US so they can follow our troops home, pranks with short wave radio that are “proof” of instigating war in the Strait of Hormuz or selling nuclear secrets to Palestinian “terrorists” that can be used to wipe Israel off the map.

Now, all of the news is not great, as some of it will no doubt be used to trumpet the need to bomb Iran now, but that is really par for the course, regardless of what news comes out of Iran. But there have been a number of developments lately that will be ignored for the most part (or when not totally ignored, buried as a small column on page 24), mainly because it doesn’t fit the frame of evil brown people threatening to kill everyone so we have to kill them all first.

A few of these new developments are further indication of the weakening power and waning influence of President Ahmadinejad and his hard line supporters. Next month is the Parliamentary Elections in Iran (and for those who forgot, Ahmadinejad’s preferred choices in the 2006 elections were crushed and it was a telling sign of his declining influence), and there is a bit of interesting news about the March 2008 elections:

Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on Friday warned against military intervention in next month's parliamentary elections.

'It is one of the main principles of the Islamic Republic system that the military should not interfere in any elections. There is however a cycle which cannot be considered as natural and which could cause major damages to the pillars of our system,' Rafsanjani said at the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran.

Short version: An influential former Iranian President is warning the military (fierce supporters of Ahmadinejad) to stay the hell out of the election process, even though the Commander of the Revolutionary Guard said it was “the divine duty” for the military members to vote for hard line conservatives. But this wasn’t the only problem with the elections - seems like other hard liners in the interior ministry have disqualified hundreds of moderate candidates, but they are threatening to boycott the elections. The ultimate decision will fall to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who isn’t really sympathetic to “reform”, so we will see how this all plays out. But it is worth pointing out that already, 300 of the candidates have been reinstated.

Even with all of this (and in yet another similarity to what is going on here in the US), the conservatives who are running are distancing themselves from Ahmadinejad due to the horrific job he has done with the economy and for not keeping inflation to a manageable level - further evidence of what Iran’s political situation is becoming.

And in another similarity with the United States political system (although there is a key difference here), an attempted power grab by Ahmadinejad was rebuffed by the Guardian Council (the Council who oversees the President’s power) for the second time in under a month:

Iran's constitutional watchdog on Saturday opposed an attempt by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to expand his administration's power, saying the move "lacks legal justification."

The decision by the Guardian Council was the second major rebuke in less than a month for the hardline president, whose popularity has plummeted recently in the face of Iran's ailing economy.

Last month, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rebuffed Ahmadinejad and ordered him to implement a law supplying natural gas to remote villages after he initially refused to do so.

Wow - a country where the opposition governing body actually tells its unpopular President that, no, he can’t overstep boundaries, expand his power or ignore laws that are passed. And no, his supporters can’t bully and strong arm elections. What a novel idea. How, um....what is the word? Oh yeah, Democratic. What a nice level of....gee, what do I want to say here? Ahhhhhh, yes....oversight and accountability.

I did mention that all the news wasn’t positive, and there is the news that the IAEA just announced that small amounts of uranium gas were being used in a small number of centrifuges. While this will probably be the only thing we will hear about with respect to Iran, it should be noted that:

The diplomats emphasized that the centrifuges were working with minute amounts of uranium gas. One diplomat said Tehran has set up only 10 of the machines -- far too few to make enriched uranium in the quantities needed for an industrial-scale energy or weapons program.

So, even if this is true, and even if it is alarming (and frankly, I don’t know enough to know whether it is alarming or not), it is not nearly at a “critical” point. I also mention this because there has been some recent behind the scenes maneuvering as far as restarting talks between the US and Iran. There were some high level basic talks going on, but now (even without the news about the centrifuges) it seems as though they may not go anywhere until next year, when there is a new administration.

We can only hope that next year isn’t too late, and that the new administration won’t be John McCain, as we all know what his thoughts are on how to deal with Iran.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You missed something quite important: the IAEA is about to announce that inspections have resolved all the major issues with Iran's nuclear program, and this has upset the US and EU who have resorted to threatening the IAEA.

Read and get the links at