IRAN – revolution postponed

Revolution in Iran seems to happen only in western dreams and media. Protests took place only in Tehran and a few large cities and are now nearly disappeared. Smaller towns and rural areas have been very quiet whole the time after elections. The opposition may not yet have been defeated, but the problems are much deeper than calming the streets. The struggle inside ruling elite is continuing and one could estimate that Iran’s political system is now undergoing a major crisis of legitimacy over allegations of a fraudulent presidential elections.  So revolution is postponed in this still theocratic state.

Iran is one of the oldest existing civilizations on globe, its population is well educated young and big and it owns huge energy resources so the country can have sustainable success also in future as regional superpower.  From my point of view people in Iran know best how to develop their country without outside guidance – indeed foreign interference can only make situation worse as seen in history.  However for foreign countries it is extremely important to try understand developments in Iran and consider their future cooperation according that background. From western perspective the key question is if foreign policy of Iran is changing and if to which direction.

While U.S. and EU are still looking their positions related postelection situation in Iran the country itself appears to be caught between strategies: one that does not want to downgrade diplomatic relations with other nations for fear of international isolation, and another that is pushing the concept of foreign interference for domestic reasons.

U.S. interference

Tehran’s foreign policy, particularly its policies toward the U.S., has its own strategic logic, and is based on Iran’s ambitions and Tehran’s perception of what threatens them.

Iranians are deeply skeptical about American motives in the Middle East. In 1953, the CIA, with cooperation with Intelligence Service, triggered a coup that deposed the popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, who had nationalised Iran’s oil industry, monopolised by the British. Mossadeq had wanted to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in which the British had a majority share. The British and Americans organised a coup, put Mossadeq under house arrest and placed Pahlavi firmly in control as Shah.

Added to this are the insults and damages that the United States has inflicted on Iran over the past two-and-a-half decades. Iranians will never forget that the United States tilted toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. By all accounts, Iran would have won the war if the United States had not interfered. Moreover, it is widely known that the United States provided poison gas and other chemical weapons to Iraq during that conflict.

Behind the soothing rhetoric of  “the promotion of democracy “, Washington’s actions aim to impose regimes that are opening their markets to the US without conditions and which are aligning themselves to their foreign policy claims Thierry Meyssan, a journalist and chairperson of Voltaire Network.  Meyssan describes in his article “Color revolution fails in Iran” –  two of U.S. tools for democracy promotion related also to Iran namely the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), created in 1982 and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in 1984; both of these institutions are organically intertwined. I quote:

Legally the NED is a not-for-profit organization under US law, financed by an annual grant voted by Congress as part of the State Department budget. In order to operate, this organization is co-financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is part of the State Department. This legal structure is used jointly as a cover by the American CIA, the British MI6 and the Australian ASIS (and occasionally by Canadian and New Zealand secret services).

The NED presents itself as an agency promoting democracy. It intervenes either directly or using one of its four tentacles: one designed to subvert unions, the second responsible for corrupting management organizations, the third for left-wing parties and the fourth for right-wing parties.

The operation conducted in 2009 in Iran belongs to the long list of pseudo revolutions. First, a 400 million dollar budget was voted in 2007 by Congress to orchestrate a « regime change » in Iran. This was in addition to the ad hoc budgets of the NED, the USAID, the CIA & Co. How this money is being used is unclear, but the three main recipients are the following: the Rafsanjani family, the Pahlavi family and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. “Another is the presence in the UK of the Iranian opposition group MKO.” The MKO is the People’s Mujahedin Organisation, which was taken off the list of terrorist groups by the EU in January.

Western manuscript – Restore Monarchy project

What was the practical plan to change regime in Iran?  One quite well based option is described by William O.Beeman in an article “Washington might have picked Iran’s future king and premier” -published in Iran Press Service.  Of course IPS can be seen as biased media but the script shows how western interference can be seen from Iran’s perspective.  Anyway  Mr. Beeman is a writer and professor of anthropology at The University of Minnesota and he describes western script for regime change in Iran as follows:

The form of government would be a Constitutional Monarchy, with the Head of State being Reza Pahlavi, son of the former Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed in the 1978-79 Islamic revolution, and Sohrab Sobhani as his Prime Minister. The Bush Administration apparently has a handpicked American “plumber” ready to go in Iran, much like Ahmed Chalabi (the leader of the Defence Department-backed Iraqi National Congress) in Iraq. This is Sohrab “Rob” Sobhani, an Iranian-American associated with the neoconservatives in Washington. With Reza Pahlavi as Shah, the 40-ish Sobhani would presumably be prime minister or president.

The promoter of the Administration policy is American Enterprise Institute Freedom Chair Holder Michael Ledeen –  one of four advisers in regular consultation with White House strategist, Karl Rove.  ledeen and Sobhani recently established the Coalition for Democracy in Iran (CDI) to promote this regime change.

Reza Pahlavi had been living quietly in Maryland until 11 September, when he began to address the Iranian community via the internet and satellite television. This prompted the Iranian community to dub him the “Internet Prince.” Rob Sobhani, who has known Reza Pahlavi since childhood, was actually born in Kansas. He became a specialist in energy policy. He has had his finger in many pies in Washington, including consultation on the construction of an oil and gas pipeline across Afghanistan. Sobhani’s interests in regime change are very clear and very consonant with American desires. They are largely commercial. Following his graduation from Georgetown, he became head of a Caspian Energy Consulting, a firm dealing with the transport and sale of Caspian oil. He also notes that supporting a secularisation of Iran would lead to easier transport of Caspian oil through Iranian territory.

Sobhani also sees secularisation of Iran as beneficial for Israel. This is not surprising, since Israel and Iran had excellent ties before the 1978-79 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian Jewish community is the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world. The community is as prominent in Diaspora as in Iran, with members in powerful positions in the Israeli government and in American life, particularly in California. Elimination of the clerical regime in Iran would eliminate support for (the Iran-backed Lebanese) Hezbollah. It might even lead to renewed trade between Tehran and Tel Aviv.

Ledeen and Sobhani expect to have the coup first, and then present Reza Pahlavi as the emergent ruler. Ledeen said as much in a rally in Los Angeles for Iranian monarchists, saying in effect: Let’s have the revolution first, then worry about who will rule Iran. What Ledeen, who has never traveled to Iran, and Sobhani don’t understand is that for such an operation to work, it cannot be tied to an overt embracing of a restoration of the Monarchy (remembering the CIA engineered counter-coup in 1953 that created an American puppet regime in Iran until 1979). Moreover, it cannot specifically espouse use of the Mojahedeen Khalq Organisation (MKO), the guerrilla movement opposing the Iranian government from Iraq. Both the Pahlavi regime and the Mojahedeen are widely opposed in Iran, even from people who would like to see clerical rule eliminated. To have Reza Pahlavi return to power with American blessing would, for many Iranians, be a continuation of American interference in Iranian affairs.

Change in foreign policy – western view?

European diplomats had meeting on 1st July 2009 but  they made no formal decision to order their envoys home, however  this measure was an option as the European Union — Iran’s biggest trading partner — tried to work out how to defuse the dispute in a way that would shield other embassies in Tehran from similar action (detention of the British Embassy’s Iranian personnel).  A high-ranking Iranian military official demanded that the Europeans apologize for interference in Iran’s affairs, which, he said, disqualified European countries from negotiating on Iran’s nuclear program. The official, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the armed forces chief of staff, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that because of the European Union’s “interference” in the postelection unrest, the bloc had “totally lost the competence and qualifications needed for holding any kind of talks with Iran.” (Source NYT)

In an interview with The New York Times, a day before his scheduled departure for Moscow on Sunday, Mr. Obama said he had “grave concern” about the arrests and intimidation of Iran’s opposition leaders, but insisted, as he has throughout the Iranian crisis, that the repression would not close the door on negotiations with the Iranian government. “We’ve got some fixed national security interests in Iran not developing nuclear weapons, in not exporting terrorism, and we have offered a pathway for Iran to rejoining the international community,” Mr. Obama said. (US) The administration, meanwhile, has been preparing for two opposite possibilities: One in which the Iranian leadership seeks to regain a measure of legitimacy by taking up Mr. Obama’s offer to talk — a situation that could put Washington in the uncomfortable position of giving credibility to a government whose actions Mr. Obama has deplored — or one in which Iran rejects negotiations. In comments on the CBS News program “Face the Nation,” Admiral Mullen (the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) seemed to underscore the Pentagon’s concern that an Israeli strike could start a broader conflict, and might simply drive the Iranian nuclear efforts deeper underground. He said any strike on Iran could be “very destabilizing — not just in and of itself but the unintended consequences of a strike like that.” (Source NYT)

Israeli leaders have not asked the United States for approval to attack Iran for fear Washington will turn them down, according to a news report on July 7, 2009 in The Washington Times. Two unnamed Israeli officials close to Benjamin Netanyahu said the prime minister is concerned the White House would not approve an Israeli request to launch military strikes on Iran’s nuclear program. “There was a decision not to press this because it was probably inadequate for the engagement policy and what we know about Obama’s approach to Iran,” one of the officials told the Washington Times.

There are some who believe Bush’s mistake was not to have shifted his aim eastward: that if he was looking for an oil-rich state in the Persian Gulf with links to terrorism and dreams of weapons of mass destruction then Iran, not Iraq, should have been his target. That kind of talk makes others nervous. They fear that the US might one day repeat the Iraq calamity, with the ayatollahs cast in the role of Saddam Hussein.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday that Moscow supports US Administration’s plan to hold direct talks with Iran.Medvedev told reporters that the talks would prepare ground for US to discuss its concerns.
Referring to the countries rights to gain nuclear technology for civilian utility, Medvedev said that producing nuclear energy within the framework of the international regulations and the IAEA must not be considered problematic. The Russian president drew a line between the Iranian nuclear program and that of North Korea and said that Iranian nuclear program is underway while interacting with international bodies, the Islamic republic news agency reported. “North Korea has cut its contacts with the outside world,” the Russian president said expressing his concern about the North Korean test-firing missiles. (Source Farsnes)

Energy aspect

Putting democracy  and civil rights aside for a while the economical aspect has been and is maybe the most important while foreign powers are looking their positions with Iran. As the world’s fourth-highest oil and gas producer Iran can have good economical growth, petrochemical revenues account some 80 % of Iran’s export earnings, much of this income is used to public spending and subsidies (energy subsidies amount to about 17.5 % of GPD according IMF) while a lack of domestic refining capacity means that Iran imports around 40% of its petrol. Iran boasts the biggest reserves of natural gas in the Middle East but its consumption is also high, behind only the US and Russia.  EU and Russia have big interests where this gas will be exported.  More about this e.g. in my article “Is it time to bury Nabucco?

As mentioned earlier privatization of energy sector and transportation routes were a priority in US blueprint “restore Monarchy”.  Also during the last electoral campaign, Rafsanjani required Mir-Hossain Mousavani, his former adversary, to promise he would privatize the oil sector.

Iran’s plans to develop nuclear energy facilities has been crucial factor with Iran’s international relations. Russia has been helping Iran with the construction of the nuclear facility in the southern port city of Bushehr under a contract signed in 1995. Bushehr power plant started its pre-commissioning stage in the presence of Iranian and Russian nuclear experts in February 2009. Tehran and Moscow planning to expand nuclear cooperation in future. (Source Irannewsdaily)

Color revolution postponed

Thierry Meayssan hits the nail on the head in his article “Color revolution fails in Iran”  giving following description:

“ Color revolutions” are to revolutions what Canada Dry is to beer. They look like the real thing, but they lack the flavor. They are regime changes which appear to be revolutions because they mobilize huge segments of the population but are more akin to takeovers, because they do not aim at changing social structures. Instead they aspire to replace an elite with another, in order to carry out pro-American economic and foreign policies. The  “green revolution”  in Tehran is the latest example of this trend.  Behind the soothing rhetoric of “the promotion of democracy”, Washington’s actions aim to impose regimes that are opening their markets to the US without conditions and which are aligning themselves to their foreign policy. However, while these goals are known by the leaders of the “color revolutions”, they are never discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. In the event when these takeovers succeed, citizens soon rebel against the new policies imposed on them, even if it is too late to turn back. Besides, how can opposition groups who sold their country to foreign interests behind their populations’ backs be considered “democratic”?

When post-election riots started the Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations of opposition supporters, ignoring and downplaying the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that the Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.  The most news coverage came from Tehran via English speaking students ignoring the provinces, small and medium size cities and villages where Ahmadinejad has his mass base of support (more in pre-election survey).

While the opposition’s supporters were students easily mobilized for street activities Ahmadinejad’s support drew on the majority of working youth and household women workers who would express their views at the ballot box and had little time or inclination to engage in street politics. Ahmadinejad did very well in the oil and chemical producing provinces. This may reflect energy sector workers’ opposition to the reformist plans privatize public enterprises.  The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.

Mohsen M.Milani, University of South Florida/political science department, estimates that

Unless there is a fundamental change in the existing structural configuration of the Islamic Republic, or in a change in the institution of the Supreme Leader, it is unlikely that Iran will radically change its foreign policy. If anything, the next president of Iran is likely to rely increasingly on nationalistic sentiments in order to bring harmony to a divided, dynamic and assertive Iranian electorate. The Islamic Constitution was deliberately structured to insure that the unelected component of the government, or its Islamic part, dominates its elected or the republican part.

A summary below made by BBC describes good today’s ruling system in Iran:

Tehran’s top priority is the survival of the Islamic Republic as it exists now. The strategic direction of the Islamic Republic of Iran has always been determined by the Supreme Leader, in consultation with the main centers of power in Iran’s highly factionalized polity. As the second most powerful man in the country, the Iranian president has profound impact on strategy and policy, but the Supreme Leader — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — is the final “decider.” As the country’s most powerful figure, he is the commander of the armed forces and in charge of the intelligence and security forces and serves for life. He — not the president — makes the key decisions regarding war and peace, Iran’s nuclear policies, and relations with Washington. The Islamic Constitution was deliberately structured to insure that the unelected component of the government, or its Islamic part, dominates its elected or the republican part.

One aspect that something is changing inside Iran’s power structure is that the opponents of new elite is making mass-scale money transfers from Iran. European security experts, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed reports in Italian and Turkish newspapers that large sums of money had been sent to havens outside the country from banks controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.

Ahmadinejad’s success in last  election is strenghtening a process begun in June 2005, with his first election as president. Slowly he is making power swift from clerics of Qom to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), particularly the veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. Revolutionary Guards have seized ownership of Iranian revolution from the clerics, whom they accused of being weak-willed opportunists and corrupted hypocrites.

From discussion forums a couple of opinions maybe are expressing also wider mood in today’s Iran:

However under Ahmadinejad I see that we have a president who will not take insults from anyone or any country, this makes me and millions of other Iranians very happy.

I have no doubt, he also did an excellent job standing up to the world war criminals, thieves, liars and hypocrites. My only dilemma is accepting the way ordinary citizens & protestors on the streets were treated.

Bottom line

Abbas Barzegar concludes the post election outcome quite good in his article  “Media fantacies in Iran” as follows:

Soon, Iran will fade from the news cycle and its horrors will blend with those of the rest of the world. Ahmadinejad will serve four years as a lame-duck president, tempered by Khamenei domestically and internationally. Mousavi, along with Khatami, will probably retire from politics while Rafsanjani secures his assets as quickly as possible. (Ali) Larijani (Parliament Speaker)  will be the supreme leader’s new man and after leading the charge on election reform will probably be the next president.

The West cannot afford to ignore any regime in Iran –  there are a number of issues that one just has to negotiate with the current Iranian regime such as the nuclear programme, regional security and economy-related problems

Professor Ali Ansari, a noted authority on the country, predicts that a regime that now “suffers from a serious domestic legitimacy problem – and which knows it – will seek a foreign foe, something to rally the country around.” He predicts “acts of provocation”, and only hopes Israel is wise enough not to take the bait.

The worst thing for foreign powers – excluding Israel’s airstrike and all its consequences –  is to come out in open support of opposition demonstrations – as the Bush administration did so recklessly in 2003, forcing reformist leaders and opposition politicians to shun protesters for fear of being denounced as traitors.  Same action today would be fatal for Mousavi and the current Iranian opposition.

The best thing the United States and EU could do is to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, get involved with commercial dealings, and give the Iranians some reason to undertake reforms ­ a better life in partnership with the West. From other side Russia has long-term interests in Central Eurasia and with Iran it will continue to implement large-scale economic projects so Iran’s partnership with Russia can also create economical base for Iran’s reforms. In time, the younger generation, which makes up more than 75 percent of the population, will take over the system which now is on developing stage.

Related articles:

No revolution but potential for change anyway” by Ari Rusila

Iran-Twitter-Revolution” by Ari Rusila

Where will the power lie in Iran?” By New York Times

Iran: the new elite” by Vladimir Yurtayev

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