Is Iran now on the path to change?


"Final results from Iran’s February 26 elections to Parliament and the clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, show that the moderates have clinched a resounding political victory. In the 290-seat Parliament, the reformist allies of President Hassan Rouhani won at least 85 seats, while the moderate conservatives secured 73 seats. Together they will control the House. The hardliners, who were steadfastly opposed to Mr. Rouhani’s reform agenda, won only 68 seats. In the 88-member Assembly of Experts, the clerics backed by reformists and centrists claimed 52 seats. This is not the first time Iranian voters have spoken their mind against the hardliners. For the last many years they have consistently pushed reformist or less conservative candidates through Iran’s rigid electoral process. Still, last week’s twin elections were highly significant for Iran’s polity in general and Mr. Rouhani in particular for a number of reasons. This was the first election after Mr. Rouhani secured the historic nuclear deal with world powers last year, ending the country’s isolation in return for giving up its nuclear programme. The hardliners were opposed to the nuclear deal. Even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had warned the political leadership several times against any rapprochement with the West. The hardliners had also opposed Mr. Rouhani’s plans to open up the country’s economy and reach business deals with overseas companies, including those from the West. "  The Hindu


 The MSM of the West seem uninterested in the results of the Iranian election.  I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the political dance underway among moderates, hardliners and reformers.  I look forward to a collection of knowledgeable comments on this subject.  pl

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113 Responses to Is Iran now on the path to change?

  1. raksh wah says:

    from My read – Iran Iraq war has left the clerics with some lasting power, people feel that they defended the Country sucesfully, it will require the memories of that War to fade before the “revolution” is completely over.

  2. b says:

    There are, as far as I can tell, no official lists that would designate “moderates”, “reformers” or “hardliners”. There are no political parties in Iran.
    There are endorsements and unofficial lists by some highly visible people and their position is then attributed to the whole list. So when Rouhani endorses someone, that someone is seen to be on the “moderate” list.
    This way some “hardliners” turn into “reformers” over night and vice versa.
    Some U.S. neocons have pointed that out in this Eli Lake piece:
    In general the move this election has been somewhat to the “moderate” and “reformer” site. But seen in a “western” context the “reformers” are cultural more liberals but economically on the “right” in “western” nomenclature while some of the cultural conservative “hardliners” are actually socialists.

  3. Matt says:

    Iranian population is relatively youthful and more pro-American than what the PTB would have us believe.
    Iran is not as closed a Muslim society as Saudi Arabia is.
    I believe Obama’s opening up with the Iranians was helpful.
    “Hardliners” in both the US and Iran need to go away.

  4. asx says:

    Russia and India have most at stake in Iran’s return to normalcy in international relations. No wonder you see some meaningful coverage in the media there. Iran was among the few countries propping up the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Even China may see Iran as a stabilizing player, but they have placed more bets on Pakistan due to regional power balancing.
    For the Saud/Gulfie/NeoCon alliance the writing is on the wall. No amount of lobbyist money can buy enough lipstick to cover up what they are. Public opinion here has turned too much against the uncivilized desert rats. We are in a timeframe where all defense majors will drain Saudi/GCC coffers with the threat of a rising Iran. And after that they will become a liability.
    Obama’s opening to Cuba and Iran places us on more solid footing. Far too long, we have divided the world into vertebrates and non-vertebrates(allies) willing to overlook any and all perfidies of the latter and ready to poke and prod the former. Unsurprising since submission is the most valued trait of the Borg. A trait it shares with those it claims to fight and exterminate.

  5. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Iranians do politics as it fits the universe as it matters to the Iranians, of which relations with the West is just a small piece. I find it laughable when outsiders try to offer “analysis” of a country’s political by the yardstick built entirely of their concerns. Even more laughable when they don’t understand their own country’s political situation–as seen in the mess that is the Republican Party today (and to a lesser degree, the Democrats). Trump may or may not be the Republican nominee, but he is definite popular and that has nothing to do with the international situation and who knows if he is a “moderate” or a “hardliner.”

  6. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Iran is not as closed a Muslim society as Saudi Arabia is.”
    Iran is Shiite and has a magnificent pre-Islamic culture. It also has experience with de facto secularism. It is a complex country but term “pro-American” is completely misplaced here. Some, fairly narrow, strata of Tehran’s well-off and westernized youth is not an evidence of any “pro-Americanism” (whatever that means). Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is cultural and economic midget when compared to Iran. Forestalling this ever pervasive “GDP argument”, Iran has on the order of magnitude more scientists and engineers than KSA will ever have.

  7. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I’d also think that the Iranian population is also more patriotic than Saudis–the latter don’t really have a country, as much as personal fiefdom of a single clan. While I don’t doubt that Iranian youth like Western culture, I don’t know if they are “pro-Western.” I’ve seen enough superpatriotic Chinese youths who really love the Western culture to think that they don’t overlap much.

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Rouhani has made it to the Assembly of Experts (The College of Cardinals of the Shia) and likely will be the next Supreme Leader.
    In the meantime, here is the latest from Fisk @ the Independent, which, I think is an fair assessment.

  9. petrous says:

    The process currently underway was best described in an article written by Iran Analyst Mr. Hooman Majd. He referred to it as ” Wash, rise & repeat” cycle of gradual change. meaning with each election the country has relied more and more on the younger more liberal voter to push out more and more hard liners enamored of absolute control and isolationism , replacing them in as much as possible with “less hardliner” officials and deputies (an uphill stroll given the guardian council’s hitherto rejection of most things moderate including candidates).
    The under 40 generation , a very fast growing voter block is much more amiable to opening up to the west and liberalizing suffocating social and moral shackles placed on them by the religious hardliners.
    Here is the link to the above referred to Hooman Majd article – “HOW MUCH CHANGE DO IRANIANS REALLY WANT” :

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    India has ruined her stakes in Iran and there really is not much left of her Iran policy except a transactional one.
    Likewise for the European Union which waged a vicious economic war against Iran.
    Both are losers in so far as their positions in Iran cannot be recovered; US diplomats have made sure of that; US having made herself the indispensable country to both EU and India when it comes to Iran.

  11. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Iran is not a Western country and will never be so. Please see below:
    The tradition of covering oneself with mud pre-dates Islam but has been adopted to Shia Islam in this case.
    The Shia Doctors were vanguards of the politics of Iran for at least two centuries; from the Tobacco Boycott in the 19-th Century to the Constitution Revolution, to the Oil Nationalization, to Islamic Revolution – they cannot be separated from the rest of Iranians.
    Furthermore, the Iranian people, love their religion.
    They were lining up in their thousands at the Iran-Iraq border in 2003, almost immediately after the Saddam Hussein government was destroyed, to go to pilgrimage to Karbala and Najaf – in the middle of a war.
    Tehran is not Iran – it is one-eight of Iran – politically; in my opinion.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Since the United States has finally accepted Iranian nuclear programs within the NPT, I think now that US strategic negotiations with Iran are possible.
    The basis of such negotiations would be the mutual desire to be able to have safe export of oil out of Persian Gulf, opposition to the Jihadists across Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan now and elsewhere later, and safety of Israel for US and that of Lebanon for Iran.
    In regards to absence of political parties in Iran – I think Turkey is more advanced than Iran in this respect as well as in toleration for political opposition. May be Iranians could, in the fullness of time, learn from Turkey – which is Muslim.

  13. Walter says:

    Sorry to be off topic but I cannot contain myself . I just read about the mass of Syrian refugees in Greece and I cannot help but wonder how European political leaders can support US and Saudi in turkey foreign policy against Asad which is the direct cause of the refugee problem . Is the European political leadership so weak that they cannot go against USA ever?

  14. turcopolier says:

    I was unaware that Rouhani was elected to the Assembly of Experts. Can you tell us more about this event and its implications? pl

  15. Laguerre says:

    Although I have no claim to special knowledge, I would have thought that the results speak for support of Rouhani’s policies. If I were Iranian, I would do so too. He has successfully negotiated a deal with the US, which will potentially help many Iranians.
    Evidently, the deletion of candidates doesn’t help the democratic decision, but it seems to me that things would have gone that way anyway. Rouhani has achieved something, and therefore he is supported.
    I don’t suppose that our local Iranians will agree, but their vision is built on the model of the Iranian aristocracy, who detest Islam as linked to the lower classes.

  16. The Beaver says:

    India: “we will refine your oil but at a 20% surcharge” and now they believe that they will get first dip 🙂
    Same as some in France that believe that Peugeot will corner 20% of the car market – may be that’s what Fabius had let them believe

  17. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Is the European political leadership so weak that they cannot go against USA ever?”
    Look at the current “Western” political (and media) “elites” and all becomes very clear–not a single statesman (or stateswoman), mostly political prostitutes with degrees in law and “humanities”. A lot of that applies also to the “academe”. It is not weakness, it is worse than that.

  18. Laguerre says:

    Good comment.

  19. The Beaver says:

    This can sometimes be the Pravda of Iran but sometimes there are some good info:

  20. asx says:

    Agree that a transactional relationship without the cloud of sanctions is the most that is possible now for E.U. and India with respect to Iran.
    For India, more will have to wait for U.S. draw down from Afghanistan and the threat of AfPak implosion.
    For the E.U. they’ll be happy to take the immediate windfall from the Iranian spending spree.

  21. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Russia and India have most at stake in Iran’s return to normalcy in international relations.”
    Russia doesn’t care one way or another about Iranian “normalcy”–depends how one defines it. Soviet and Russian relations with Iran were always fairly pragmatic and are based today primarily around Caspian stability, including energy sphere, and the fact that Iran potentially (with emphasis on potentially)could be a great market for Russian technology. What Russia never had about Iran, however, were illusions. Which the fate of TUDEH party’s survivors living in Baku in 1980s was a good reminder of why so. As long as Iran plays along in Caspian (geo)politics and at least considers Russia’s interests–things should be OK.

  22. Kooshy says:

    IMO Iran will change, she always has that’s how and why, she has survived for three miliniums, but to put it simple the change and changes younger modern Iranian generation will make still would not be to the Borg’ liking, since IMO Iranian will not give up sovereignty and independence due to a cultured nationalism. With regard to recent elections like b says, after all, all politics are local, there are too many crossovers and changes on many issues in what one may call as a one man party system.

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not know the details – he and Rafsanjani are in, Khatami is out (too liberal, I suppose).
    Formally, it means he could have a say in the selection of the next Supreme Leader.

  24. Ex-PFC Chuck says:

    The Democrats are in just as much trouble as the GOP, but most of the party’s nomenklatura don’t realize it. Which suggests they are in even worse trouble. If. Bernie is perceived to be denied the nomination because of a tilted playing field turnout, among the under 35s especially, will crash. The party poobahs will then blame the grass roots for being lazy.

  25. Bandolero says:

    “I look forward to a collection of knowledgeable comments on this subject.”
    From what I hear regarding the Experts’ Assembly – which will be charged with electing a new supreme leader when Ali Khamenei dies – before the last election most of the members were close confidents of Ali Khamenei and after this election most members are close confidents of Ali Khamenei. There are some new faces on board, and I’ld expect some changes in style, but the strong person is Ali Khamenei, and with this election it was ensured, that his successor follows Ali Khamenei’s politics, if it would come to this. President Rouhani is a close confident of Ali Khameni – and he has been one for many decades, too. Political opposition against Ali Khamanei comes from the Rafsanjani wing of Iranian politics, but that wing was not significantly strengthened by the last elections.

  26. JJackson says:

    “I think Turkey is more advanced than Iran in this respect as well as in toleration for political opposition.”
    Really Babak? I am not sure Turkey is a role model I would be recommending and if they are behind they seem to be catching up fast.

  27. petrous says:

    Yes that was a very good article from the frontlines in Syria. A great recommendation.

  28. Kooshy says:

    This is his second term in assembly of experts if not his third.

  29. turcopolier says:

    So now he presumably has a lot more allies in the AofE? pl

  30. Kooshy says:

    Colonel LANG, I think so,although since there are no real traditional party politics like in here, anybody is claiming one person or another is in his (favored)list without any approval or alligence of the indvadual named being asked or requested, so it’s hard to know how one will vote or how many allies one has in each assembly. Unlike Babak I am not sure if he will becomes the next leader since I believe the military security establishment has a big say, but as important inside the Iranian and regional clerical society,who becomes the next leader will have to have the suport of major Shia ayatollahs who are not mostly (necessarily) members of AoE or even Iranian.

  31. LeaNder says:

    thanks, khc, hilarious:
    “But seen in a “western” context the “reformers” are cultural more liberals but economically on the “right” in “western” nomenclature while some of the cultural conservative “hardliners” are actually socialists.”

  32. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Guardian Council is applying the Election Law that the Second Majlis passed in order to exclude the more Europeanized Iranians from standing for elections and getting elected.
    Khatami tried to reverse it in 1999 but was quashed in that effort by Ayatollah Khamenei.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes I think so.
    In Turkey, you have a diversity of opinions that are being heard, they are not silenced.
    In Turkey, you have these parties that represent different political agenda within the structures of the Turkish Constituting and they are fielding candidates and getting elected – even in the situation of near war in the Eastern provinces with Kurds.
    I think almost 70 years of garrison republicanism has achieved something positive in Turkey.

  34. Lord Curzon says:

    I’m not an economic determinist, however, would be wary of sifting this vote of confidence for Rouhani by the Iranian electorate for anything more than a desire to put the country on a path to exploring global economic opportunities, much more than dialogue with the West.
    This analysis on the elections on LobeLog by Farideh Farhi is the best I’ve found:

  35. Kooshy says:

    Colonel as I am sure you know, in Shia Islam true grand ayatollahs direct the agenda/direction of the politics for the society (platform). In reality there are no grand ayatollahs in AoE since GA are so accepted that they are even above that level, it’s really hard to make it to the GA level, a level that one Indvadual can make the direction for a large group of fallowers without being formally voted to do so( think of ayatollah Sistani, or Khomenie). I believe is true that ayatollah Khamenie the current SL has made it to the rank of GA but I believe at time that he was elected to the SL of revolution position he wouldn’t have had a chance without alligence of military and suport of the major at the time GA,likes of GAs Arki and Behjat. So IMO one would need more than the vote from inside the AoE to survive the balancing act that SL is tasked to do. As far as I have read most Iranians inside Iran including members of Rouhani team think ayatollah Khamenie has done a good job steering Iran’ ship through last stormy 25 years.

  36. Kooshy says:

    IMO, this, that President Rouhani is the architect of nuclear negotiation is a western myth or more correctly an American justification for domestic consumption. Nuclear negotiations started 6 months before Mr. Rouhani becomes president and Mr. Zarif becomes FM. American’ request through Aman was given to SL by then FM under president Ahmadinijad by Dr. Salahi who’s the current head of nuclear organization. IMO both US, and Iran did the right think, I was told by someone who knew that major success of Iranian nuclear program was to force Americans come to table for serious negotiation.

  37. Haralambos says:

    SmoothieX12 and Walter,
    Here is a link on the situation in Greece:
    Many of these folks are not from Syria but from Afghanistan or are deemed economic refugees, and countries to the north refuse to let them pass through (especially Macedonia, which the Greeks refer to by the acronym created from the first letters of this, Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia to counter any irridentist claims). Austria is also blocking entry by many. Here is a bit of the article that describes the situation here:
    “According to data from the Refugee Crisis Coordinating Center, on Thursday morning 2,501 people were hosted in four hotspots, 8,647 stayed in the four open hospitality structures (Schisto, Diavata, Nea Kavala and Cherso), 720 at Elaionas, and 5,290 in the three areas of Ellinikon former airport. In Idomeni it is estimated that there are 10,000 people and 1,800 at Piraeus Port. Also, 490 refugees are hosted in hotels leased by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Thermopylae and the Smokovo Baths of Karditsa.
    “On Thursday, landscaping to create a refugee accommodation center on the runway of a former army airport at Giannitsa has started. The camp is expected to have 500 tents and host 4,000 people. Also, work continues for the full configuration of the spaces in the hot spot of Moria (construction of the fourth registration station), Samos (installation of hatches) and Kos (infrastructure construction work is ongoing). In the centers of Diavata the second phase of works is ongoing, while at Elaionas excavation works have started to make an extension to the existing facility.
    “320 refugees crossed the Greek-FYROM buffer zone in 24 hours
    A total of 320 refugees crossed the Greek-FYROM buffer zone over the last 24 hours.
    “More than 10,000 refugees have been stranded in the area in rather difficult conditions after Thursday’s rainstorm. The buffer zone is now closed again.”
    Turkey has agreed to take some measures to stem the flow after being offered EU money last month, but the negotiations are still ongoing.
    The EU is still largely an aspiration and not a reality due to its size, cultural differences and the differences between different geographic locations. Greece has a huge coastline and ongoing issues with Turkey despite both being members of NATO. I could go on for pages, but this is already too long. Do a search for the current situation n Greece, the politics, the current EU situation and other terms of interest to you.

  38. Tony says:

    There is no doubt that this election has given the reformists in Iran a boost to implement a more balanced policy, but do not undermine the power of the revolutionary guards and their minions. A more open society lowers the chance of corrupt officials to conduct their business. Iran’s economy has a long way to go to create jobs for millions of its populations.

  39. rakesh wahi says:

    it is possible that Turkey is going through normal ebb and flow

  40. Mark Pyruz says:

    The Iranians’ possess a participatory political system. It is more dynamic than Western MSM perspectives generally admit to on a consistent basis.
    Essentially, in parliamentary elections, the Iranian electorate has swung conservative when it appeared the country would be attacked by the U.S., and now in this latest election has voted more centrist with the lessening of tensions with the U.S.
    However this election result does not signal a decisive shift away from what Iran considers its strategic interests in the region. A strong popular majority inside the country continue to support the war against Jihadists, and also to support regional players they deemed victims of an unjust overarching security order, such as Houthis and Palestinians.
    Something to look for in the future: Polling places have been set up here in the U.S. for the past two Iranian presidential elections, for Iranians residing in the U.S. to vote for president of Iran. Were a Republican to win the White House this November, I think it very unlikely this will be allowed for the next Iranian presidential election that’s be held in Spring 2017.

  41. Henshaw says:

    There has been for many years large-scale production of domestic versions of the Peugeot 405- an excellent machine according to my serial 405-owning brother. See the Wikipedia article
    They are by far the most common vehicle in Iran.
    Peugeot France may be able to do some deals on joint ventures and new models, but it’s unlikely to be a bonanza for them- the Iranians are too canny for that.

  42. kooshy says:

    I agree that the young democrat may rather stay home then voting for HRC, in that case if the race is between C & T, the only other option is to demonize Trump as un-presidential and not fit for the job. Unfortunately as seen last night in the debate,Trump could have a lot of negatives (like the university case) that still has not been brought up and can be used against him by HRC in general election.

  43. kooshy says:

    Mark during last 4 Iranian presidential elections (Khatami, Ahmadinijad twice and Rouhani) for fact there was polling places here in downtown LA, that is during Clinton, Bush and Obama, why would a new republican president wouldn’t allow that to happen in 2017?

  44. kao_hsien_chih says:

    That was b., not me. But the logic does stand on its own: it gets hilarious when people try to insist on viewing politics that they don’t understand using criteria and definitions that don’t make any sense….

  45. Amir says:

    As a matter of fact, the Revolutionary Guard and Basij volunteer forces became more powerful towards the end of the war as opposed to the clergy. Guns speak louder than the turbans. And I am speaking of personal experience. The court system is telling. There are the secular courts, the religious courts and the revolutionary courts but at the end of the day, if there is a judgement against a Revolutionary Guard fraction, the one who decides what is going to be carried out is the same Revolutionary Guard (with their internal fractional rivalries)

  46. Amir says:

    I would like to add that Northern and Western Tehran is not the whole of Tehran neither. Those two areas are as much New York as Manhattan is.

  47. Amir says:

    I have the impression that the Iranian system is more based on clientelism, meaning that you have to get things done through the government and support your representative to get those things done. The input on foreign affairs and security of the average member of parliament is basically ZERO. You can really compare it with National Security Council and Politburo determining the macro-strategy while the average congressman takes care of it’s own re-election by spreading favors.

  48. Amir says:

    I hope Iranians don’t model their system to the discriminatory Turkish model with suppression of Kurds and extermination of Armenians as examples of their extreme outgrowth. Obviously their model allowed for Liver-Eater Party in Syria and probably terminated any chance of them getting into E.U.

  49. Amir says:

    Not to speak of embargoing life-saving medication during the sanctions. Surely, I and others will not remember who put politics above people.

  50. Amir says:

    I would like to add this excellent analysis by the Indian diplomat Mr. Bhadrakumar:

  51. Amir says:

    There might be a move towards forming a triumvirate, as the replacement of for the supreme leader, when Khamenei comes to pass away.

  52. Amir says:

    Your statement, that G.A determine the course of political action, needs qualification. The Velayateh-Faghih (Rule of Jurisprudence) is a new concept that was created by Ayatollah Montazeri. He was the theoretician behind this and at the same time a “teacher” and a disciple of Khomeini. With “teacher” I mean that he created this theory that specifically was applicable on Khomeini and his personality, as
    Montazeri specifically mentioned later in life. He was destined to take over from Khomeini but due to his opposition to summary execution of MEK members (or alleged members) was put on a side-track.
    Before Khomeini, ayatollah Kashani was involved in the oil nationalization and prior that some others in Tobacco Revolt and Constitutional Revolution.
    The marriage of Shia Islam and Politics is a very recent phenomenon.

  53. China, and Russia, understand in the deepest and complex way [largely an understanding of geography] that Egypt, Iran, and Turkey are pivot points of history and in history! Does the U.S. understand this belief based on solid facts?
    Paul Kennedy’s book on the key nation-states of the 21st Century needs updating.

  54. Recommend:
    Preparing for the Twenty-First Century – February 1, 1994
    by Paul Kennedy (Author)

  55. LeaNder says:

    OK, my response to you was a bit “nutshelly”. 😉
    I am following vaguely an insider on matters. But he is Persian-German and writes in German for the foundation of the Green Party over here:
    Considering that he is more or less–it feels he doesn’t mind–a recovering Marxist-Leninist, I am pretty sure he would find the quote of b I choose quite funny. …

  56. Nancy K says:

    No one else has to demonize Trump as un-presidential, he does such a good job of doing that himself. The debate was embarrassing, not just for the Republican party but for the nation. If Americans want a buffoon for president, so be it.

  57. Croesus says:

    ر حال حاضر آمریکا است که در مسیر تغییر؟

  58. bth says:

    How does Iran’s leadership view its foreign relation priorities at this point, post sanctions?

  59. bth says:

    Does the Russian government feel that Iran owes them a debt for the Russian intervention in Syria that is to be repaid with trade or defense purchases?

  60. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think you mean “Patronage” – when you wrote “clientelism”.
    But patronage is alive and well in the United States for the past 200 years or so.

  61. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Russia no longer borders Iran, a first in 200 years, and Iranian leaders have not done anything to take advantage of that politically against Russia since 1991.
    In Tajikistan, Iran and Russia cooperated in the past to end the civil war there and will likely cooperate in the future after the fracture of Afghanistan in 2019 along the old Seljuk boundary.

  62. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is no longer permitted by since the revision of the Iranian Constitution.

  63. Babak Makkinejad says:

    They did not think things out through, I suspect because they expected Iranians to fold to US satisfaction.

  64. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I tend to think in larger time intervals. AKP is not going to be always forming the government in Turkey. And I think that the people of Turkey as well as her political system is now more accepting of opposing view points than Iran.

  65. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is a valid point and I just was commenting about domestic politics of Turkey.
    On the broader cultural issues within Turkey, there is much to be criticized.
    The secularist Republicans – the so-called “Modernizers” – protected the war criminals who perpetrated atrocities against civilian Armenian populations.
    They later proceeded to expel the Christian Pontics on the pretext that they were really Greeks (like saying that Saxons in Germany are really English and expelling them to UK).
    They set up the machinery of republicanism and secularism with no rule of law – everything was smoke and mirrors and no substance behind it.
    Today, AKP government, Muslim Brotherhood, is proceeding with helping in the ruination of another Muslim country, using refugees to harm the infidel Christians in EU – all the while the Turkish sheep – Turk or Kurd or Alewi – are all silent.
    One wonders: “Where is Islam?” , “Where is Human Rights?” and who stands for them in Turkey?
    Truly deplorable.

  66. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If you ask me the percentage of the Iranian population that does not discriminate between their sons and daughters, interacts freely among women and men in social settings, considers itself “saved” by (Shia) Islam but is not hyper-religious or wearing its religion on its sleeves – I would say no more than 10% of the Iranians consist of this Europeanized population.
    This is the population that cannot field candidates to which Rouhani alluded 3 weeks ago.
    I think Iranian government is as yet unwilling to accommodate this significant population politically.
    It is ironic because he religious minorities whose populations do not even make for half the required minimum of 250,000 souls for a representative are each guaranteed a representative in the Iranian parliament.

  67. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There was not much that was magnificent in pre-Islamic Iran; certainly during late Sassanid period you had widespread poverty, enforced illiteracy, and a caste system.

  68. kooshy says:

    Amir Thank you for your comment, Safavids back in 1500s were Shia, and by them Shia was used to reform Iran’s Political structure. I would recommend you read the History of Shia by Dr. Rasoul Jafarian. Ayatollah Khomeini has a book on VF theory. To be short the theory of VP goes back way before Ayatollah Khomeini, constitutional revolution, or Safavids.

  69. bth says:

    I wonder how this would impact some like like Gen. Qasem Soleimani who was rumored to have domestic political ambitions?

  70. Seamus Padraig says:

    Another hint of coming trouble for the Democrats: their primary turnout this year has been dramatically lower than 2008, while Republican primary turnout is way up.

  71. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You are not looking at it the right way.
    If anything, it is the Russian Federation that ought to feel grateful to Providence for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Shia Crescent offering them protection and a cordon sanitaire against NATO states as well as the Jihadist Menace.
    They may not like Iran and Iranians – “Remember Griboyedov!” – but they cannot afford to be enemies with Iran either – in my opinion.

  72. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Neither the Secularists nor the Islamists in Turkey have been able to bridge the gap between Turkey and the positive aspects of the European Enlightenment Tradition.
    I wish I could say that they are trying but I do not see on the level of ideas; it is either Ataturk or Gulen with a sprinkling of Marxism (I wonder if there is a single person in Turkey that truly understands Hegelian Philosophy).
    More can be said but this is enough for now.

  73. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In fact, starting with the presidency of Mr. Rafsanjani, Iranian government had seen the need for privatizing the economy but the going has been rather slow for a number of reasons; inertia, ideological & bureaucratic opposition, etc.
    If I recall correctly, Thatcher succeeded in only privatizing 16% of the Crown Corporations during her 12 years as Prime Minister of UK.
    Several years ago, prior to the initiation of the EU’s economic war against Iran, it became clear to the Iranian leaders that the subsidy model was no longer sustainable and that is when Ahmadinejad’s government began eliminating water & energy subsidies.
    However, in my opinion, the Iranian people expect the government to control prices. Successive Iranian governments, from the time of the Shah, have been obliging them by providing subsidies. It is very difficult to wean people off handouts. I think you can only do that when you run out of handouts.

  74. Babak Makkinejad says:

    They have written off regional states (excepting Iraq and Syria)…looking to the Far East…

  75. SmoothieX12 says:

    Well, good golly, of course, how can anything non-Islamic be magnificent. Ah, those jahillya scoundrels how did they fail to provide for car in each garage and free internet.

  76. SmoothieX12 says:

    “Russia no longer borders Iran, a first in 200 years, and Iranian leaders have not done anything to take advantage of that politically against Russia since 1991.”
    Russia and Iran are connected by Caspian Sea and, despite changed conditions since 1920 and 1940 Treaties, both will try to keep Caspian Sea what it was before Soviet collapse–internal Iranian-Russian sea, mostly. The issue of Astara and Hasan-Kuli triangles, thus, are now Iranian-Azeri and Iranian-Turkmen issues, if they exist at all today. The fact that Russia doesn’t border Iran changes nothing in North Azerbaijan’s dynamics. The rest–last time I spoke with people,trains between Baku and Tehran still run and nothing really changed that much.

  77. bth says:

    Well how do they view Lebanon and India in this context?

  78. bth says:

    An interesting perspective, but it was Soleimani that went to Russia last July (not the other way around) and made the deals that saved Assad and Iran’s interests in Syria.

  79. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Not at all.
    You can look at pre-Islamic Persian poetry versus what came afterwards, influenced by poetic structures of Arabic, which, in my opinion, remain unsurpassed in the world literature.

  80. Thomas says:

    From an outside observation, I don’t believe Ali Khamenei wants mortality to be the factor that provides a change of command. With the nuclear negotiations over and if the Syrian Civil War is concluded in fashion that solidifies Iranian interests, I could see the man retiring and handing the reigns to his successor, which most likely would be Rouhani.

  81. Thomas says:

    During the autumn of 2010, Ali Khamenei made several road trips to Qum, with the assumption being the final steps to being named Marja. The following February there were brief attempts to publicly address him as such but it didn’t last long. His English language web page does acknowledge him as Grand Ayatollah.
    Maybe your friends or relatives over there can confirm the veracity of this story.

  82. Jack says:

    Invite MRW as Iran’s finance minister. He’ll show them that more government handouts to all and sundry and more government boondoggles are just what the doctor ordered. You know, there is a free lunch when government spends like a drunken sailor.

  83. Farooq says:

    Thanks for your various informative posts on this thread. What is your assessment regarding the larger topic of societal and political change in Iran?

  84. Babak Makkinejad says:

    India is irrelevant and Lebanon is part of the Shia Sphere.

  85. elaine says:

    While channel surfing earlier today there was a piece on Al-Jazeera
    America tv showing a large demonstration in Turkey of people (many
    woman wearing colorful head scarfs in the crowd) being tear gased
    & roughed up for protesting a raid & subsequent closure of a major
    newspaper. Wonder what that’s about…

  86. JJackson says:

    I recall looking at attitudes polling data a while ago and various countries populations were basically asked where there primary loyalty lay in terms of Nation State, ethnic group or religion. KSA were notable in having the vast majority putting religion before country. The loyalty to country is so dominant in the US I sometimes wonder if they understand areas where it is relatively unemployment. Among my own siblings I have brothers and sisters who are now French or Spanish and my father is probably going to change to Spanish. My allegiance is to others who want what I want for the planet and I am not particularly bothered if they are British or from Botswana.

  87. SmoothieX12 says:

    “If anything, it is the Russian Federation that ought to feel grateful to Providence for the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Shia Crescent offering them protection and a cordon sanitaire against NATO states as well as the Jihadist Menace.”
    That is an interesting statement, to put it mildly, but it is not the Shiite Crescent but mostly products of Russia’s military-industrial complex, of which Iran soon to be a major beneficiary too, again, which keep NATO states away from Russia. As per jihadism, agree–Iran and Russia can have here a very good cooperation and it is in the interests of both sides. Russo-Iranian cooperation has an immense potential in very many fields. Will this potential be realized? We’ll see. One thing is clear, having stable, peaceful and friendly Iran is extremely important for Russia.

  88. SmoothieX12 says:

    This I don’t know but I assume that a lot of good may come out of Russo-Iranian cooperation in the field. As per trade and defense contracts–Iran is her own country. Of course Russia expects some contracts, what Russia does not expect is Iran going against her interests. Where those interests will go–it is not clear yet.

  89. bth says:

    Thanks Babak Makkinejad. I was not aware of the death of Alexander Griboyedov and sacking of the Russian embassy in 1829. Fascinating. The embassy thing is a surprisingly consistent issue in Tehran.

  90. kooshy says:

    Technically they do, until Caspian legal status changes, Iran is not recognizing caspian legal status change unless she gets 1/5th share.

  91. kooshy says:

    I agree with you, and here are our choices a warmonger or as you say a buffoon, I am willing to vote for the buffoon then doing more wars of choice for not so grateful clientele.

  92. kooshy says:

    I don’t have religious background nor I come from a religious family, what I know is what I have learned from more knowledgeable people. To become a grand ayatollah is very difficult you can’t lobby/ campaign for it or get votes to become one, like some judges here in US. At the time ayatollah Khamenei was voted to become SL he was not even an ayatollah, he was president and his religious title was Hojat-ol-Islam which is let say is like a bishop, that was 25 years ago. The only way to become a grand ayatollah is the more followers you get an the more contributions you receive. For example let say when you have 100k followers and your office receiving contribution from as many followers and in turn your office is supporting the education of 20000 seminary students and couple of thousand students come to your classes, and when you say a word the whole bazaar willingly closes and 100k people come to street on your words, then one has reached the status of GA. To get there is long and difficult, many agree that after 25 years ayatollah Khamenei has reached that status. One cannot and will not get there just by other GAs approval.

  93. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And then there was the murder of US Ambassador by a mob… look it up…

  94. RetiredPatriot says:

    Croesus, an old treaty negotiator I once worked with had the axiom “positions never change, only the sides holding them.”
    In this case, yes, I think we’re seeing it in action in the US-Iran dynamic.

  95. Thomas says:

    My apologies if I offended you. By your writings I assumed you were an Iranian living here in the US.
    “One cannot and will not get there just by other GAs approval.”
    From my understanding you do need to have other Grand Ayatollahs approval of your religious merit before you can have your followers address you as such. Ali Khamenei has started the process though as you say if not enough people say you are a GA then you are not.

  96. Amir says:

    Thanks for the correction. I was guilty of Flemish equivalent of anglicism. I literally translated a Dutch word in that “patronage” particular context.

  97. Amir says:

    Especially the caste system and “absolute” feudalism emptied out the Sassanid Iran. A lord, although did not literally owned but had ownership of his selfs, including their women folk. Even if you think Islam is backwards, with their RULES, it was pretty clear cut about RIGHTS of the believers and this contributed greatly in it’s adoption by the subjugated people.
    Also the blooming of the post-islamic Iranian culture is a consequence of the removal of borders and extensive exchange of ideas. Obviously, this was not an “intentional” plan but flowed naturally out of the forming of the Islamic empire.

  98. Amir says:

    It was Putin (!) that sent a “copy” of the oldest Koran to Ayatollah Khamenei ( ), as token of his friendship. An audience with Khamenei is almost NEVER granted and this was a sign that Iran hold the friendship relationships with Russia in very high regards.
    The Putin also met President Rouhani and had a few cookies for him as gift:
    It is a symbiosis, not a parasitair relationship.

  99. Amir says:

    There is talk of changing it, upon Khamenei’s suggestion, …hearsay.

  100. Amir says:

    I am not an expert and I have not lived their for 3 decades and my view of Iran was formed as a elementary and middle school pupil in a country at war.
    My general impression is that, each time I return, the country has made strides in it’s general development from industrial and scientific point of view. I judge the latter within my own field and extrapolate to other fields by laymen exchange of information with others in those other fields.
    The changes in social contracts are also well known.
    Although I partially agree with Babak about his “pro-Westernness” analysis, the marriage of the “Islamic values” and modernity by IRI. It has allowed for education of women, exchange of populations as students between different regions and intermixing of those, contact with NEIGHBORING countries (as opposed to far abroad), need for self-sufficiency by default and realization of personal responsibility instead of magical (and expectant) thinking.
    This will lead to gradual adjustment of the social and economical and by default political situation. “The cultures die slowly”: I would have liked to refer you to the book by my professor but I think it would be extremely difficult to get hold of a Dutch copy, let alone a translated one.

  101. Amir says:

    He is not a G.A. but barely made it from Hojjatol-Eslam to Ayatollah. These titles are not political titles but point to scholarship in religion, something like B.A., Masters, PhD, … as prerequisites to obtain political power (something recent in Iran).
    As a “Doctorandus”, his credentials were augmented, somewhat in the same way that The Younger Gaddafi graduated from LSE.
    This was forced through to allow for him to take over the Supreme Leader position.

  102. Amir says:

    Although I can not comment on how you become a Grand Ayatollah, I know that you, kind of, emerge as a Marja-e-Taghlid. This happens by consensus and spontaneity of the believers that decide to follow your example (Taghlid) because of your past enlightened way of life.

  103. Farooq says:

    Much appreciated Amir!

  104. Amir says:

    You are welcome. The book by Prof Rik Pinxton – who is a Navajo expert and has lived among them as an ethnologist and speaks their language – is not about Iran in particular but about the tendency of cultures to persists despite the changes around them. This is more or less in line with Col. Lang’s assertion that not everything should be explained from economical point of view but that local cultural aspects influence local decision making.
    I just mentioned it to point to the fact that despite societal changes, the culture probably will not be influenced too much.

  105. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Navajo are interesting also from the point of view of cultural adaptation.
    They are sheep herders now and their creation myths states that the sheep and the people (the Navajo) had been created at the same time.
    But they got the sheep from the Spaniards!

  106. The Beaver says:

    Unless President Hollande bestows a secret Légion D’honneur on President Rouhani like he just did to the Saudi Prince Nayef 🙁

  107. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think Putin gave a gilded sword to that Saudi Prince – per the old Arabic proverb, “The gift must fit the recipient.”

  108. Thomas says:

    That is how I understand it as an outsider and as you state below there is a religious scholarship aspect that first has to be completed. The point I clumsily failed to make is that Ali Khamenei began the process by completing the scholarship phase late 2010 and in Feb 2011 his followers started to address him as such.
    His office webmaster sees him that way too.
    At that time I was visiting a scholar’s website on Iran which provide the info. I quit when the man had no courage to defend his Iranian visitors from verbal attacks and a Zio-witch showed up to enforce Politically Correct hatred.
    Once we beat the Borg Beast down here in the US, I foresee a decent civil relationship between the countries. The live and let live attitude appears there unlike the others across the Gulf.

  109. Farooq says:

    Thanks for your post Amir. Yes, i understood from your post that the book is on the general topic and not specifically about Iran.
    The reason i asked you the questions that i asked in my original post is because, based on my limited interaction with Iranian diaspora, mainly young students, i had come to believe that a much larger , say ~40 percent of the population of mostly young and urban people is liberal. That some of the more ridiculous things like not allowing women into stadium would vanish overnight if it wasn’t for the current conservative regime.
    On the topic of slow cultural change, here is an article from Pakistan that you might find interesting. It is on the topic of shariat court and how it blunts the regressive conservative pressures while providing space and time for society to change attitudes
    A followup article after the first article caused some uproar among liberals

  110. YT says:

    I recommend “The Coming Anarchy” by Robert Kaplan, the first amongst other essays first published (also) in ’94.
    A little off-thread (here) but involves issues that nation-states are often blind to.

  111. The Beaver says:

    IIRC Bahais are prosecuted, not because of their beliefs but, because at one point in time they worked against the Ayatollahs.

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