Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran: The Internal Balance of Power

From GLORIA, June 18, 2009, by Jonathan Spyer*:

One would need a heart of stone not to be moved by the scenes currently emerging from Iran ...Nevertheless, at such a time, it is particularly important to employ the tools of cool and dispassionate analysis.

It is therefore worth keeping three crucial facts in mind, when considering the events in Iran.

Firstly, in so far as a real struggle for power is currently taking place, it is taking place within the boundaries of the Islamist regime, and not against it.

Secondly, if one were to imagine for a moment the emergence of a real, popular leadership opposed to the regime, and were then to assess its chances of success, the following conclusion would be inescapable: at the present time, the regime possesses both the will and the means to ensure its survival.

Thirdly, no such popular leadership currently exists.

Consider: Mir Hossein Moussavi, the hero of the demonstrators, is a product of the Islamic revolution of 1979 no less than is Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Moussavi served in the now defunct position of prime minister of Iran in the period 1981-89. In the latter part of that period, in 1987, the Iranian nuclear program was revived. Moussavi is a committed supporter of the Iranian system of governance known as Vilayet a-Faqih (rule of the jurisprudent), and of the severe and brutal repression which this system brings in its wake. He represents the establishment, conservative wing of the regime, as personified by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

... both Moussavi and Ahmedinejad, ultimately, are representatives of rival streams within the ruling elite.

Moussavi is no less supportive of the Iranian nuclear drive and of Iranian support for Hizballah and Hamas than is Ahmedinejad. Nor would his election have made any difference to policy in these areas. Khamenei, who holds his (unelected) position for life, makes the decisions on questions of strategy.

...the Islamist regime in Iran, whatever its internal fissures and its many failures possess[es] a large popular constituency ...and ...hold[s] the unquestioned loyalty of those military and security forces sometimes termed the 'deep state'. The more excited western media reports notwithstanding, no evidence has yet emerged from Iran to contradict this picture.

Hence, when it comes to the ultimate test, the regime appears to be equipped with the means to preserve its rule.

...There is no force or party, outside of the various factions within the regime itself, able to capitalize on the current popular anger.

...All these facts taken together point, regrettably, in the direction of a single conclusion. At the present time, the Islamist regime in Iran is almost certainly not in danger.

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on the 18/6/2009
* Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel
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