June 29, 2006

STRATEGYPAGE ON IRAN:

June 29, 2006: Although “Supreme Leader” the Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khameini has basically told the world to buzz off regarding the country’s nuclear ambitions, relations between him and radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be deteriorating. Apparently, Ahmadinejad’s frequent arch-conservative ranting on foreign policy and domestic issues runs contrary to a more nuanced, pragmatic approach favored by Khameini and the circle of conservative clerics who are his principal advisors. Khameini has on several recent occasions spoken far more moderately on certain issues than has Ahmadinejad. As a result, Ahmadinejad reportedly has recently told Khameini to button his lip about certain diplomatic matters, as an intrusion on the president’s authority. In a sense, this can be likened to the complexities of the “Red Guards” phase in Maoist China during the 1960s, when various factions in the Communist leadership tried to out-do each other in radicalism in order to firm up their control.

How such a scenario might unfold in Iran will be interesting to see. Iranian politics is considered a blood sport, with the losers getting themselves dead. Unrest among the nations minorities (Azeris, Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis), continues, with evidence of insurgent activity by some groups (Kurds and Baluchs). More importantly, however, is that there appears to be growing unrest among the country’s Iranian majority population, which has been suffering under increasing religious restrictions and is considered generally pro-American by many analysts.

I keep hearing reports of unrest in Iran, and I’d certainly like to see the mullahs overthrown. What I remain skeptical of, though, is whether the discontent is going to reach critical mass any time soon.

Meanwhile, Scott Norvell — fresh back from two weeks in Iran — recommends a book, We Are Iran : The Persian Blogs. I haven’t read it, but it got a good review here.

He also sends these impressions:

Iran was fascinating. They hate us [FoxNews]. They think we are a branch of the Pentagon. I’m sure they are not the only ones, but they have the excuse of being somewhat detached. The rest don’t.

Population is far more secular than I expected. . . . Tehran’s like Mexico City in terms of traffic, energy and bustle. The expats brave enough to have gone home are making boatloads of money.

He also says that many Iranian elites view Ahmadinejad the way many American elites view Bush, as a not-very-bright guy who’s using saber-rattling to secure power. I’m not sure what that means in terms of the future, though.