Friday, November 07, 2008

Barack Obama and Iran

Barack Obama and Iran (After Election)
A. A. Kazemi*
November 5, 2008

Almost half a century after the historic speech of Martin Luther King Jr. that cost him his life, “wishes come true!” Barack Obama, a black man who seeks his ancestors’ roots in Africa (Kenya), has been elected as 44th President of the United States to lead the most powerful nation on earth at least for the next four years. Indeed, the power of democracy can make miracle in an open and free society!
What does this mean to the Islamic regime in Iran? Shall it be happy for this historic change and consider it as the will of God who promised the victory of the oppressed over the arrogant powerful? Can the Islamic regime continue to evade from the chastisement of its defying behavior in the nuclear venture?
Before we let ourselves drawn by the joy of this astonishing event, we should listen to Obama’s speech before the Jewish lobby AIPAC after his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries, which has all the answers to the above questions. Perhaps, for the first time a presidential candidate took so bold and explicit stance vis-à-vis Israel’s security and survival in the tumultuous Middle East political strata. This is indeed a direct consequence of Iran’s hard-line president’s vicarious statements about Israel during the past years.
Obama’s further observations on Iran’s role in the instability of the Middle East, terrorism and the security of Israel bear good witness that the election of a democrat president will not change American political environment in favor of the Islamic government in Iran. To the contrary, as we can read through the document titled: “Bipartisan Policy Center Releases Comprehensive Report on Iran” there is enough evidence to believe that from now on things will be much tougher for the Islamic hard-liners in Tehran.
Those who think otherwise are either naïve or have no grasp of history. Since, Democrats have shown in the past that they are very strict on matters such as human rights, Israel’s security, Palestinian problem and WMD proliferations. On the issue of terrorism they are as much preoccupied as the republicans. They may even venture more risky and malicious plots such as “regime change” if they perceive that this will promote their cause. The previous regime in Iran has been toppled during the democrats.
Americans are amazing people and know well how to use their constituent power to express their ideas and decide their choices and preferences. Like many nations, they don’t compromise their solidarity on common causes. This means that they are not prepared to accept humiliation because of mishandling of crisis situations by their leaders. Barack Obama came at an opportune time when America was split on matters of terrorism after September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obama’s election as the President of the United States has risen the expectations of not only the American people but the whole world about prosperity, peace and security. But, as he warned in his first speech after election, “the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime, two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” Indeed, the troubles that Obama inherited from his predecessors are so profound and complex which go beyond the capacity and power of this young leader and his fellow democrats.
Besides that, Obama’s election may reawaken the residue of dormant racism in America susceptible to cause problem in future. I don’t want to speculate on an unexpected ominous event, such as those that happened to late Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy brothers etc. But, there is always a foolish racist around the corner that would be tempted to fire a gunshot.
With respect to Iran- US relations under Obama, chances of some sort of rapprochement are very meager as things stand at present. Since, we should recognize that the problem of Iran-US entanglement goes well beyond the conventional bilateral relations and party politics. This is to say that in all assessment we shall take into account the problem pertaining to US most close ally in the region, Israel, as well as other Middle East critical issues on which the Islamic regime has shown stringency.
In fact, American foreign policy in the Middle East is intimately tied to Israel’s survival and everything that goes with it. To put it in a more sophisticated strategic context, Israel and its continued existence in the Middle East is an important dependent variable in US strategic schemes, disregard of who and which party is in power in Washington.Obama’s election as US president could generate a potential opportunity to break ices between the two countries. But, this is not an automatic occurrence and needs tactful planning and political will from the two sides. Despite the unpleasant situation that the Americans are now experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would not seem strange that a democrat president in the White House, backed by a strong democrat Congress, become persuaded to settle the Iranian issue by force if necessary.
Therefore, it is safe to suggest that Iranians leaders should watch carefully their future course of actions and avoid any provocation that might push further the democrats towards the republican hard-line policies. They should also be cautious not to fall in a dangerous trap on the naïve belief that U.S. democrats will endorse the Islamic regime and will give it “carte blanche” on the nuclear issue. /
* Ali Asghar Kazemi is Professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran- Iran.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crisis of Governance and new Generation of World Leaders


Crisis of Governance and new Generation of World Leaders

Ali Asghar Kazemi

October 25, 2008


Governing the sophisticated and diverse affairs of today’s nations has become so much complicated that goes beyond the capacity of any individual leader. This requires collective knowledge, initiative and action directed and managed by good leadership towards the fulfillment of national objectives and interests. Lack of sound management usually reveals during crisis situations, especially when it encompasses global peace and order.

September 11 crisis and its ramifications upon the international order have produced new generation of political leaders around the world which is different from the past. In the United States these changes appear more pronounced to the point of altering the course of history.

As the chances for Barrack Obama to conquer the White House increases, a new typology of leadership is emerging in the fields of political science and international relations. The new generation of world leaders seems to possess common traits and characteristics different from the traditional one. We are not yet quite sure about the direction and substance of these changes, but based on similar occurrences around the world, we may be able to build the main body of tentative new propositions which will eventually supersede the traditional theories of public opinion, governance and political leadership.

Are we experiencing a radical shift in world public opinion about the qualities and characters of political leaders? Are we witnessing fundamental changes in expectations and political taste of people on traits, capacity and orientation of leaders? Are these changes a necessary outcome of confidence crisis in leadership? Are these changes conducive to peace and harmony or we should expect more conflicts and hostilities around the world?

This introductory comment is merely the product an of an off-hand hunch which should be examined more closely by students of social sciences, politics and international relations in order to arrive at a clear and all- encompassing theory about the characteristics of emerging new leadership and governance in the world.


Without plunging deep into the old times and reminding reputes of great leaders who changed the course of history, names of famous political figures of contemporary world history, such as Churchill, de Gaulle, Eisenhower, Adenauer, Gandhi, Tito, and the likes, are still remembered with respect and grandeur. Indeed, they lived at a critical epoch of historical transformation after the Second World War when people still recognized heroes for their achievement and believed that they could save their respective nations from the moral and material catastrophe and devastation of the war.

As we move up towards our present time, we see a flagrant decline in the quality of leaders. In fact, leaders with mediocre capacity, intelligence and sense of accountability are emerging here and there whose performance is damaging the political status of their proper nations and endangering peace and order in the world. Is this the necessary outcome of the so-called “liberal democracy” and power of mass media to manipulating public opinions towards the election of weak leaders? Are new leaders more to the left or right? Are they more democratic or authoritarian? Are they more pragmatic, ethical, more pacifists or the opposite? How could we explain the current economic and financial crisis which has plunged the whole world into such deep trouble? Are we facing a crisis of leadership around the world?

Though we are not yet able to form a convincing argumentation about either of the above propositions, there is no doubt that September 11 and the subsequent events have drastically changed not only our perception, but also the political configuration and quality of leadership in the world. The truth is that we don’t have yet ready answers to these queries and in fact in some cases we have evidences to prove both sides of the dichotomy. For example, in Latin America we are witnessing the emergence of rather young aboriginal and rude leftist leaders whose main trait is feuding with the United States. They are challenging American policies and power to the point that they have become strategic allies of the Islamic regime in Iran. Though they have nothing in common with Iranian hardliners except their hostile attitude toward US, the Islamic regime is investing hard in order to gain partners and influence in the region.

In the United States, President Bush, son of a living ex-president, whose poor performance brought America and the world to the brink of political and economic insolvency, will soon leave the office eventually in favor of a democrat president who promised drastic changes in the American leadership.

How shall we explain such a strange phenomenon that may pave the way for the election of an “African-American” as the leader of the most powerful nation on earth? Is it due to the alteration of people’s political taste or shall we look to other causes for this metamorphosis? How comes that the American Public ended up to prefer a clever black man without much noble background to a war hero whose father and grandfather were among high ranking flag officers of the US Navy?

In Europe the crisis of leadership is felt all over the continent. People are protesting constantly against their leaders. They have little confidence on their government’s capacity to tackle with growing problems originated on the other side of the Atlantic. US mishandling of the post-September 11 crises by means of “hard power” has put NATO’s global mission in serious qualm and member states are not quite sure about the functionality and viability of this remnant of the cold war period. New leaders of not much charm such as France’s Sarkosy, Italy’s Berlusconi, and few others, while in deep trouble at home, are trying to identify themselves with the American political leadership. They may think that this will boost their position within EU and in the world.

East European political leaders are still in transition from the era of iron curtain to be integrated into a greater liberal community whose outcome is not yet clear. In the Middle East we have an array of left to right, from revolutionary hardliners challenging the West, to traditional conservative regimes whose new leaders are liberal minded and pro-West. Radical Muslims who staged the September 11 attacks (Al-Qaeda) are among the archenemy of this latter generation of leaders in traditional societies and earnestly seek to uproot their rules.

In the vast Asian continent, we still have the remnant of the old communist intelligentsia who have transformed to the requisites of the 21st century. Incumbent Russian leaders, who come from an intelligence background (KGB), have now partly recovered from the shock of the collapse of the old Soviet empire. While Russians are trying to follow policies dictated by their geopolitics, most of the new young republics of the Central Asia and Caucasus are mired by the American hegemony and dance to the tune orchestrated by Washington. They are also in transition and their final fate is yet to be written in future. Georgian recent experience may well be repeated in other territories of the old union.

Besides China whose pragmatic leaders are distancing from the ideological dogma of the past and are now experiencing real miracle in their economy, new political leaders in East Asia are continuing to rely on American capitalism. They already have paid very onerous price for their ties with the West and are now going through further economic hardship due to recent financial crisis in the United States. Opposition leaders will soon capitalize on the matter and embark to take over the political leadership through launching anti-capitalistic slogans which now seem to please public at large.


We had no intention to cover and exhaust all the political leaders of the world in this introductory comment. We only attempted to give exemplary samples on the emerging new generation of leaders, and pose questions rather than to provide answers or justification to the main argument. The issue seems enough worthy for further academic debates and directed researches.

As a preliminary conclusion we may advance the following hypotheses to be tested through more in-depth debates and researches:

· September 11 phenomenon has changed not only world political configuration but also altered people’s perception of leadership;

· Inability of world leaders to take appropriate measures and policies to face the dangers of what is labeled as “international terrorism” has created a crisis of governance and leadership;

· People of advanced societies no longer trust their traditional leaders and are changing political taste and orientation towards unconventional faces who promise changes;

· It is not quite sure that they will get the expected satisfaction in their choices, nonetheless they prefer to test their chances;

· Only the future can reveal the rationale and benefits of this new trend and experience for peace and order in the world.


Friday, October 10, 2008

US Economic Crisis and the Middle East

US Economic Crisis and the Middle East

Ali Asghar Kazemi
October 10 2008

The crisis that swept world financial markets in recent weeks did not surprise many analysts who expected the curse long before its occurrence. Some have compared it to the great American depression of 1930s which changed the political landscape of the world by the emergence of militarism and fascism that ended up to the Second World War.

There are solid indications that the American crisis that reverberated throughout the globe within days is a multidimensional phenomenon that seeks its causes in a number of dependent and intervening variables among which American military interventions in the Middle East and mounting threats against the Islamic regime in Iran are the most decisive.History bears good witness that the United States has always sought cure to economic crises and recession in massive military build-ups and interventions outside the American continent. Two world wars and wars in Korea, Vietnam and more recent military interventions in the Middle East are cited as vivid examples of this contention.

How far this argument is tenable in present international relations? What are the hidden dimensions of the crisis? What would be the impacts of the crisis for the Middle East as a whole and Iran in particular, as a plausible target of US preemptive strike? How the crisis should be managed in order to avoid the worse to happen?
The crisis that engulfed the world financial markets in the past two weeks was in fact not a surprise to most economic and political analysts who had foreseen the initial signs and symptoms of the anomaly well before its occurrence. Two years ago in 2006, a significant estimate was issued by the Laboratoire européen d’Anticipation Politique Europe 2020 - LEAP/E2020 which had predicted with high probability that an economic and financial crisis of a scope comparable with that of 1929 is on the way which will have most adverse political impact the world has known since the fall of the Soviet empire in 1989. It was referred to as ‘The End of the Western World we have known since 1945.' According to the same document, in case an American or Israeli military intervention is conducted against Iran, the probability of a major crisis to start rises up to 100%.

The study has based its estimates on two verifiable events related to decisions taken by two key-actors: the United States and Iran. Here is the main argument of the survey:
• On the one hand there is the Iranian decision of opening the first oil bourse priced in Euros on March 20th, 2006 in Teheran, available to all oil producers of the region;
• On the other hand, there is the decision of the American Federal Reserve to stop publishing M3 figures (the most reliable indicator on the amount of dollars circulating in the world) from March 23, 2006 onward.
According to the document, these two decisions constitute altogether the indicators, the causes and the consequences of the historical transition in progress between the order created after World War II and the new international equilibrium in gestation since the collapse of the USSR. Their magnitude as much as their simultaneity will catalyze all the tensions, weaknesses and imbalances accumulated since more than a decade throughout the international system. (LEAP/E2020)The survey further predicted in 2006 that as a consequence of the above phenomenon, a world crisis is susceptible to emerge in seven important sectors which will affect the whole planet in political as well as military fields as follow:
1. Crisis of confidence in the Dollar;
2. Crisis of US financial imbalances;
3. Oil crisis;
4. Crisis of the American leadership;
5. Crisis of the Arab-Muslim world;
6. Global governance crisis;
7. European governance crisis.
As can be seen in the above estimate, the financial crisis is just the tip of the mountain of a deeper and more systemic crisis situation which we should expect throughout the world.
There is little doubt that the first repercussion of the current financial crisis will be seen in the domestic affairs of the United States where the fate of the next American president will soon be decided. Democrats have now more chances to conquer the White House, not that they have better solutions for the crisis but just because the republicans have lost their credibility in the American leadership for sound governance.
The psychological shock of the crisis in the mind of the American public in an inopportune time will eventually lead them to vote for a democrat president, although they may not like him. The setback for the republicans is almost certain, because they ought to pay the price of horrendous mistakes of an unpopular president who engaged Americans into futile entanglements in the Middle East which is still going on. That is not to say that democrats are more pacifist or more lenient and restraint towards engaging into conflicts and hostility with their contenders, especially Iran. Since surprisingly, as I have said elsewhere, most major wars the United States engaged into were initiated by the democrats and terminated by the republicans.
Seen from the vantage point of the Islamic leaders in Iran, the crisis is yet another sign of American decadence behind which lay the invisible hands of the omnipotent Allah. They may naively think that an America in crisis will neither have the incentive nor the guts to go for a preemptive strike or put further pressure on Iran for its nuclear venture.
Unfortunately, hardliners in Iran miss an important truth. Whether they like it or not, the fate of the global economy is intimately interwoven with the American financial market. This is especially true for Iran’s two potential supporters, Russians and Chinese, whose economic viability is more exposed to the crisis than any other states. Thus, they should avoid tying their fate with unreliable partners. They should remember the financial and economic shocks of the past decades which brought down to nil Asian flourishing economy. In all of these crises the United States was able to recover smoothly at the costs of other developing and oil producing countries.
Though Iran holds important geo-strategic assets in the current crisis and so far has been able to stay somehow aloof of its negative impact, it should be cautious about taking provocative decisions that could aggravate the situation and give pretext to its contenders to further apply severe sanctions or to form a coalition for an eventual military strike.
In conclusion, the world has to cross fingers that the United States recovers safely and promptly from the ongoing crisis and does not endure much structural harm susceptible to endanger the present vulnerable international order. Otherwise, adverse condition is susceptible to further aggravate hostilities and conflicts, by spreading the plague of terrorism and militarism around the world.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Iran: Corruption Scandal and Political Campaign


Iran: Corruption Scandal and Political Campaign

Ali Asghar Kazemi

June 10, 2008


Like many other phenomena, political struggle in Iran has its own peculiarities. While presidential elections is still away, skyrocketing inflation and other social evils are abreast, political entourage and devotees of the hard-line president are launching harsh propaganda campaign pointed upon corruption, racketeering and favoritism in the country. They are trying to find avenues to cover government’s mishandling nation’s affairs in order to divert public attention from the unbearable gloomy condition, misery and hardship to corrupt circles close to high echelon cleric and imminent personalities labeled as “mafia groups” in the Islamic regime!

Who are these mafia groups? What are the objectives behind recent revelations about corruptions allegations of high political figures? What are the plausible impacts of this premature campaign? Who will benefit from it?


We may recall that the incumbent president in Iran won the elections by focusing on a number of programs that pleased a great majority of the least favored people who were quite distressed about widespread Inflation, unemployment, poverty, corruption, drugs abuse, etc. Pretending to understand the causes of these social ills, he pledged to cure them through appropriate revolutionary and just policies. Unfortunately, after almost three long years in office, not only he failed to achieve his promises but all the malaises aggravated with an unprecedented momentum and citizens are left helpless in an ocean of hardship and misery.

Ever since the hard-line government came into power in Iran and attempted to solve various problems of the country by force and populist policies, inflation, unemployment and other social troubles got out of control in various sectors of the society. At first officials denied the whole quandary and blamed liberals and “fifth columns” of enemies for fabricating propaganda in order to weaken the “popular government.”

Gradually the matter became so flagrant and critical that even hard-line MP’s in the previous Parliament (Majles) started to nag and criticized the government for its failure in containing the galloping inflation. Finally the President and other high officials admitted to some extent the existence of these problems but, as expected, they tried to put the blame on domestic invisible evil hands (mafia groups) and extraneous factors for the anomalies.

Naturally, when inflation, unemployment, low-productivity and other consequential social impacts grow out of proportion in a religious state such as Iran, the matter requires serious attention. There is no doubt that a portion of the current price rises is due to the global inflation created by increasing oil prices, sanctions and adverse economic policies of great world powers. But, nobody can deny that mismanagement of the current government paved the path for widespread poverty, greed and corruption at different level of the society.

Thus, in order to remain in power for a second term, top government officials, including the president, started to raise the perennial history of corruption apparently beyond their power to cope with. In their belief, people will support once again such a bold and valiant president who earnestly wants to fight economic “mafia groups” who seem to outweigh the power of government.

Official media usually are forbidden to depict controversial issues aimed at discrediting the overall regime and its important figures. Yet from time to time, when bad news propagates as public rumors, only fractions of the problem are exposed in the media. With the lack of private independent radio and television stations, most daily papers have learned by experience not to cover controversial issues surpassing “the red lines”; fearing regime discontent which could be very costly. Nevertheless, when bad news pierces their way to mass media, one should expect storms of allegations and misinformation to emerge in order to neutralize the impacts.

Recent revelations by a dubious government official about corruption issue was indeed a very serious accusation against high religious and political figures which explicitly opened what the president had implied in his speech few weeks ago in the holy city of Qom. Quite naturally, the opposition groups inside and outside the country thoroughly capitalized on the matter. Perhaps the pro-government devotees did not anticipate such a harsh campaign to discredit the whole Islamic regime.

Obviously, the culprits directly responsible for the propaganda shock were arraigned a day after on the account of propagating deceptive information with the intent to dishonor the political system and to provoke people against the regime. Interestingly, the detainees were themselves charged with corruption and divulgation of classified official documents having impact on national security and defamation of high cleric public figures. Some representatives of the Islamic parliament correctly argued the rationale behind the arrest of committee members set up by the Majles to inquire into the corruption in the judicial branch. They are asking for clarification as to whether these charges are true or not disregard of the circumstances or persons who have uncovered the matters.

Impacts of these revelations would eventually be widespread; because the tremendous gap between the haves and have-nots has created an extremely hostile environment among people in big cities such as Tehran who really can’t afford their daily bread and are naturally very repulsive to the deplorable conditions. Without a doubt, the situation is susceptible to create clash between various layers of the society. There seems to be no chance that the government could tackle with the problem the way it has been doing so far. This will incite little people to solve their misery outside the realm of law, ethics and rationality.

Of course many descent and honest poor people may take the hardship as a misfortune, fate, and bad luck. But needy greedy populaces don’t see the matter this way and are tempted to revolt against such injustice in their own ways. Realizing to be unable to claim justice from the government, they will go after wealthy and opulent targets in order to put things straight and get their fare share. Car thefts, burglaries, assaults, larceny, bank robbery etc. are ordinary occurrences in big cities. In their view this is a handy way to get around poverty, injustice and unfair distribution of wealth and oil revenue promised by the president.

Throughout the history, clergies in Iran have had esteemed position in public eyes, because of their honesty, integrity, truthfulness and veracity. Ever since the Islamic regime ascended to political power, genuine spiritual leaders distanced themselves from official power circles and left the scene for opportunists, unscrupulous and deceitful people. Naturally, the lust of material rich pushes weak spirits toward corruption and other unethical earthly desires. This can make the whole social structure vulnerable and to risky situations which could uproot the entire political system in the long run. Centuries ago, Ibne-Khaldun, the renowned Muslim sociologist, has well predicted the matter and history has proven the case repeatedly.

Whether the recent scandal and revelations about “mafia groups” is a true and genuine fight against corruption and other social evils, or is just a political campaign for gaining the ballot boxes in the coming presidential elections, the matter is yet to be unfolded. But, one thing is crystal clear that the Islamic regime has lost its remaining credibility by these astonishing corruption leaks. /

Monday, June 23, 2008

Iran at a Critical Crossroads


Iran at a Critical Crossroads

Ali Asghar Kazemi

June 23, 2008


Iran’s continuous defiance to halt nuclear enrichment and its implicit rejection of the latest 5+1 incentive package has incited opponents to go for military option. Recent news of Israel’s military preparations to strike Iran’s nuclear sites is indeed a serious source of anxiety for peace and security in the Middle East. Israelis have already shown on other occasions that they don’t hesitate to run such risks when their very survival is at stake. Strikes at Iraq’s nuclear plants long ago and recent demolition of the Syrian nuclear site are vivid examples.

The Islamic regime pretends to be indifferent of threats coming from various directions. But, there is little doubt that sensible politicians are scared like rabbits of eventual strikes. They are questioning the rationale behind so much rigidity on an issue that can hardly be considered as the vital core value of the national interests, in the face of imminent threats which are liable to decide once for all the fate of the Islamic regime. People are caught in a mixed emotion. They are perplexed about their hardship after a new clash which could lead to widespread conflict on the one hand, and the extinction or consolidation of an arrogant and oppressive regime on the other.

What are the plausible consequences of the present crisis? Who should be blamed for crisis escalation? How much we should be vigilant about a new conflict in the region? What would be the outcome of such a military collision? Who would benefit from the consequences of eventual clash at this critical stage? How the crisis should be managed in order to avoid a real confrontation?


There are moments which are quite critical and decisive in the history of a nation. In fact, nations are alike human beings in the sense that they may run into trouble by diseases and curses. They may be infected by authoritarianism, violence, oppression, tyranny, terrorism, war and the likes. The list of viruses and infections that they can catch is quite impressive; they can originate from within and from outside. The impact also may show up in various sectors of the society: economic, social, cultural, security, strategic, etc.

As I have said elsewhere at the beginning of the crisis, Iran’s intransigent attitude vis-à-vis the International community and the UN Security Council may leave the impression that the Islamic government is a bold actor in the international scene, seeking to challenge the rule of the game in world politics. However, this behavior may only please those who have no notion of history and prevailing norms and rules in the fuzzy and chaotic realm of international relations.

Many crises in the past dragged nations into hostilities and bloody conflicts, due to lack of vision of political leaders, overwhelmed by their ideological obsessions, religious beliefs or by mere arrogance and illusion of power. Saddam Hussein is one recent example of this kind that by his foolish defiance against world public opinion and international community dragged Iraq and its people into pointless chaos and bloodshed.

It is not futile to repeat once again that boldness, which may be a virtue in individual performance, becomes a vice to be avoided like pest when the fate of a nation and its overall interests with large scale and enduring impact are at stake. In other words, when the risks of an action or decision only has a limited impact upon one’s interests or yield, bold choices may be a value. But in a wider perspective, political leaders are not allowed to run such risks for a nation.

There are many indications that the overall political system in Iran is not ready to engage in an adventurous and risky situation in which the very existence of the Islamic regime might be jeopardized. Of course, there may be some elements inside the political apparatus that would eventually anticipate some benefits in a limited confrontation with an outside power. But, given that the conservative government lacks the necessary experience and capacity to deal with uncertain situations, most probably it would abstain to test its chances in such a hazardous issue as nuclear matter.

As to the domestic public opinion, it does not seem that the government and especially those in charge of the nuclear policies have been able to convince the public at large and less the educated people on the rationale of the nuclear project, even for peaceful purposes. Therefore, the nation as a whole seems not prepared to accept and wholeheartedly support another hostility and military engagement or to endure severe economic sanctions and limitations.

In other words, the general public really does not consider the issue to be a vital national interest touching their daily life. Moreover, expectations of those who voted for the conservative government are quite different and they would not go along with policies that would push them even further down the bottom of poverty line. Therefore, bold action and behavior is no remedy to the current nuclear crisis and the chances that prudence and rationality will prevail are very high.

With respect to an eventual preemptive strikes either on Iran’s nuclear facilities or other strategic targets such as oil installations on land or offshore, directly by the United States or through Israel, there is little chances that these operations produce the expected outcome. This may only create contradictory results: either awakens Iranian nationalism by consolidating people against foreign invasion, or gives the upper hand to the Islamic regime to further expand its domestic grip.

While it appears that Iran has a weak hand in this dangerous game, it is always possible that due to some miscalculation or lack of vision, hard-liners’ provocative and bold behavior would escalate to a full scale crisis. Indeed, such condition is susceptible to lead ultimately to a real conflict situations that could severely jeopardize Iran’s national interests.

However, an optimistic assessment leads to the conclusions that chances for the Islamic regime in Iran to avoid a confrontation on nuclear issue are high, provided that Iran is not totally barred from pursuing its declared peaceful use of nuclear technology in a faithful and transparent manner. The face saving aspect of an eventual solution is also an important dimension of the crisis management.

Therefore, to avoid the worst to happen, all interested parties shall abstain from any action that could escalate the crisis to a full scale military confrontation and be given a chance to further seek peaceful solution in order to avoid harsh decisions that could destabilize the whole region and the world. In other word, the West should endeavor to engage in a fair non-zero-sum game with a positive outcome in which neither side feels defeated. The Islamic regime also has the duty not to aggravate the situation by provocative actions that could incite opponents to go for military option. /


Friday, June 06, 2008

Obama: On the Footsteps of the White House

Obama: On the Footstep of the White House!
Ali Asghar Kazemi

June 6, 2008
Almost half a century after the historic speech of Martin Luther King Jr. that cost him his life, “wishes come true”! Barack Obama, a black man, who apparently seeks his ancestors’ roots in southern region of Iran (Bushehr), is on his way to the White House as president of the United States. Indeed, the power of democracy can make miracle in an open and free society!

What does this mean for the Islamic regime in Iran? Shall it be happy for this historic change and consider it as the will of God who promised the victory of the oppressed over the arrogant powerful? Can the Islamic regime continue to evade from the chastisement of its defying behavior in the nuclear venture?
Before we let ourselves drawn by the joy of this astonishing event, we should listen to Obama’s speech before the Jewish lobby AIPAC after his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries, which has all the answers to the above questions. Perhaps, for the first time a presidential candidate took so bold and explicit stance vis-à-vis Israel’s security and survival in the tumultuous Middle East political strata. This is indeed a direct consequence of Iran’s hard-line president’s vicarious statements about Israel during the past years. Obama even went beyond usual political campaign and revealed new intelligence about Iran possessing 150 kg enriched uranium ready to be used in nuclear warheads; a serious allegation that could entail grave consequences.

Obama’s further observations on Iran’s role in the instability of the Middle East, terrorism and the security of Israel bear good witness about my previous comments after the victory of democrats in US Congress:
“Those who believe that democrats’ control of the U.S. Congress in recent mid-term elections will change American political environment in favor of the Islamic government in Iran are either naïve or have no grasp of history. To the contrary, there is enough evidence to support the contention that from now on a necessary cohabitation and bi-partisan approach of democrats with the White House will make things much more difficult for conservative hard-liners in Tehran.”
In another section in the same article I noted that:
“Democrats have shown in the past that they are very strict on matters such as human rights, Israel’s security, Palestinian problem and WMD proliferations. On the issue of terrorism they are as much preoccupied as the republicans. They may even venture more risky and malicious plots such as “regime change” if they perceive that this will promote their cause. The previous regime in Iran has been toppled during the democrats.”

Americans are amazing people and know well how to use their constituent power to express their ideas and decide their choices and preferences. Like many nations, they don’t compromise their solidarity on common causes. . This means that they are not prepared to accept humiliation because of mishandling of crisis situations by their leaders. Barak Obama came at an opportune time when America was split on matters of terrorism after September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq. The second term of the republican president, George Bush, is at its final stage. Chances for another republican candidate with military background such as McCain to replace him, is rather slim.

Therefore, we should expect Obama to enter the White House as the next US president, unless, something extraordinary happens in American political and social scenes. I don’t want to speculate on an unexpected event, such as those that happened to the late Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy brothers etc. But, there is always a foolish racist around the corner that would be tempted to fire a gunshot. This is especially conceivable if Hillary Clinton joins Obama as vice president candidate in order to avoid her supporters to vote for McCain.

With respect to Iran- US relations under Obama, as we have already alluded before, chances of some sort of rapprochement are very meager as things stand at present. Since, we should recognize that the problem of Iran-US entanglement goes well beyond the conventional bilateral relations and party politics. This is to say that in all assessment we shall take into account the problem pertaining to US most close ally in the region, Israel, as well as other Middle East critical issues.

In fact, the American foreign policy in the Middle East is intimately tied to Israel’s survival and everything that goes with it. To put it in a more sophisticated strategic context, Israel and its continued existence in the Middle East is an important dependent variable in US strategic schemes, disregard of who and which party is in power in Washington.Obama’s election as US president could be a potential opportunity to break ices between the two countries. But, this is not an automatic occurrence and needs tactful planning and political will from the two sides. Despite the unpleasant situation that the Americans are now experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would not seem strange that a democrat president in the White House, backed by a strong democrat Congress, become persuaded to settle the Iranian issue by force if necessary.

Therefore, it is safe to suggest that Iranians leaders should watch carefully their future course of actions and avoid any provocation that might push further the democrats towards the republican hard-line policies. They should also be cautious not to fall in a dangerous trap on the naïve belief that U.S. democrats will endorse the Islamic regime and will give it “carte blanche” on the nuclear issue. /

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Iran:The New Parliament and the Nuclear Case

Iran: The New Parliament and the Nuclear Case
Ali Asghar Kazemi
May 31, 2008
In an introductory speech upon his election to the position of Iran’s chief legislative branch, the former nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, launched harsh critiques on the recent ambiguous statement of the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear case. The remarks seem to be designed to send simultaneously multiple signals to various directions pursuing a number of objectives.
Who is the man recently elected as the speaker of the Islamic Parliament? Shall we consider him as the person who will break through the nuclear deadlock? How we shall construe the message he conveyed in his first official address to the 8th parliament with respect to the nuclear issue? What are chances for him to manage the impending crisis quietly and peacefully?
Coming from a religious nobility background, son of a Grand Ayatollah, holding PhD in mathematics and philosophy and former member of the Revolutionary Guards, close to the leader and having a number of high positions in his record, the newly-elected speaker of the Islamic Parliament is a clever and articulate man who is well aware of the power of logic and persuasion. Unlike his counterpart in the executive branch, he seems to ponder upon his words and vocabulary on issues having impact on vital interests of the nation. His election from the district of theological City of Qom, his family background and his squabble with the hard-line president while he was chief nuclear negotiator, gave him enough credibility to be elected Chief Legislative by the majority of the new conservative faction in the Majles, known to be critical of the president.
In fact, he was fired by the president while he was in the middle of negotiations with EU representatives on the nuclear issue. He was then the secretary of the National Security Council and his sudden dislodgment was indeed a real embarrassment for the regime.
Contrary to the divertive course that shaped the fate of imminent Ayatollah’s offspring in the past and turned them away from the rigorous religious dogma, the Larijani family could be considered an exception. It is worth to note that the main body of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MKO) opposition group, who fiercely fought against the Islamic regime, was formed from among close relatives of well known religious figures who assumed high positions after the revolution in Iran.
The Larijani brothers are all well-educated and devoted to the Islamic regime. They have been serving the revolution from the beginning as university rector, political theoretician, physician, and member of the Guardian Council. The man who is now elected to the position of Iran’s chief legislative power is a smart and educated person who has enough credibility and knowledge not to engage in populist and humdrum discourse in order to prove his competence in the job and his loyalty to the regime.
Now against this imposing background, how far Mr. Larijani will be successful in his new position is subject to query. With respect to his first speech as the new chief legislative, the following messages could be read as regards the nuclear issue:
· Though Larijani’s observations on IAEA appeared tough and uncompromising, he seems to convey the message that he is the one who will pursue the case quietly and intelligently;
· Given his past experience and his good relations with the EU as chief nuclear negotiator, most likely he will not hesitate to get involved more closely to the issue and will take the initiative in his hands as the speaker of the house;
· From now on the Majles will be the main forum where the nuclear policy will be dictated to the executive branch, meaning that the president can no longer maneuver on the nuclear platform for his future presidential campaign;
· The message seems to send signal to the populist president that the Majles will no longer support him blindfolded and if necessary will embark on his impeachment for incompetence.
All of the above are just mere conjectures that appear most likely to emerge in the months to come. However, it would not be unusual that suddenly some unknown factors come into play and change the whole course of events in Iran’s political landscape. Chances for Mr. Larijani to handle horrendous problems in domestics and external affairs created by an amateur eccentric president, who tends to run state affaires by instinct and not reason, is indeed extremely difficult if not impossible.
As regards the nuclear case, we could expect that Larijani be able to take the initiative through the parliament in resuming talks from where he left last time, provided that the hard-line president abstain to interfere in the business and the supreme leader gives his unequivocal support to him.
Furthermore, he should endeavor to convince the conservative front that the West, and by the same token the permanent members of the UN Security Council, will not draw back from their principal position in letting Iran to become a nuclear actor in the present vulnerable international relations. This is to suggest that he should think and act realistically and rationally in order to avoid the nuclear issue to escalate into a full scale clash between Iran and the opposing parties. /

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Message of the Preemptive Strike...

Message of the Preemptive Strike on Syria

Ali Asghar Kazemi
May 8, 2008


“Strategy by indirect approach” seems to be the new rule of the game which opponents of Iran’s nuclear venture are starting to play. The surprising recent divulgation that the “Syrian nuclear site” was stricken to ground seven months ago by Israeli planes came as a shock to all. The message was flagrantly clear to those who still victoriously claim to defy the UN Security Council resolutions on the termination of dubious nuclear enrichment projects. There seems to be a resolute decision to render the nuclear jubilation into an all-out humiliation for Iranian Islamic leaders.

To what extent Iran’s hard-liners are prepared to take the message seriously and thereby go along with the demand of the UN Security Council and the international community in order to avoid the worse to happen in the already tumultuous Middle East region? What are the costs of Iran’s continuing defiance? What is the most plausible outcome of this dangerous game?

* * *
The story of the Syrian nuclear activities was unknown to the public until just recent disclosure of pictures showing the site before and after demolition. It was claimed that the plant was a replica of the North Korean nuclear site designed for military purposes. Though the detail of the account is not yet known, some sources claim that Iranian regime was providing assistance to the Syrians for their nuclear plants.

Indeed, there is no doubt that Syria was never in a position to afford such a costly venture in its territory. Therefore, if it is proven that the Islamic regime in Iran has provided any kind of assistance to the now defunct project, then the message should be taken much more seriously.

The secrecy surrounding these operations gives rise to a number of questions such as the followings that should be dealt with in due time when more information is released to general public:
• Why neither the Syrian authorities nor the Israelis or Americans have revealed the nature of these operations after the completion of the task?
• How far the intelligence community of the West and the Russians by the same token were informed about the preemptive strike?
• How much Iranian authorities’ unexpected visits to Damascus during the past months were related to these operations?
• How far Iranian leadership’s decision making apparatus has been influenced by this action during the past months?
• Is there a correlation between this strike and the worsening of the situation in Southern Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon?
• Is Syrian rapprochement with Israel for the purpose of settling the Golan Heights issue an outcome of the silent strike?
• And finally, shall we now consider Syria at last divorced from Iran to go back to its long detested Arab brothers?

These and similar questions should not divert our attention from the fundamental issue which is the fate of Iran’s nuclear sites in the months to come. According to international media, Americans are strengthening their military position in the vicinities of the Persian Gulf and are preparing to launch selective strikes on Iranian strategic targets. However, before initiating any operation, they want to make sure that:
• They have exhausted all possible remedies in order to avoid a clash whose outcome is quite uncertain;
• They have reached a consensus among all interested parties that diplomatic means and “incentive packages” are not producing the intended peaceful results;
• They have prepared domestic public opinions about the threat of an Islamic fundamentalist regime to have access to the nuclear capabilities;

The fact that the Syrians kept silent after the strike and the action was not condemned by any state or international organization proves that the world community as a whole is in no way prepared to accept proliferations of nuclear capabilities, especially in the hands of Islamic regimes or irresponsible groups.

The Islamic government in Tehran should now feel real worried about possible preemptive strikes. But, it appears quite improbable that the hardliners suddenly back down and choose a compromising stance. Nevertheless, just recently they have taken a rather vague conciliatory position with respect to impending issues with the US by offering what has been described as a “new package deal” whose content was not revealed. The objective is to find a way out of the crisis and reduce tension with the United States before it is too late.

Time is running out and the danger seems quite imminent. The Islamic hardliners seem caught in an awfully difficult dilemma. They are like riding a tiger; difficult to continue on and hard to get down! The West too is perplexed as how to deal with the problem. The Americans experience in Afghanistan and Iraq makes it very risky for them to venture another entanglement in the region.

Perhaps, Americans will choose to leave Israeli hands free to carry similar actions they have done in Syria against Iranian nuclear sites. But, they should realize that in such circumstances Iran will not keep silent and, as already shown on various occasions, it can destabilize the whole region by its erratic reactions. Whether this could deter a preemptive strike, the matter is not clear!

Observers believe that eventual attacks on Iran’s strategic targets may counter-produce the expected results and can even strengthen hardliners’ position in their power grip. Some are of the opinions that in case the crisis ends up to a real clash, while few states will take position against such preemptive strikes, the people will line-up behind the Islamic regime. But, Iranians have shown through history that they are very much unpredictable in their behavior during crises and hard times. We have to wait and see how events will develop in the weeks and months to come.

In the meantime we should pray the Almighty God that politicians of all sides behave rationally and responsibly in their decisions and actions. /

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Iran: Affluence amid Poverty

Iran: Affluence amid Poverty
Ali Asghar Kazemi

April 11, 2008

“Wherever riches have increased the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion.” Max Weber
* * *

Thirty years after the coming into power of the Islamic revolution in Iran, a sharp social disparity and economic inequality is reaching its alarming threshold. While galloping inflation robs overnight the pocket money of deprived citizens, wealthy people are perplexed as how to spend their extra riches. At the turn of the Persian New Year, once again the apparatus of “trial and error” got under way and the president made another decision to fire two key cabinet members responsible for economy and domestic security. Similar changes have taken place last year with other cabinet ministers.

This short paper attempts to comment briefly on the following points.

* How far these cosmetic alterations are responsive to the demand for effective governance, self-sustained development and responsible leadership?
* Do we need to make frequent modifications at the individual level to cure the system or we have to make bold structural changes at the strategic and systemic stratum?

* * *
Three decades after the revolution, the Islamic leaders still blame the defunct Shah regime for their failure to achieve economic and social development. It seems that there is no consensus among responsible people as to the essence of development in the country. Some would like to bring oil revenues on people’s tables through subsidies and cash payments (the populist president); and others prefer to boost imports of luxury goods and consumable for a dual purposes: a) to patronage their domestic protégées in Bazaar for easy business, b) to boost their ties abroad for eventual hard times and crisis situations. Of course both are supposed to understand people’s hardship and pretend to remedy the deplorable condition.

While oil revenues have quadrupled during the past two years, the surplus money instead of being invested in long range development projects is just spent to import useless junk goods from China and few other countries in order to satisfy political partners abroad and insatiable demands of nagging domestic affluent groups. Indeed, this process only benefits the few “haves” at the expense of the large “have-nots.” Luxury residences, flashy cars, lavish parties, sumptuous travel abroad etc. are now common occurrences even among arch-revolutionaries, clerics and pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) and few other “nouveau riches.”

Optimistic estimates show that about 85% of the national wealth belongs to only 10 to15% of the upper echelon class of the country Traditional middle class is gradually falling below poverty line. The rest of the people have to live on subsistence. It seems that we are facing an amazing paradox in a society where it was supposed to set a model of classless and just Islamic state. Whether this is a symptom of Ibne-Khadun’s decadence of the Moslem urban development, it remains to be seen!

Indeed, the idea of development is many sided. Development in general embodies hope, and onward look to the future. Each individual within a nation has inside him the potential qualities to develop, provided that suitable social and political environment is available.

The Aristotelian idea of “realization of potentiality,” combined with the notion of distributive justice, remains the foundation of all development politics. It is generally suggested that “the best policy maximizes growth with equity; it effects the proper balancing of individual wants and needs against the collective good. Growth plus equity therefore equals fulfillment.

Development usually foreshadows economic inequality, others prefer political inequality and more control over economic growth. This is how actually various political systems set their social objectives and goals to the right or left of the balance, and make judgment on their trade-offs. For example, the communist states of the past repressed political liberties in favor of equal distribution of economic opportunities. A capitalist liberal state, on the other hand, may promote political equalities which may ultimately produce sever economic inequalities. Finding an appropriate synthesis of the middle ground is indeed difficult task.

One important issue in this regard is to determine whether political development shall precede economic development, or the reverse shall take place. There is no clear-cut answer to the question in Iran. But one thing is clear and generally accepted that economic development requires certain prerequisites among which political institutions are very important. Whether economic development shall occur concurrently with political development or one must wait until such time that every thing is politically established and ready for economic take-off, is another issue.

Many assert that there is incompatibility between political development (toward democracy) and economic growth, where political stability and sheer political survival of a regime is the overwhelming goal and criterion. Thus, stability must be accompanied by effective planning, with economic growth leading to social development. Unfortunately, this issue is not yet settled in present Iran.

In Western political thought, those who see development as a recapitulation of historic stages of progress, generally regard the objective not simply as economic growth, but also as the realization of political democracy. Marxists used to regard this idea a foolish one since “liberal developmentalism results in intensified capitalist contradictions, resulting in imperialism.” Experience has fallen far short of both ideals.

Political goals such as greater liberty, greater equality, justice, equal opportunity, and higher productivity, greater range of choices open to individuals within the context of peace, security and stability are often difficult to achieve, especially in the so-called developing world. Furthermore, when religious ideology dominates the society in all aspects of political life, it tends to become an independent objective on its own merit and therefore all other primordial goal of the society becomes overshadowed. In the long run, this creates frustration and political cynicism; a negative process which is not conductive to development.

Political development within a nation requires rational political system. A political system is defined as “a collection of recognizable units, which are characterized by cohesion and covariance.” Cohesion means sticking together, or forming a whole and covariance means changing together. Where there is cohesion, there will be also some observable covariance but when there is covariance, there need not be any cohesion. Use of unconventional (authoritarian) means to strengthen unity and cohesion may be counterproductive in the long run.

It is true that people’s mind can be structured to respond to stimulus of the social environment. Thus, a political system may maintain and coordinates interactions and expectations among people who live under it by means of rewards and penalties. It is suggested that the less rewarding a political community or government is the less likely it is to endure. Since human beings tend to learn more from rewards than penalties, a political system must of necessity encourage compliance through rewards rather than coercion. But, in the long run, without a proper political development the whole system may tend to disintegrate because mere economic rewards no longer satisfy people’s demands.

In conclusion, Iran’s president recent decision to reshuffle the cabinet is merely a cosmetic operation which is prone to conceal structural abnormalities and deficiency of the overall system. In order to tackle with the growing social malaise, disparity and economic inequality which are susceptible to endanger national security and societal fabrics, leaders should make bold decisions in readjusting Iran’s national goals, objectives and structure to the requisites of the present world order and nation’s expectations.

We shall discuss on this topic in our future comments. /

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Iran's Selective Elections

Iran’s Selective Elections

Ali Asghar Kazemi
March 17, 2008

Almost a century after the constitutional revolution in Iran in early 20th century (1906),
Iranians are still oscillating between democracy and autocracy. Recent parliamentary elections in Iran raised a number of substantive and procedural questions about their fairness and compliance with international standards. This short essay attempts to comment briefly on the following points:
· How far these elections conform to the requisites of accepted democratic norms and standards?
· Is there really an established general principle as yardstick to measure democratic exercise all over the world?
· Why the Islamic leaders take so much pain to demonstrate that they are democratic?

Ever since Persian intellectuals were acquainted with Western culture, the problem of democracy has become a paradox in their political life. While everybody pretended to cheer democracy as a sine-qua-non of a modern civil society, almost nobody was prepared to accept its consequences. The contradiction emerged when the monarch (the shadow of God on earth) with the authoritarian rule had to give up his absolute power in favor of the people will. However, neither the ruler nor the ruled knew exactly the substance of their rights and duties and were not committed to them.

The constitutional revolution of 1906 took place without a clear understanding of the essence and nature of “democracy” and thus the authoritarian culture continued to live on despite the creation of many formal democratic institutions. The confusion did not end with the advent of another social revolution in 1979 which claimed to hand over to people their long denied rights. The new emerging rule further complicated the situation by hiding behind religious principles and seeking legitimacy from the Almighty God, while putting a big question mark on Western democratic values.

In fact, without trying to be apologetic on the matter, democracy has never been considered by political thinkers and philosophers as an ideal type of government and statehood. From Aristotle to Huntington, democracy was regarded as only one way of running the affairs of a polity which could lead to the ascendance to power of ordinary men and mediocre groups whom may mislead people through demagoguery and deception. Yet, as long as it was based on the laws endorsed by the general will of the citizens, it could be tolerable as temporary solution to governance.

Huntington once said “if the Soviet Union is a democracy, I am against democracy…” He further contended: “who said that democracy is the best way of government?” He takes the example of many traditional Middle Eastern and Asian cultures which are not acquainted with and do not follow Western democratic values but nonetheless handle quite effectively the business of state with or without the explicit consent of their people. The amazing China could be one such example which during the last decade achieved its economic miracles. Certainly, this is not to endorse their way of authoritarian ruling but just to warn against judging others by one’s own standards.

With respect to the Islamic government in Iran, which came to power as the upshot of a social revolution, it is not a secret that there are serious inherent contradictions between Western democratic values and religious teachings of traditional Islam. Besides that, the cleric leaders are well aware that in order to continue their rule they have to conform to a number of accepted norms and principles of statehood, including various types of elections. However, through time and by experience they have learned that they can not wait and take a defensive stance vis-à-vis harsh criticisms coming from outside as well as secular domestic opposition groups. Thus, they constantly maintain that the “Islamic democracy” (mardomsalary-e dinee) is above and beyond all sorts of governments so far invented by mankind. By this they mean that they are not prepared to go along with the “dubious democratic values” which had so far the effect of dragging Western civilization into astray.

The face value of these contentions is indeed very appealing and easily stimulates the appetite of ordinary peoples here and there. Perhaps the reason behind relative popularity of Mr. Ahmadinejad among certain layers of traditional Muslims around the world is his very blunt rejection and uncompromising attitude with regard to the West and everything that goes with it. His famous saying: “go on the offensive before others take on you!” is now a guideline for politicians and diplomats. Interestingly as an example, just a day after the rejection of Iran’s elections by EU and US as unfair and undemocratic by accepted standards, Iranian ambassador to the UN in Geneva condemned extensive breach of human rights in these two continents.

In reality, the West has a very weak and bad record as regard to the application of democratic standards around the world. Here we are reminded of the outcomes of many democratic elections in Algeria, Palestine, Turkey, Iraq, and a host of other countries which brought down western oriented governments in favor of Islamist groups. The West is increasingly under strain from this unwanted outcome of democratic exercise. The US conception of democratic “Greater Middle East” was so naïve that died out before it was born.

All of the above gives justifying pretext to the ruling clerics in Iran to set their own standards of democracy and claim their superior principles on human rights, ethics and politics. To them, those who advocate Western democratic values are simply traitors and enemy collaborators. Thus, they continue their way of handling state’s affairs in Iran in total disregard of widespread criticisms from international institutions, NGO’s and opposition groups. Pretending to be the most democratic and open state in the world, they even venture to make paternal advices to other non-Muslim nations. They don’t hesitate to preach Western leaders to the path of salvation in any occasion in various world forums. Islamic hard-line president’s letters to various Western head of states are examples of such endeavor.

Despite many favorable constitutional provisions, religious leaders backed by the Para-military junta (Pasdaran and bassiji) are now in control of public and private spheres in Iran and do not permit any pressure group to endanger their absolute grip of power. Recent parliamentary elections were merely a meticulously selective process of candidates totally devoted to the regime as determined by the Guardian Council. This whole process is a purely formalistic demonstration of people participation and “democracy” as practiced in the West. Hard-line fundamentalists in various branches of the government, supported by the powerful “Guardian Council,” have enacted and enforced so many legal restrictions and barriers on the way of the so-called “reformists,” liberals and opposition groups that virtually none of them can assume a decisive role to change the course of events in Iran.

The truth of the matter is that the political system in Iran is neither a republic nor a democratic state in the proper sense of Western terminology and political culture. In reality, it is the skewed replica of a Khalifat as existed in early Islamic epoch, transfigured to the formalities and requisites of 21st century. Therefore, we should not expect it to follow the patterns of Western standards in running the business of the Ummat.

Many prominent traditional religious figures in Iran have suggested to set things straight once for all and relieve the Islamic state from unnecessary burdens of questionable democratic attributes borrowed from Western political culture. To them the “Imam” or the supreme leader of the “Ummat” does not recognize Western tradition of separation of state powers; since, he possesses all legislative, executive and judicial power of the Islamic state at the same time. Besides, his power is not limited to the material and earthly affairs of the people but he is also responsible for the spiritual salvation of the Islamic Ummat as interpreted in the Shiite doctrine.

Those who take the pain of criticizing the Islamic regime’s behavior in various domestic and international matters should bear in mind that the primordial objective of the Islamic state is the safeguard of the Madineh (the city of Islam). To this end, the Islamic state is permitted to perform any act that promotes the cause of state (i.e. cleric absolute power), even against the prevailing accepted norms and standards. This means that all other instruments of power and even people are subservient to this very vital goal. /

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nuclear Delusion and Public Jubilation!

Nuclear Delusion and Public Jubilation!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
25 February 2008


The tale of nuclear venture in Iran has become more like a funny satirical story than a serious national strategy and foreign policy issue. Upon the publication of the long awaited IAEA report* on Iran’s controversial nuclear activities, the hard-line government ushered a widespread propaganda campaign claiming over again another national victory. How far this claim is appropriate; what is behind this public jubilation, where the whole venture is heading to?

With the most optimistic and liberal interpretation of the report of the Director General of the IAEA issued on February 22, 2008, it contains nothing to justify such a public euphoria. On the contrary, the concluding parts of the report explicitly refer to a number of new activities which might cause the crisis to escalate even more in the future where it says:

“Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. In addition, Iran started the development of new generation centrifuges. Iran has also continued construction of the IR-40 reactor and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant. “

This means that Iran not only continues to defy the UN Security Council Resolutions but has also embarked to further aggravate the situation by launching new enrichment facilities during the cooling period of supposed confidence building. Similarly, the report does not hesitate to speak about existence of eventual undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, which means serious allegations and suspicions about the true nature of the program and the possibility of concealment and deception. Since, the Agency clearly states that “in the light of the many years of undeclared activities in Iran and the confidence deficit created as a result,” it has not been able to provide ”credible assurance” that Iran’s nuclear project is peaceful.

Further more, in the view of the IAEA; “the one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran’s nuclear program is the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle. This is a matter of serious concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program.“

Obviously, these statements can not be taken as friendly compliments by the IAEA which could give reason for claim of “historic victory of Iran in its greatest confrontation with the oppressive powers since the Islamic revolution". Indeed, IAEA last statement in the report alone can provides enough grounds for the Security Council to take a stubborn position in the upcoming third resolution on sanctions against Iran.

Curiously, while the Islamic government constantly maintains its peaceful and non-aggressive intention of nuclear project, it does not hesitate to aggravate the situation by threatening the “long tail of the United States” (Israel) and to showing signs of strength through dubious activities such as long-range missile testing amid the confidence building period.

Assuming that hard-liners in Tehran are not foolish people and are quite aware about the power of world public opinion, mass media and harsh impact of UN sanctions to Iran’s overall national interests , what are really the in the back of minds in their nuclear jubilation and continuous defiance? Here are some loud thoughts about their possible objectives:

• To overshadow the negative impact of the serious failure in the fulfillment of their economic promises to people in the coming parliamentary elections;
• To pave the way to comply with the IAEA request “ to implement the Additional Protocol… as an important confidence building measure” with the hope that the nuclear file be returned from the Security Council to the IAEA;
• By the same token, to give eventual concession to the five plus one states in the Security Council in the midst of public jubilation, in order to avoid the worst to happen;
• To continue to claim victory and show that the nuclear project is the most important achievement of the hard-liners , while following the same course of action as the previous progressive government with much more costs;
• To disarm their political opponents in the upcoming parliamentary elections campaign with a long-run objective of succeeding in the future presidential elections.

Yet, even with the fulfillment of some of the above objectives in the short-run, Iran’s continuing disregard of UN resolutions will have serious consequences on the future trends of the case. Without trying to be pessimist on the point, it is almost certain that:
• Firstly, a third resolution in the UN Security Council against Iran will be adopted by consensus (meaning that it will be backed by stronger enforcement measures);
• Secondly, Iran will be further squeezed in order to go along with the Security Council demands in its enrichment process; and finally
• Thirdly, the hard-line government in Tehran will be forced to adopt a more rational and flexible attitude fearing a complete fiasco. This could lead to widespread public discontent and loss of confidence and credibility.

Whatever might be derived from the above propositions, the truth of the matter is that the incumbent government in Iran is in no way ready to accept the responsibility of its dire mistakes and failures in domestic and foreign affairs. This has already been proven in various occasions and many areas of policy- making. It does not seem that hard-liners will be in a position to candidly confess to their blunders and misjudgments.

No matter what might be deducted from the recent IAEA report, based on the current state of the affaire, it would be hard to conceive that the West and the United States in particular will give a chance to hardliners in Iran to go nuclear. Unless the feuding parties opt for wisdom and moderation, mutual persistence on inflexible position is susceptible to lead to an inevitable clash. In such circumstances, despite all impeding international constraints, the outcome would be disastrous. Quite naturally, the weaker party is much more vulnerable and can not count on the protection of international law, since the law is always on the stronger side.

Iranians are caught in a critical period of history when hope and peril are running side by side to determine their fate. They are the ones who solely should decide for themselves the rational course of their future. They should make a decision in the next elections between wisdom and moderation on the one hand or eccentric and reckless politics on the other. /

* All references and quotations in the text are to the Report by the Director General of the IAEA on: The Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran. GOV/2008/4. Date: 22 February 2008.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Iran's Revolution and Military in Politics

Iran’s Revolution and Military in Politics

Ali Asghar Kazemi

February 2008


Almost 30 years after the fall of the monarchy, the Islamic regime is still fomenting revolutionary fervor and slogans in Iran. Revolutions by nature carry destructive forces which can not be easily routed to construction and development. Those who advocate the Shiite belief of perpetual revolution look forward to the time when the savior of all mankind will reappear and take the lead of humanity to the path of salvation. Meanwhile the revolutionary regime will have to tackle with various mundane problems of a state, while paving the way for the advent of the promised day.

We are not in a position here to pass judgment on the wisdom and suitability of such a doctrine to run the complicated affaires of a modern state. We want just to examine the obstacles before a revolutionary regime to fulfill its earthly pledges to its people and the context in which some military elites may be tempted to enter into the political process.

Among all political activities in Iran after the revolution, presidential and parliamentary elections have been always surrounded by rumors, mysteries and controversies. One such controversy relates to the phenomenon of military involvement in politics. How much this contention is accurate, who are these military men, and what are their objectives?

At the outset let’s clarify the terms military in the present state of affaire in Iran. By military we usually refer to the conventional definition of regular armed forces whose cadre is recruited and educated through a well-established and rigorous disciplinary and hierarchical system. The conventional military man in Iran is historically under strict military regulations which prohibit any involvement in politics while in active duty.

However, this is not true for the volunteered army “Bassiji” and “revolutionary guards” (Pasdaran) composed of devoted men who originally have fought in a patriotic war against Iraq without much background and education in the field. These were essentially young people who dropped from high schools and colleges who chose to offer their priceless lives in the defense of the homeland alongside with the regular army. Many of them were killed or injured and those who returned back from the fronts were reorganized as revolutionary guards “Pasdaran” and incorporated in the armed forces.

After the war they have been given various civilian projects like constructions of dams, roads, irrigation canals, and other economic activities in order to keep them busy and happy. At the same time, they have been offered special quota in higher educations and universities to continue their studies. Many of them are now graduated in various fields and carry the titles of doctors, engineers, generals etc. To be sure, by “military in politics” we refer to these people.

There is no doubt that there are many devoted, clever and bold men among the revolutionary guards’ corps who fought the 8 years Iraq-Iran war with loyalty and patriotic zeal. They have been occupying many important billets in high civilian and military positions. They have shown their aptitude to learn and acquire experience in some jobs and continue to work in various posts such as members of parliament, governors, mayors, city councilors etc.

Except few countries where historically military intervention in political affaires is accepted as final solution to crises and emergencies, armed forces are forbidden to get involved in politics. Turkey, Pakistan and a handful of Latin American states are among those exceptions. But nobody can imagine such thing to happen in democratic Western states. Constitutional provisions usually do not permit military people, who possess the real instruments of power and forces, to take side with any particular party in political strata.

There is no specific mention with respect to military involvement in political affairs in the Islamic constitution. However, while the regular army is “entrusted with the task of protecting the independence, territorial integrity and the Islamic system…” (Art.143) the “Revolutionary Guards Corps” (Pasdaran) has been given the main responsibility of “safeguarding the revolution and its ensuing outcomes” in a separate provision. (Art.150)

In reality, the Revolutionary Guards are in a sense the elite corps in the Islamic Republic armed forces and inherently possess political power and leverage over all other institutions. This is especially true during crises and civil strives like university students and workers unrests during past several years. Here we are reminded of a number of ultimatums and harsh declarations issued by a group of Pasdaran commanders threatening to use iron fist against dissidents, cut journalists’ tongues and topple the government during President Khatami’s tenure in office.

Mr. Ahmadinejad (a former Bassiji) ascendance to power as president was the consequence of a delicate balance with respect to military involvement in politics. But, his poor performance to fulfill its promises in economic and other areas incited a number of high ranking commanders to get directly involved into political fronts. The fear of repeating the tumultuous years of reformists reign, which in their view, brought the Islamic regime to edge of disintegration, gave Pasdaran the necessary pretext to step in for the purpose of avoiding their resurgence to power in the parliament and executive branch.

The problem now is that the elite corps, as guardian of the revolution, is not satisfied with the ongoing process and the share given so far to it in political scene. Pasdaran may think they merit to be taken into play in all affairs of the country. They see themselves more competent than anybody else to run the state. Perhaps in the back of their minds they rationalize they were able to participate in the war without much specialty and education why should not they be allowed to conduct the country in peacetime.

In the final account, Pasdaran see themselves as the ones who saved the revolution and the Islamic regime despite all internal and external conspiracies. They have been already given many lucrative projects during the privatization programs, including the ones in oil and gas industries. But, it seems that economic power alone does not satisfy their expectations; they are asking for more political power.

Indeed, they have now forcibly accumulated much more experience and knowledge in various domains. However, their capacity to run the sophisticated affairs of a state is subject to query. Since, so far no impartial and independent evaluation about their performance in war and their efficiency in civilian positions has been made. They are only fit to function in crisis situations and emergency cases where immediate actions are needed to establish order and secure the status quo. In other words, they can perform only through revolutionary manners, which mean without accountability.

Apparently, the Islamic regime has no other choice than to go along with their increasing demands. Since, they are the ones who have both the material instruments of power and potential motivation to get rid of the cleric rule under the pretext of rescuing the revolution and Imam Khomeini’s legacy. They could, if they so decide, emerge as hero savior in public eyes, as did Napoleon Bonaparte in French Revolution and Colonel Reza Khan after the constitutional revolution in Iran.

The future has many turnings beyond which it is difficult to see. Who knows? May be in the long run we will be deceived in our judgment. /

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Iran: New Space Partner!

Iran: New Space Partner!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
February 5, 2008

The 29th anniversary of the revolution in Iran was different this year. Along with numerous academic, sportive and artistic festivals, inaugurations, ground breakings and a host of other celebrations, the launching of a ballistic missile Kavoshgar I (Explorer) on February 4, 2008 was indeed most eye-catching. Apparently the missile was intended to carry and put a research satellite in the orbit. But as we shall see here, the political aspect of this test is much more controversial than its technological dimension, which is more or less a common occurrence elsewhere in the world.

While space, as the common heritage of mankind, is supposed to be reserved solely for peaceful uses, so far few states possessing the monopoly of highly sophisticated science and technology have been competing in this realm. Indeed, some nations are more talented and have more aptitude in the path of innovation and technical Know-how.

There is no doubt that Iranians are among gifted people. Yet, due to a number of historical impediments, they also have developed a number of weak points among which their superiority complex is more blatant. They want to be admired, well liked and accepted by others, individually and collectively. They usually have a tendency to over-estimate their capability but, are not prepared to commit themselves to discipline and hard work. Thus, they set their goals beyond the reach of their capacity and knowledge.

This characteristic has been reflected in the attitude of leaders and governments before and after the revolution. They have little tolerance vis-à-vis their political opponents and those who happen to think not like them. They easily label them as traitors, enemy collaborators and spies, who should be eliminated. No government likes to be criticized for poor performance even with good intentions. They expect all citizens, scholars, scientists, poets, writers, and intellectuals to devote their full talent and capacity at the service of the incumbent regime.

Being quite aware of this trait, most foreigners who have some benefit in dealing with Iranians often exaggerate in their compliments. Here we are reminded of President Jimmy Carter’s observation during his visit to Tehran just before the revolution in 1979. He naively alluded to the “island of stability” referring to the Shah’s excellent leadership right in the middle of social turmoil in Iran. This was indeed a slippery compliment which incited the Shah to tighten the repressive rope around opponents’ necks.

Nevertheless, Persians have proven that they possess scores of potentialities and can perform tremendous achievements, provided they have the necessary motto, forward-looking institutions and good leadership. The proof is the great number of successful and talented Iranians scientists, physicians and scholars now residing in Western countries.

Ever since the Islamic regime in Iran was dragged into an unwanted and unequal war with Iraq and was denied of war equipment and weaponry, it had no other choice than to rely on the patriotic zeal and ingenuity of its people in order to compensate its deficiencies. Besides from procuring its defense needs in world-wide black-markets, it has been investing hard in various fields of science and technology inside the country.

After the war, in order to show its capacity to govern a nation and lead it to the path of power and development, the acquired technical capacity during the war was a good basis to launching ambitious projects in defense industry and other fields. Indigenous innovations, from the construction or assembling of jet fighters, mini submarines and assault fast boats to long range missiles and other projects in the fields of genetics and cloning, nanotechnology and medicine got underway. The nuclear endeavor can be considered as one such investment which is now experiencing harsh pressure from outside for the purpose of abandoning the scheme.

It is worthwhile to remember that both the nuclear and satellite projects are among the many ambitious ventures that originally date back to the Shah regime which were abrogated as a revolutionary action by the religious regime.

The Islamic regime’s particular endeavor to revive and aggrandize most of these projects later bears good witness that Iran’s geo-strategic position in the crisis-ridden Middle East dictates certain requirements that whoever rules this country will follow the same path. This is of course a source of preoccupation for many who nourish anti-Persian sentiments inside and outside the region.

However, these whole undertakings at this particular juncture seem to be essentially used as justifying grounds for political legitimacy, proof of efficiency, good governance and national pride of a religious-revolutionary regime. Since, there are no clear indications that any of these grandiose projects, including the ballistic missile project, have gone through a rigorous cost-benefit analysis in order to evaluate their economic suitability in the context of national interests.

Whereas many developed countries use Russian or Chinese missile technology to put their sophisticated satellites in the orbit considering the much lower costs, there is no rational for Iran to rely on its own means to launch a few satellites. For many, the nuclear enrichment scheme falls in the same kinds of misjudgment and reasoning, which is a dire burden on Iran’s national resources.

Despite the fact that we don’t have yet the detailed specifications of the missile and the degree of the launch success, on the basis of what was shown in the media, the following hypotheses can be formulated with respect to recent ballistic missile test during the 29th anniversary of revolution:

*It intends to deter those who plan to isolate the Islamic government and threaten to overthrow the regime through preemptive strikes;
*It wants to show that economic sanctions and other limitations to pressure the regime to submit to the will of big powers, are condemned to failure;
*It implicitly threatens that the religious regime has the capability and intention to strike back if necessary hostile states in the region and elsewhere;
*It wants to dissuade members of the UN Security Council, and by the same token 5+1 States, to adopt a new resolution against Iran;
*It intends to demonstrate to the people, especially domestic opponents, that the regime is solid and resolute in its grip of power and does not allow anybody to challenge its legitimacy and existence; and finally
*It wants to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of a religious regime to run the sophisticated affairs of a country in 21st century, despite all the malicious schemes and conspiracies to show the contrary. /