Saturday, October 24, 2009

Iran, Islam, and Secular Social Sciences



Iran, Islam, and Secular Social Sciences

Ali Asghar Kazemi

October 2009



In our previous commentary on the problem of Iran’s recent social turmoil after the presidential elections of June 12, 2009, we alluded to the issue of “Social Sciences” that  has caused widespread alarm among conservative hard-liners.

In that article  the emphasis was made essentially on the question of religion in general and Islam in particular as an ideological dynamic, influencing the function of  society in the domain of human actions and interactions. It was argued that religion has to do with human mind, ideas, the belief system, values, attitudes, and behavior. While politics as an interdisciplinary branch of social sciences deals essentially with the pursuit of power and to some extent the distribution of values in society. Thus, the marriage of the two may inhibit man from his choice between the rational and the spiritual. This is indeed a major dilemma on the way of an ordinary citizen who wants to remain aloof of the impact of official creeds, unless he lets himself dragged by the formalistic rituals of  the dominant religion.

Secular Approach to Social Sciences

As we know, social sciences are not “science” as we understand in the field of hard or pure sciences, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy etc. They form a body of knowledge accumulated during times from the antiquity to the present that comprises everything that relate to the study of human beings in their individual and collective interaction. This even encompass the subject of religion in its entirety as well as philosophy, history, psychology, sociology, economics, politics and the likes, that in one way or the other entail man’s life in his natural and artificial environments.

Once our knowledge of the spiritual and material world was limited to a range of dogma inherited from holly books as well as classical philosophers and scientists’ traditions. Some of these were later endorsed by the Christian church through sanctifying Aristotelian teachings, which had to be accepted blindfolded, and no one was permitted to pose question on their truth. Renaissance changed the methodical knowledge of the world by scientific inquiry and the domain of metaphysics became restricted to the inner-self in the Christian world. Amazing discoveries, inventions and innovations in all fields of sciences are the propitious outcomes of this period.

Of course, the Christian world had to pay dreadful price for this transition. Beside the horrifying experience of persecution and harassment of scientists and intellectuals, protracted wars among sects and nations ended up with some sort of balance between the Church and the State or the temporal and spiritual powers. The hundred years war of fifteenth century resulted continuous conflicts over the distribution of power between religious and temporal sectors, church and the state or popes and the kings. In the seventeenth century the same issues provoked the thirty years war. The resurgence of secularism replaced the medieval theocratic paradigm and ushered the age of enlightenment.

Religion and Secular Conception of Power

The secular consideration of power began its reappearance with Machiavelli’s doctrine of pragmatism in political theory. The basis of this doctrine was to answer the question of what needs to be done by a ruler to remain in power. That is to say that the necessity of political life often required the breaking of moral law. [1] Machiavelli’s princes, unlike Plato’s philosopher-kings, ruled because they were shrewd in manipulating power. Thus, power became devoid of virtue. For Machiavelli, good and evil were traits of all human beings and a successful ruler had to be “part lion and part fox.” [2]

Bertrand Russell wrote that faith, ideology and religion as a whole are undisputed elements in forming the power of a state.[3] Indeed ideas influence the development and use of command over power and violence. In cases were nations are not fully developed from a political-democratic standpoint and party politics as well as other social institutions lack the necessary appeal to unite people in the pursuit of their objectives , religion can fill the gaps. Translated into ideology when put into motion, religion may assume a determinant role in a society, provided it is properly used.[4] It can also weaken a state, and deteriorate its internal and external relations if its potential power is not directed toward constructive path and is used in the pursuit of evil objectives.

Secularism in the Christian World

In the turn of twentieth century it was the general feeling of most learned social scientists that everywhere in the world, religion was in the decline. The argument stemmed from the fact that religion was “opposed by powerful forces.”[5]Some even argued that religion was under the most serious threat that it had ever been in the past centuries.[6] The magnitude of the threat was even compared to the advent of Reformation in Europe but the change was characterized as an anti-religious trend rather than a crisis within the sphere of religion.

Humanism, which was commonly an alternative to theism, developed in Europe chiefly from a belief in the science and an exaggeration of human power and freedom. It was an intellectual movement that opposed the “religious institution.” In the nineteenth century the reaction to religious norms and institution was negative and the emerging idea antagonistic.

The main trend away from religion during the past centuries is considered as the growing sense of secularism[7]which Christianism had put in the doctrinal concept of church and state separation. This was probably an inevitable and necessary complement of the processes of social and political adjustment after the scientific discoveries and revolution in the field of industry and technology.

An immediate consequence of the industrial development was the emergence of a new social class called urban industrial proletariat, which led to the rise of socialism and Marxism as an ideological means for social adjustment. Among these latter ideologies, some did not negate religion and were ready to coexist and cooperate with it and others, which were antagonistic to any religious institutions. Marxism-Communism and its derivatives are examples of the latter type.

Secularism requires that all matters pertaining to man-to-man relationship be determined by representatives of the people, while relationship between men and God be determined by religion.[8]  This position, however, was not endorsed by those who believed that all aspects of life without exception be governed by religious principles formulated many centuries ago and whose interpretation is solely in the hands of the ruling clergies.

The issue of secular state as opposed to a state governed by religious principles has become a fundamental problem of many traditional countries with diverse ethnic and religious background. Religion, in fact, serves both as a divisive and uniting factor in various countries. Practice of secularism also is not easy in territories of multiple religions such as e.g. India. This country has been subject to territorial partition and numerous turmoil because of religion. The peculiar aspect of Indian secularism is that religion and politics get mixed up taking advantage of the democratic system, while the evolution of a common civil law is blocked in the name of minorities’ right in a secular state.[9]

Islam and Secularism

The Islamic conception of religion and its evolution rests upon principles different from Christianity as regards social, economic, legal, political and the way of life in general. Hence a comparative study on the impact and influence of religion in social and political affairs may be obscured by the fact that for example, Christianity and Islam are evolved from and founded upon different conception of religion. Thus a discussion on the subject of secularization of political power can naturally not be based on similar sets of assumption and elements contributing to it. The Islamic conception of religion is more or less what religion has been through most of the course of human history.[10] The secularization process in the Islamic world, thus, shall be viewed and judged against its own distinct evolution.

In this sense, secularization is defined as the process by which political and social activities, explicitly controlled by the religious institution, come under the power of non-religious or temporal body. The definition, however, does not explain the whole conception as interpreted in Christianism and Islam, two major monotheist religions of the world.

It has been suggested that, for example, secularization in the Middle East has had the effect of substituting the European conception of religion by the Islamic doctrine.[11] There may have been such understanding in times among Moslem scholars, but this does not seem to be representative of a general belief. This was the fact and apprehension of a minority fundamentalist Moslems who opposed to that conception and nowadays seems to reemerge throughout the region.


While secularism is considered as the main characteristic of Western conception of religion, in the world of Islam no elaborate and widely endorsed philosophical expression of the subject can be found. Thus, various attempts by rulers or intellectuals to establish a secular system of government, political institution and social tradition in predominantly Islamic nations have not proved to be fruitful and practically possible. Kamalism movement in Turkey, Nasserism in Egypt, Pahlavism in Iran and other cases are typical example of such failure, which in the long run worked even against the very viability of the political system. In most cases cited above, the trend was not merely a process of secularization but it was viewed by conservatives as an all-out offensive against the religious institutions which otherwise meant an anti-religion movement. This has given rise to some misunderstandings that still persist in our own country and elsewhere in the region. Islamic fundamentalism is a direct consequence of this misapprehension.

The contrast between the secularization attempts and processes, particularity in the Christian world and Islamic community will be further discussed in our future commentaries. [12]

Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:

* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.


[1] . See e.g. David E. Apter, Introduction to Political Analysis. (Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi, 1981, p.77.

[2] .see: Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavellism. (New Haven: Yale University press. 1962), Quoted in David E Apter, Ibid.P.78.

[3].CF. Bertrand Russell, Power, A New Social Analysis, (New York: Norton, 1938), PP.145-156.

[4]. This is especially true in the case of the Third world states where political parties as key organizations for uniting people of different and rather immature opinion can not perform social and political results. A party, said, Edmund Burke, is a group of men united to promote, the common good in accordance with a principle upon which they are agreed. In the Third World the most widely accepted principles belong to religious teachings.

[5] .CF. Montgomery Watt, “Religion and Anti-Religion”, in: A.J.Arberry ed. Religion in the Middle East, (London: Cambridge University Press .1969), vol. 2. PP.605-639 at 605.

[6]. Idem.

[7].The process of secularization is sometimes distinguished from the idea of secularism, which is defined as an attitude of mind or set of beliefs with its focus in the assertion that there is nothing beyond this world. In this respect scientific materialism, humanism, naturalism and positivism are all considered forms of secularism. See Ibid. 609-610.

[8] .K. Subramanyam, “Norms and Interests,” in Strategic Analysis, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi, February, 1985.p.1035.

[9] .Idem.

[10]. CF. Montgomery Watt, Religion and Anti -Religion. Op. cit. p. 609; see also: Hamilton A.R. Gibb. Religion and politics in Christianism and Islam. (Persian translation) passim; Modern Trend in Islam. (Chicago:1947)


[12].see my earlier writings on the subject in: Ali Asghar Kazemi, Religion and Politics...    Monograph, Tehran 1985.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Iran: Roots of the Post-Elections Crisis


Iran: Roots of the Post-Elections Crisis

Ali Asghar Kazemi

October 2009


“A new world society is gradually emerging.It is growing quietly, imperceptibly in the minds and hearts of men. The tumult and the excitement, the anger and the violence, the perplexity of spirit and the ambiguities of expressing are the pangs of he birth of something new. We of this generation are called upon to work for this new order with all the strength and capacity for suffering we possess.

                                                         S. Radhakrishnan[1]



Thirty years after the advent of the revolution, that brought an Islamic regime in Iran, religious leaders are still looking for ways and means to transform the society into a rigid bloc of faithful and zealous citizens who fully submit to the official principles and precepts put forward by them. While during the past three decades every effort has been made to disseminate religious teachings at all levels of public education, from the kindergartens to the universities, seemingly the result has been frustrating.

The post-presidential elections public turmoil, that brought the country to the brink of a real social revolution, was another vivid indication that the whole scheme of “Islamization” of the society was an ineffective and futile social investment. Since, the effort merely counter-produced and youngsters who were brought up with Islamic rigorous teachings after the revolution simply did not show interest to them and much less to obey them blindfolded. Indeed, this phenomenon should not surprise anybody who has a little familiarity with the very rudimentary concepts of the philosophy of education and social sciences.


Misconception about Social Sciences

With a view to cure this incongruity, the Islamic system recently came to the conclusion that the problem emanate from the dominance of the Western “social sciences” books and materials taught by Western educated and/or oriented teachers and professors in the higher education structure. To that end, a new round of purge has been initiated at different levels of educational institutions and expert committees are being set up once again to remedy the problem once for all!

How far this conclusion about Western “social science” is logical? Can the Islamic regime succeed in its new effort to eradicate the roots of restlessness among students and educated people against the system by simply changing the contents of textbooks? Where should we look for proper answer to the problem?


Problem of Religion and Politics[2]

From the beginning of human history, man has been guided by two strands inextricably woven in his very nature, the rational and the spiritual. These forces have influenced human destiny in varied patterns and in different periods when one or the other may have been more prominent.[3] Religion has been the great force for the disciplining of man’s nature, though it has also worked against his fate by denying the domain of reason.[4]

Religion has to do with human mind, ideas, the belief system, values, attitudes and behavior. Politics as an interdisciplinary branch of social sciences, deals essentially with the pursuit of power through “the art of influencing, manipulating, or controlling [groups] so as to advance the purposes of some against the opposition of others”[5] The struggle over conflicting ideas, values and interests directed by religious beliefs have existed throughout history. Great religions such as Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and last but not least Islam have at one time or other claimed to have answers for all problems of the society. But, history bears good witness that almost in all cases, religion married to temporal power, became imbued with a formalism which deprived it of its moral and spiritual values.[6]

Some religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have sought to base their beliefs on tangible elements and hold that the two sides of human nature, the rational and the spiritual, should work together.[7] Western religions have been long engaged in the struggle to come to term with the spirit of reason.[8] In later periods, scientific developments overshadowed faith in traditional beliefs. The process led to the intellectual questioning of the metaphysical view of the world and the revival of animistic science in the period of Renaissance.

Since the Renaissance two divergent lines of thought have prevailed in the philosophical perspective. One deeply committed to the notion that the real world is external to the observer, and the other, that belonged to cultures which escaped the early impact of Newtonian thinking retained the view that the real world is completely internal to the observer.[9]


Where to put the blame?

When Socrates was executed for religious heresy, it was not merely an act of religious fanaticism, such as later became common, but rather a serious response of society to subversion. The early Christianity was attacked by the Roman government not only out of religious exclusivism in modern sense but because it was seen as revolutionary and subversive, a threat to the organization of society. The Christians incurred the supposed guilt of an unnatural and unpardonable offense. They dissolved the sacred ties of custom and education and violated the religious institution of their realm.[10]

Once it was believed that only religious and metaphysical limitations could restrain rulers and power-holders from committing acts of violence and suppression. This may still prove a valid argument, only if we can make a definite distinction between religious ideology and the actual process of politics. But when the frontiers between the two realms fades away and one identifies its very existence with the other, then, the moral and metaphysical constrains to power-holders become irrelevant. In such circumstances, religion fails to its duty. With the alienation of power-blinded men from moral restraints, aggressive behavior and suicidal tendencies occur.[11]

In today’s world, where hope and peril run side by side, among great and vital issues of our time are those which involved the suppression of the evil which drive societies toward wars, hostilities and terrorism. How then the whirlwind of revolutionary social forces can be directed towards a safe and constructive path?

Considering the fact that constitutional foundation of world order and international law have proven inefficacious for the maintenance of peace and assurance of democratic process, the problems remain to be tackled with in future are the minimum moral and spiritual requirements in order to preserve peace, security and human dignity in a tormented world.

In the absence of a superior authority over and above nation-states, claiming sovereignty and political independence, power with legitimacy is the necessary instrument of governments. Without these latter, political order could neither be established nor maintained and guard society against anarchy. Power without legitimacy spawns tyranny and violence, corrupts the mighty and crushes freedom.[12]

In a general sense, individual quest for power has the effect of leading a ruler to act against the will of the people.[13] But when religion becomes politicized and gets involved in the competition for power, it has the effect of encouraging its followers to act against the accepted norms of civilized nations. As a result, domestic power struggles spill over into the international system. The immediate implication of such behavior is to impose its will and ideology on another state(s).

Religion can help people to establish harmony in their souls, to illuminate human spirit, and to liberate nations from despotism and tyranny. But surely it cannot supplant politics, in the sense it is understood in our contemporary world system, dominated by sovereign nation- states, national interests and competition for power. Religion, says Radhakrishnan, “is the direct apprehension of the Supreme. It is in the attaining of a state of illumination. While the reality is omnipresent, human being is able to apprehend it directly in his own inmost being.”[14] When statesmen attempt to measure -or make semblance to do- political events and social phenomena of the real world by religious standards, they are merely submerged in their illusion.


Future of Religions

Religious belief and faith of any kind have always posed dilemma for humanity. Like a two-edged sword, religion has been hard for men to live without, and almost equally hard to coexist with. Just the same, when man is passionately submerged in his religious obsessions, he is tempted to preach it to others. If they prove deaf to his preaching, he is often tempted to impose it by fire and sword. [15]

Religious wars of the past are now over, but the legacy of intolerance, persecution and slaughtering of man by man on ideological and religious grounds is still with mankind. Religion has become scapegoat for obstipated “old leaders clinging too long to power in a world they no longer understand,”[16] and for power hungry younger generation deeply indoctrinated in myths and delusions. The world no longer represents the long cherished compassionate and fraternal ideals of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.

Encountering realities of this tormented world is a difficult task of the new leaders of our time who are not trained to overcome the lust of power. Religion has the potential ability to free politicians from the evil forces that enslave their spirit. But politics cannot help an obstinate religious to straighten his conduct or to regain his purity. No institutional or legal patterns, no revolutionary theologies, and no chastisement of the other world can make a society to become a safe place to live, unless the people set out to rid of spiritual poverty. In this respect, it is rightly argued that “the quality of our life is the evidence of our religion.” [17] Indeed, religion in this context is not incompatible with politics, neither is it in competition with it in the pursuit of secular power, but it is its mentor.

Religions will lose their redemptive power, if societies are not prepared to accept their human and spiritual principles. People need not to adore saints and their illusions; they have to seek redemption through faith and reason which lead to the path of salvation.


From the dawn of human history to our present time, prophets, philosophers, thinkers, academics and social scientists, disregard of their beliefs and native origins, have helped men to understand their social environment and to overcome the evil of tyranny and despotism in their communities. They should be respected and be given credits for their achievements. Western social and political sciences are not in dissonance with the essence of religions and spiritual needs of human beings. On the contrary, they teach us how to comprehend and deal with evil propensity of political leaders who use religious principles to promote their power and greed despite the will of the people. /


Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:

* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.



[1] Religion in a Changing World, (London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd, 1967) p. 15.

[2] Parts of this article are readapted here from my earlier writings in : Ali Asghar Kazemi, Religion and Politics …, Monograph , Tehran, 1985.

[3]. CF. S. Radhakrishnan, Religion in a Changing World (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. 1967), p. 18.

[4]. Ibid. p.9.

[5] Quincy Wright, The Study of International Relations, ( New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1965), p.130

[6]. CF. Jacques Pirenne, Tides of History, op. cit. p. 407.

[7]. Ibid. p. 34.

[8]. Ibid. p. 35.

[9]. Henry Kissinger, American Foreign Policy (New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Inc. 1974), p.48.

[10]. CF. Edward Gibbon, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I, (New York: Modern Library), p. 448.

[11]. CF. R. Strausz- Hupe and Stefan T. Possony, International Religions (New York, 1954) p. 11. Quoted in Robert L. Pfaltzgraff and James E. Dougherty, Contending Theories of International Relations ( New York : J. b. Lippincott Co. , 1971 ) p. 91..

[12]. Robert Strausz-Huoe, Power and Community (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1956), p.3.

[13]. This is for example the case of Iran in the pre-revolution period as well as during the past years when the essence of religion gradually changed in the pursuit of political power. 

[14]. Religion in a Changing World, op. cit. p. 102.

[15].CF. Charles Yost, The Insecurity of Nations- International Relations of the Twentieth Century, op. cit., p. 212.

[16]. Idem.

[17]. Ibid. p. 110.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rise of “New Nationalism” in Iran


Rise of “New Nationalism” in Iran

Ali Asghar Kazemi

October 2009


The “Green Movement” that emerged in the midst of presidential campaign 2009 in Iran, gained momentum after the unconvinced defeat of reformist candidates and became a genuine and strong opposition front challenging the very foundation of the Islamic regime. The more the hardliners pressed upon the movement with the intention to wipe out once for all its driving force, the more it tended towards radical nationalistic slogans and acquired anti-regime propensity.

While the Islamic government does not mind the resurgence of the people’s nationalistic fervor upon which it could embark in case its survival is threatened by foreign threats, nonetheless, it seems determined to confront with all force the growing danger of the “Green Movement” to its internal security. Recent horrific clashes with masses protesting in the streets in the post-elections manifestations are vivid indication that the hard-liners would not allow the demonstrations for reform turn into a real revolution.

How far the Islamic regime is capable to contain the movement or benefit from the revival Iranian nationalism without being victim itself of this reawakening phenomenon?


Political scientists agree that high level of political participation in a developing societies where the governments lags behind people expectations for higher level of institutionalization of democratic values, accountability and truthfulness, lead to social frustration and political instability. Samuel Huntington calls this phenomenon praetorianism, or the growth of political decay which paves the way for increasing repression, societal closure and growing military involvement in politics. In other words, social mobilization in an authoritarian environment with low economic productivity and efficiency leads to social frustration. This process increases the level of participation and in the final stage it ends up to political instability. In such circumstances, increasing demands for stability and order in a society gives justification for men of arms to step in by using coercive power for the containment of the crisis. Maintaining a coercive system in power requires large scale military and secret police establishment which in turn create economic burden and hardship for people; leading to social unrest and instability and the process continues in escalating cycles.

The foremost dilemma for the community in crisis situations is to avoid its own disintegration by maintaining social unity and solidarity outside the purview of official institutions. For this purpose, the society is guided to organize around a motto, symbol or emblems that give it a new identity to cope with the oppressive forces. Growing discontent with the incumbent regime, which seeks to promote and enforce its own ideology despite the will of citizens, will instigate the nonconformists to go their own way and look for alternative ways to counter the official values. Thus, the emergence of “Green Movement” with nationalistic overtone in the post-election Iran can be characterized as a growing force in quarrel with the regime.

Historically, the Persian nationalism has been expressed and articulated through the adoption of the Shiite doctrine that fundamentally distinguishes Iranian Moslems from the other creeds in the broad spectrum of the religion of Islam. It has served as a strong unifying force against Persian enemies and rivals in the past centuries. But, with the ascendance into power of the clergies after the 1979 revolution in Iran, the political thrust of the religion gradually diminished and people became dismayed of the poor performance of politico-religious institutions.

Upon several unsuccessful democratic attempts to perform necessary changes in the system by reformist Moslems in order to make it more responsive to the needs of the modern society, the last presidential elections of June 12, 2009 brought to an end the efforts by a series of repressive actions which led the post-elections crisis. After that, the green color which was merely the identity sign for one candidate (Mir Hossein Moussavi) became the emblem of a movement which is now standing as a challenging opposition front with new goals confronting the incumbent regime.

The truth of the matter is that the new nationalistic movement in Iran stems from a different environment that is dissimilar from the past. Since: 1) it is primarily a reaction against an ideology that has become unbearable for many even among religious figures; 2) it is an antithesis of a political system that came into power in a very particular point of time and circumstances that is no longer responsive to the actual expectations of the people; 3) it is a self-propelled movement with no official platform and has no particular leadership inside or outside Iran; 4) it is a “positive nationalism,” meaning that it is not against the current trend of the international society but it strongly objects the existing domestic divergence from that trend and wants to rehabilitate the true Iranian identity and status in the present world; 5) it is omnipresent and it uses all old patriotic and revolutionary slogans of the past as a tactical challenge against the ruling system; 6) It is a secular, forward-looking and peace-loving movement that denies all sorts of segregation, subjugation, arms races and interventions in the internal affairs of other countries and wants to live in peace with all people and nations.

While the new movement is against foreign interventions of all kinds and sanctions that are aimed at the well-being of ordinary people, it has been accused by the regime for collaborating with the enemies of Islam and Iran in order to discredit its efforts. It is also against all government policies that entail such actions against the nation. Supporters of the movement have already paid a dire price for their endeavor and seem to be prepared to keep on their lawful and democratic attempts for changes. Most enlightened people, academics, intellectuals as well as average citizens of all walks seem to support their cause.

The “new nationalism,” manifested in the form of “Green Movement,” can become a constructive democratic force in Iran if properly managed by their leaders and followers. They should be given the opportunity to exercise their lawful citizen rights in expressing themselves towards a democratic, united, developed, peaceful, and prestigious Iran. /


Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:

* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. ©All Copy Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Strategic Implications of Nobel Peace Prize for Obama


Strategic Implications of Nobel Peace Prize for Obama

A. A. Kazemi

October 10, 2009


Whatever the true intention and justification behind the decision of the Committee of Nobel Peace Prize to give this prestigious award to Barack Obama, the event should be optimistically taken as a heavenly grace for peace and order in the Middle East in general and Iran in Particular. Though previous politician winners of the prize failed to achieve much in this respect, there is hope that at this critical point of time, when Iran is under increasing pressure and military threats from outside, President Obama would feel very reluctant to opt for a harsh and hostile strategy against the Islamic regime for its nuclear ambitions.

The mere fact that the Nobel Peace prize is awarded to a powerful figure like the incumbent president of the United States, would prevent him, from a psychological point of view, to keep extreme policy options, such as use of hard power on the table against Iran. This would also mean that he might not endorse any preemptive strike against strategic targets inside Iran by Israel, should diplomatic negotiations fail to achieve constructive results. This is of course a very important achievement of the award.

Therefore, it is safe to suggest that the Islamic regime should be happy about the event and ought to seize the opportunity not to aggravate the situation by broadcasting negative analyses about the decision of the Committee of Peace Prize in the state radio and television. It should either keep silent or praise the event and embark on the occasion by putting full effort on the diplomatic endeavor underway with the 5+1 powers.

This will further encourage the American President to support peaceful means for the settlement of the nuclear issue with Islamic regime and abstain from endorsing any harsh measure that could put at risk Iran’s national interests and security in the region./


Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:

* Students, researchers, academic institutions, media or any party interested in using all or parts of this article are welcomed to do so with the condition of giving full attribution to the author and Strategic Discourse. All Copy Rights reserved.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Struggling onTwo Fronts for Survival

Struggling on Two Fronts for Survival

A. A. Kazemi
October 2, 2009
Iranian hard-line conservatives are caught in an appalling stalemate in the post-election period. On the one hand, they are facing growing opposition at home in the wake of the unconvinced presidential elections that truly polarized the nation on the credibility and legitimacy of the new government. On the other hand, they are under increasing international pressure for their deceiving maneuvers on the question of nuclear activities. Recent revelations about new enrichment site came as an unambiguous indication that despite its recurrent negation, the Islamic regime is aimed at acceding to a nuclear power status.
Since the mass uprising of 1979 that ended up into the collapse of the monarchic regime, the events which followed the presidential elections of June 12, 2009 will be remembered as a new keystone in contemporary history of Iran. Threatened from abroad for its nuclear ambitions and vulnerable inside for its horrendous performance, the Islamic regime is helplessly fighting in two fronts for its survival.
How far the Islamic hard-liners are capable to carry on successfully the fight in two decisive battlegrounds? What are the plausible outcomes of this concurrent struggle in domestic and international fronts?
Two days after the announcement of the results of presidential elections in Iran, people were still dizzy of the shock they received by the unexpected outcome. Street riots in big cities by disappointed public refreshed memories of the heated days of the 1979 revolution which uprooted the monarchic regime in Iran. Protesters with green emblems, symbol of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, rushed to the streets to claim their votes, allegedly stolen by the regime in favor of the controversial hard-line incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformists’ peaceful demonstrations turned out to bloody protest rally that took an unknown number killed, hundreds injured and according to officials about 4000 arrested around the country.
The Islamic government tried to manage the crisis which escalated by hours due to the alleged manipulation of ballot boxes. Despite earnest attempt of the government to justify the results of the elections through faked data, people and observers did not believe the statistics and firmly maintained that the regime has cheated and deceived the nation by manipulating their votes in favor of Ahmadinejad. The reformist candidates requested the abrogation of the results and renewal of the elections.
The Post-election crisis consequences in Iran unveiled the persistent appalling repression of the Islamic conservatives against opposition groups who accused the regime for fraud and manipulation of votes in favor of the incumbent president. The newly re-reappointed president, Ahmadinejad, took the oath of office in a tense atmosphere of security and strict precautions while protesters were demonstrating and shouting against him outside the parliament. Abroad, exiled Iranians throughout the world took to the streets in support of their compatriots and shouted the same slogans against the religious regime in Iran.
For the first time in thirty years, since the birth of the Islamic regime, the whole world witnessed with bafflement and disgust what truly was going on in Iran and the amount of support claimed by the regime. The international media coverage of the unfortunate events pressed foreign governments to take position in condemning the Islamic leaders for their brutal reaction against peaceful public manifestation. People around the world too expressed deep sympathy with popular uprising in Iran.
About four months after the turmoil, the crisis has now receded at least on the surface, but it is not sure that it has ended for good. At this very critical moment, Western powers (5+1) who had given severe notice to the Islamic regime for its alleged doubtful nuclear activities became outraged of a new secret nuclear site near the religious city of Qom (Fardou). American President Obama, along with French President Sarkosy and British Prime Minister Gordon, Brown accused the Islamic leaders for their deceiving behavior and warned the regime against the undesired consequences of its defiance. Meanwhile, Israel, anxious for its security, publicized much about its plans for preemptive strikes against strategic targets including nuclear sites inside Iran.
The Islamic leaders caught in a delicate condition at a very inopportune moment, took a series of actions in order to contain the escalating situation:
· With respect to the revelation of the new nuclear site, they prepared and sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the establishment of the new nuclear enrichment location, planned to go into operation next year. This has been done a week before the Geneva Talk 2 of the 5+1 and the Iranian delegation and after the disclosure of the so-called “clandestine project” by the American intelligence.
· Ahmadinejad decided once again to attend the UN General Assembly session; which turned out to be a complete failure, while his pompous speech did not attract any attention. Meanwhile, widespread demonstrations against his presence in New York created nightmare for him and his entourage.
· The Islamic Parliament adopted a quasi-unanimous resolution in support of Iran’s nuclear endeavor as a warning to the 5+1 second round of talks scheduled for October 1st. 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland.
· With a view to deter “opponents” and “ill-wishers” and to overshadow the effect of the nuclear concealment, the Islamic regime has set up a new military exercise in which a number of medium range missiles were tested. This was perhaps to persuade the Americans that in case of Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, the Persian Gulf waterways and littoral states would be at risk of retaliatory attacks.
· With respect to domestic affairs, the regime decided to release a number of reformist leaders and journalists from the jail and terminate the arbitrary arrests and humiliating trial of the so-called “green movement” protestors. It also promised to prosecute officials who had ordered and performed atrocious deeds against dissidents.
· On the level of the supreme leadership, the Assembly of Experts endorsed the incumbent leader once again and invited the whole nation for unity and solidarity.
Despite all these precautionary measures, while the Islamic regime ardently needs the support of the nation to carry out its aggressive diplomacy in nuclear talks with the 5+1, new turmoil in campuses around the country will eventually ignite anew popular unrests. Thus far, the commencement of the new academic year and dispersed ceremonies here and there has given the students fresh opportunity to resume their protests against the president and his government. It appears that hard-liners are now caught in a terrible dilemma as how to tackle simultaneously with two crucial fronts endangering their very survival.
In the domestic front, they are like riding on a tiger; they can’t continue on and are afraid to get off. It seems that the use of violence against angry demonstrators can no longer deter “Green Movement” supporters to relinquish their cause. Repressive measures to curb the popular unrest by the government will further diminish the legitimacy of the regime and provoke dissidents to widen their demands.
On the international level, the Islamic regime is now considered as an unreliable party in the upcoming negotiations. Since, it has virtually lost the confidence of all 5+1 powers, including Russia and China, after the surprising revelation about the new nuclear enrichment site. Western powers seem now prepared to go for “paralyzing sanctions” against Iran, should the Islamic regime continue to defy UN Security Council demands on the nuclear issue. In a worst case scenario, Israel might be tempted to launch preemptive strikes against strategic targets inside Iran before “risking its total annihilation.” This could of course escalate hostilities throughout the Middle East and the larger world. Therefore, containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions has become a vital objective on the agenda of the world powers.
Let’s hope that decision-makers in Tehran come to their sense and opt for peaceful settlement of the ongoing dispute before things get out of control. We shall wait and see how the case will develop in the coming days and weeks. /
Ali Asghar Kazemi is professor of Law and International Relations in Tehran, Iran. See:
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