Foreign Affairs has a really good article on the internal politics of Iran, particularly the role of Ali Khamenei, the ‘Supreme Leader’ of the country. I’m loathe to quote from the article because it’s really jam packed with informational goodness and it’s hard to just select what to identify as ‘most important’. But, that’s why I get this massive salary to write this blog (not wanting to brag but I’m almost pulling down six figures with this blog…unfortunately, those figures are preceded with a decimal point) so here are some interesting quotes:
Contemporary Iran is still officially an Islamic theocracy, but no single ideology dominates the country…Iran has no single all-embracing party in charge of organizing society. It has dozens of parties…and although they are not as free or autonomous as parties in democratic countries, they represent views that deviate from the government’s.
Nor does Islam run Iran. The ruling religious fundamentalists lack a unified vision, and fundamentalist, traditionalist, and modernist versions of Islam compete for attention among Iranians…Khomeini [holds] a resolutely sultanistic view of Islam. “The state . . . takes precedence over all the precepts of sharia,” he wrote in 1988. “The ruler can destroy a mosque or a house if it impedes the construction of a road. . . . The state can temporarily prevent the hajj [the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, an important religious duty] when it considers it to be contrary to the interests of the Islamic state.” Although there are, of course, both fascists and fascistic readings of Islam in Iran, these do not make Iran a fascist state. Whatever the intentions and aims of the country’s ruling fundamentalists, it is the social facts on the ground that determine what kind of regime Iran really has.
Even after Bush’s famous “axis of evil” speech and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, Tehran made a conciliatory gesture. After coordinating the move with Khamenei, Kharrazi, then the Iranian ambassador in Paris, delivered an unsigned letter to the Swiss embassy in Tehran suggesting that the Iranian government would contemplate recognizing Israel, reining in the region’s radical organizations, and proposing a security plan for the Persian Gulf. But the Bush administration, drunk on its quick military victory in Iraq, disregarded the offer. All sections of the Iranian regime, including Khatami and the reformists, interpreted the brushoff to mean that after Iraq, it was Iran’s turn to be invaded by the United States.
But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to be our BFF.
Wise or unwise, Tehran’s policy of meddling in the business of its neighbors has very little to do with Ahmadinejad; this has always been the approach favored by the supreme leader…Even while Iranian policymakers have at times collaborated with Washington in Afghanistan, they have recently been working to keep the U.S. government embroiled in the turmoil in Iraq and distracted by Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal, says Rowhani, is to keep Washington busy with greater priorities than pressuring Tehran.
and they’re determined to go nuclear.
Even if Khamenei committed to suspending Iran’s nuclear operations again, such work might not actually be halted. “It is true that we accepted suspension, but not in order to close things down,” Rowhani told Etemaad newspaper in November 2007 of Khatami’s agreement to halt nuclear activities in 2004. “During the suspension, we built the centrifuges, we built the Arak plant. . . . Whatever was incomplete, we completed under the shadow of suspension. The West was demanding a suspension so that we would close things down, but we suspended things in order to complete the technology.” And the Iranian government was ready to go further, even under the reformist Khatami. “For my own part,” Rowhani recalled, “I said at several meetings with the officials in charge of the technical side, ‘Whenever you are ready for enrichment, let us know and we will break the suspension.’”
And my favorite quote…
Karroubi recounted challenging the commander, who was concerned about the bill’s passing, by asking whether he would continue to endorse screening by the Council of Guardians if, say, the two reformist senior clerics Ayatollah Yusuf Saneii and Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili were on the council. “If these two are appointed,” the commander responded, according to Karroubi, “we will have to move to Bangladesh.”
That just made me chuckle thinking about the quadriennial claims of people moving to other countries if the election doesn’t go their way. Seems the Iranians aren’t that hard to understand after all!