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Iran: On Ahmadinejad's Victory

| 21 Comments | 5 TrackBacks

I said most of what came to mind in my initial reaction here, with the short form being that I expected Rafsanjani to win because Ahmadinejad struck me as being too patently crazy for the mullahs (who were the true arbiters here, whatever the electorate wanted) to put on top. Rafsanjani was already clearly a major player in the regime who knew all the right people and would have been able to almost certainly prolong negotiations with the Europeans for the foreseeable future.

So what happened?

Near as I can tell, Rafsanjani's pragmatism, which seems to include moderating the nastier elements of the Iranian government with respect to their role in the Iraqi insurgency and encouraging negotiations with the Euros. Both of these fly in the face of a lot of people in the Iranian military-intelligence-clerical establishment who feel that they've been too complacent for too long and now have the US on both sides of their border as a result. Having successfully taken control of the Majlis by hook and by crook, these same individuals, the majority of them focused in groups like the Abadgaran movement saw no reason why they shouldn't do the same with regard to the presidency.

Also, contra the assertions of both Ken Pollack and Greg Djerejian, I didn't see any indication that the Iran "hawks" were rubbing their hands together and hoping for an Ahmadinejad victory so that they could press forward with their plans for regime change. Up until the last several days of the campaign, most of us pretty much assumed that Rafsanjani was going to win because he was who we would choose as the most public symbol of the regime if we were the mullahs. You guys think that Pletka op-ed in the New York Times was a false flag operation or something? As for Dr. Ledeen, his most recent column described the showdown between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad as being akin to that between Hitler and the SA, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for either side.

What needs to be understood about Ahmadinejad is that he represents the most extreme elements of the Iranian regime and while he has little true power apart from Khamenei's desires (as I think we've all learned from the example of Khatami) the EU possibility of some grand bargain with Iran is now effectively dead. I mean, according to designated Middle East Expert™ Juan Cole (in one of the most bizarre exercises of moral equivalence I've ever seen online) he's basically an Iranian version of George W. Bush, which should be reason enough for the Europeans and their fellow travelers to hate him.

As readers know, I never believed that Rafsanjani wanted coexistence with the West, so Greg lamentingthe fact that Iran is not going to be the next China gets few shed tears from me. However, I think this last part summarizes the situation in Iran rather aptly:

Will Ukraine style stirrings now become more likely, with younger Iranians increasingly disenchanted with the consolidation of power by ultra-conservatives? Or will a North Korea scenario take place, with a reactionary circle intent on becoming a nuclear power brutishly and successfully stamping out domestic dissent? Or something else?

This depends, I think, on how clever Ahmadinejad and his backers are and we should keep in mind that since all his elections did was expand Khamenei's stranglehold to the nominally-autonomous presidency that very little was actually accomplished and that things will remain on course for the time being. The more cynical element of me, however, is more than a little tempted to set up a betting pool for when Iran pulls out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And while I realize that such a solution is nothing short of an anathema to all the stabiliticists and self-described "realists" out there, my own sense that since the chances for US-Iranian reproachment are now universally recognized as nil and problems with Iran are likely to proliferate that we are now in the position in which the US is going to have to do something about Iran.

You all know my position on the matter, but the question is, what is that something going to be?

SIDEBAR: THE BROKEN POLITICAL SPECTRUM Yet again displaying the utter uselessness of using either Western or faux Kremlinological terms to describe the Iranian political scene, Ahmadinejad is described as an "ultra-conservative" yet his understanding of economics seems to involve a healthy element of Marx on the side. He's also been described as "socially conservative" because he wants men and women to use separate elevators and supports the execution of homosexuals, yet it was his Abadgaran backers in the Majlis that voted to liberalize the nation's abortion laws. Some people have described him as a fascist, yet for all his fondness for the Baseeji brownshirts he doesn't appear to have any of the corporatist tendencies that dominated Mussolini's Italy for all its statism.

Please understand, this is not some knee-jerk "he's a leftist!" screed, though he does kind of look like some flavors of communist if you can get around the religious element, but rather to make the point that a lot of Iranian (or Iraqi, for that matter) political figures really don't fit into our French-based right/left divide and shouldn't be placed there artificially in an attempt to provide a false context.

UPDATE: This just gets better and better. Ahmadinejad is apparently a founder of the Qods Force. Just how close Ahmadinejad still is with them may well come back into the news again given this story that first appeared in the Washington Post back in 2003. The headline "Iranian Force Has Long Ties to Al Qaeda" says it all, but I add some relevant excerpts and analysis.

5 TrackBacks

Tracked: June 26, 2005 8:51 PM
Free Iran! from Eye Dream Awake
Excerpt: So when does the revolution come?...
Tracked: June 27, 2005 1:11 PM
Excerpt: Welcome to the Carnival of Revolutions! In this time, in our time, we're witnessing history unfolding every day, a spontaneous explosion of political activity breaking out around the world. We've seen it in Ukraine. We've seen it in Lebanon. But...
Tracked: June 28, 2005 2:27 AM
Excerpt: The outcome of the presidential elections could lead to that Israel has to act before America gets its act together... Hans Blix doesn't think we should be worried about the atomic bomb made in Iran. Read Dan Darling's post, On Ahmadinejad's Victory....
Tracked: July 1, 2005 7:57 PM
Mr. Congeniality from Quid Nimis
Excerpt: The New York Times favorite conservative has an interesting resume.
Tracked: July 2, 2005 8:52 AM
Iranian "Minutemen" from NeoCenturions
Excerpt: NeoCenturions would like to offer their hearty congratulations to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his recent victory in the "fair and balanced" Iranian elections.


Maybe the matter has been simplified.

Now the same group that actually has ruled Iran for decades has to come into the light. They cannot longer hid behind a moderate face.

This is simply proof that Tom Holsinger's theory of failing regimes -- "Nutball Regimes behave more so under pressure" -- is spot on.

The internal factions in Iran's theocracy have been playing "I am more nutball than thou" to gain power in their factional power games.

"Rafsanjani's pragmatism" left him at a disadvantage when the rest of the nation boycotted the elections leaving it a "Nutball sweepstakes primary" where he was guarenteed to lose.

The things to watch for now are more nutball repression of internal enemies, more trouble stirred up in Iraq, outflows of cash to numbered swiss bank accounts and a nuclear test detonation.

>with younger Iranians increasingly disenchanted

sigh. People are nationalistic. Everywhere. Without exception. Short of arbitrary and capricious murdering of large numbers of people, as with Stalin or Saddam or (maybe) North Korea, no foreigner is going to be able to separate a government from its people.

We have one overriding interest in Iran, to protect Israel from an Iranian nuclear weapon. That's it. The youth of Iran are not our friends in this dispute with the Iranian government.

"his understanding of economics seems to involve a healthy element of Marx..."

Actually I've seem him more authoritatively described as a populist or as an Islamic socialist. I would put in more in the vein of a Persian Hugo Chavez or Robert Mugabe from what little there's avaiable to read. One of his campaign platforms was putting the petroleum income on people's tables. The Wikipedia source is one of the most comprehensive I've found but I've got to take some of the allegations there with a grain of salt. I'm not taking too much comfort from this in terms of plowing the Iranian economy into the ground with radical income distribution schemes or driving away the middle class into exile. With oil at just under 60 dolllars a barrel on Friday a lot can be forgiven in terms of whacky economic policies. I'm expecting the price to spike further when trading resumes on Monday based on the election results. And one shouldn't underestimate the ability of any such income distribution schemes to undermine popular demands for civil liberties. After all the Saudi regime has been paying off its population for years.

His wealth redistribution scheme was the source of my comment about Marx, though Chavez or (depending on how far he wants to go) Mugabe would probably be more appropriate.

He's still a nut.

Dan -

Not Marx, just Chavez and/or Mugabe? How comforting is that?

Fascist, communist, jihadist - how about armageddonist? After all, he's backed by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (in coming months we will probably learn much more about the "help" they gave him) which is the Gestapo of the Islamic Bomb movement in Iran.

This is the bunch that claims "We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of the Anglo-Saxon civilization."

Or as the left would translate that: "We have a strategy to overcome the unfair US/Israeli nuclear monopoly in the Middle East."

By kicking out reformists from all positions of power within the government, the Iranian clerical regime has just closed off its last domestic safety valve: the prospect of reform.

Should discontent reach explosive levels, the only remaining safety valve would be external: Redirecting the unhappy Iranian populace's attention onto an external "enemy." That would be the United States in this case.

There are two questions: How long before the clerics start causing us problems in Iraq? What do we do about it?

Calling somebody Mugabe is akin to calling somebody Hitler. I just have a hard time believing he is so out of wack.

ps. Big problem with Rafsanjani was that he was extremely rich but that he wasn't born that rich. Don't want to call him corrupt but if he is not than GM should hire him.

Can't wait to find out how America is to blame for this. No doubt I will be enlightened by Public Radio on the way to work tomorrow morning.

Ahmadi nejad is known as the killer of dissidents back in 1980s in Iran during Hashemi's presidency.
He is also known as the killer of Dr. Kazem Sami (interim government public health minister in 1979). He was the one who shot him to death.

#7 FFE

How long before the clerics start causing us problems in Iraq?

Buddy, that started a long time ago.

Their buddy Jafaari is prime minister so i doubt that they are behind the trouble as they want grosso modo the same as what the US claims it want. A democratic Iraq.

Thank god for civil war.

Yeah a, Jaafari is so much one of the mullahs' lapdogs he's willing to back us against the Iranians if it comes down to a military showdown.

But you, being a telepath, know Jaafari's inner thoughts far better than I ...

"Buddy, that started a long time ago."

True. At least according to Free Republic.

"The opposition website Peiknet reported on 8 June that Mayor of Tehran Ahmadinejad is one of the principal forces behind the campaign. [In recent weeks, a number of conservative dailies, including Resalat , have been widely promoting Ahmadinejad as the next President of Iran.]"

The campaign in question is a recruitment drive for suicide bombers. This info comes to Free Republic via the BBC Monitoring Service. And its important to note the date of June 2004. That would have put it towards the tail end of the failed radical Shia revolt lead by Sadr (if I have my dates right.) There's nothing in the post however specifically referencing Iraq. I've also searched the web trying to find additional sources to confirm his participation in this event or otherwise discover some kind of paper trail but without much luck since I don't know Persian. As I suggested, I'm hesitant to believe all the allegations about this guy but where there's smoke there's fire.

Sadr's rebellion didn't end until circa September 2004 with the dispersal of the Mahdi Army from An Najaf, though by that point their prospects for a massive urban revolt were already an evident failure and their occupation of An Najaf had so angered the locals that an independent resistance group, the Thulfiqar Army, rose up to fight them.

It would have been more accurate of me to have asked: How long before the clerics AGAIN start causing us problems in Iraq?

For the sake of discussion, I concur that Iran has caused signficant problems in Iraq, with Moqtada Sadr and his Mehdi Army's "insurrection" being the most obvious case of Tehran's interference.

However, lately it seems like Iran has kept a very low profile in Iraq.

I don't think this is going to last. I'm just wondering what we do about it when the next Sadr comes along to cause us trouble.

I think Sadr's been defanged, at least temporarily, and is trying to use his profile to set up shop as a politician. He makes another power play we'll just take him apart again, assuming the Iraqis don't first. He has a cult of support built up in Sadr City that will probably back him regardless of what happens, but we saw how much that was worth during his initial uprising.

I'm more concerned, given Ahmadinejad's apparent past ties to Qods Force that the support Ansar al-Islam is getting from the mullahs might soon be scaled up in a major way.

Anyway, I agree with the assessment that Iran will soon start provoking things to focus internal dissent on an external enemy. Iran wants control of the Gulf (including yes Iraq, but also Saudi and the Gulf states). To do that it needs the US Navy expelled, politically, from the Gulf. This requires either a superpower force (unlikely) or some trump card.

Hence the nukes. They're not aimed primarily at Israel (though I'm sure they've got some just to kill all the Israelis), but at us. They honestly figure that if they kill enough of us, say 3-9 million with nuclear bombs (smuggled in, most likely) they can force us to withdraw the Navy. Yeah it's stupid, but don't forget they know really NOTHING about the US, Iran being a closed society and the hardliners incurious about the hated infidel who has nothing to offer them. Plus the Al Qaeda guys have their ear and this sort of idiocy plays into their worst tendencies (isolationism, xenophobia, religious thought controlling their political calculations).

Please tell me where the good blogs are on Iran. I know that is the best site for Iraq but I cannot find a similar site with a lowdown on Iran. Will the Chinese stop us on this? How about the Russians? Haven't we trained a secret army to go in and block key roads? What will Bush announce tomorrow? That Osama is in Iran? I am dying to know these things. Windsofchange is not helping. Neither is FreeRepublic, Debka or Strategy Page. Work with me here. Unless it all needs to stay secret of course. I wouldn't mind not hearing anything until suddenly we hear about mortar fire inside Tehran as a faction nears the city center.


This blog has lots of links (updated daily) to Iran-related news, but doesn't offer much in the way of analysis like Strategypage or Winds.

And yes, the folks behind this blog favor the replacement of Iran's theocratic regime with a bona fide democracy.

This bias is not necessarily a bad thing, as the folks at this site make no attempt whatsoever to hide it.

As with all things on the Internet, "caveat emptor."

"Can't wait to find out how America is to blame for this. No doubt I will be enlightened by Public Radio on the way to work tomorrow morning." that France and Germany can announce that they need to give aid to Iran to make them not want to develop nukes.

It's very interesting that this fellow, whose resume screams radical Islamofascist muscle, has kept a seriously low profile when he was finally tapped to emerge into politics. More notorious than well-known. His ultafundamentalist bona fides are unquestioned, yet the populist spin is that he is a humble man of the people.

I just don't read his him as someone who will approach restructuring society from a "Marxist" standpoint or more like so-and-so. It will be from an a religious totalitarian standpoint, with all of its similarities to all centralized economies and the economy (and society) will be the casualties.

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