Iranian Leader and Management of Domestic and Foreign Policies of the Country

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

The recent address delivered by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on the eve of the 34th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, mostly focused on two important points: direct negotiations between Iran and the United States, and domestic differences especially among heads of three branches of the government. The address contained very important points which deserve to be taken into account from a new angle different from the dominant view of the foreign media outlets.

Here, I am willing to enumerate a few points in this regard.

1. Differences between the heads of the Iranian legislative and Executive, though never as hectic as they are now, have had a long record throughout the more than three-decade lifespan of the Islamic Republic, but the establishment has been resilient enough to accept and resolve them. Also, despite what the Western media have been trying to connote, such differences do not signal the beginning of wide gaps in the country, especially in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential polls. Three general types of political tendencies are discernible in the Iranian society. Some of them put the main focus on the achievements of the Islamic Revolution. They remember the hard days of war (with Iraq) and have the highest degree of respect for the blood of thousands of Iranian soldiers who fought in the imposed war (against Iraq), and laid down their lives to defend the independence and territorial integrity of the country, and embraced all the hardships while doing their utmost to defend the Islamic establishment and government. This part of the Iranian society usually follows on the footsteps of the clerics and consists of the principlist and revolutionary currents which attach the highest degree of importance to religious faith and conviction in their viewpoints. For this line of thinking, any form of overt difference among officials of the Islamic establishment is unacceptable and forbidden with the Leader having the last say on every matter.

Another sector of the Iranian society, which usually belongs to the middle class, holds a different and diverse view on political issues, though the result of their decisions is very much similar to the first group. In fact, this group, like the middle class in most other countries, puts the highest emphasis on the maintenance and improvement of the economic conditions in the country and cannot tolerate any tension or difference among heads of three powers which may cause them to forget about resolving people’s everyday problems. Therefore, regardless of the political tendencies of the parties to a conflict, they support any measure which would reduce the differences and lead to the restoration of calm in the country.

There is also a third sector in the Iranian society which takes a totally different approach to political issues than the previous two groups. There are people in this group who criticize certain parts of the government’s policies. There are also people who oppose the policies of a political faction because they are more inclined toward the rival faction. Although both groups are critical of the status quo, they do not constitute a homogeneous continuum. In fact, when it comes to a possible attack on Iran by the United States or Israel, or when Iran's right to take advantage of peaceful nuclear energy is at stake, the biggest part of this sector also moves in line with the government’s policies. As such, they are against any form of military strike against the country and also support Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, considering it a national right. The support lent by the large part of the Iranian diaspora abroad to the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear activities, though part of that diaspora is opposed to the Islamic establishment, is clear proof to this claim.

Western politicians, especially the Western media outlets, have not been able yet to draw sharp lines among the aforesaid three sectors of the Iranian society in order to see the domestic developments in Iran on the basis of the realities. Perhaps the fact that the third sector has more access to nongovernmental as well as virtual media, and also due to the predominance of this mentality that recourse to nongovernmental media (which are active both inside and outside Iran) is necessary to get the truth of what is going on in the country, has given the impression that critics and opposition constitute the most effective force in the Iranian society.

However, the latest opinion poll conducted by the Gallup Organization among Iranians inside the country whose results were published on February 7, shows that although the Iranian people are under the pressure of international sanctions, 63 percent of them still seek the continuation of Iran's nuclear activities, and 47 percent blame the United States for their problems.  According to the same poll, the results reflect a concept which is quite the opposite of what the American politicians envisaged through imposition of sanctions on Iran. Let’s not forget that intensification of sanctions against Iran was done on the basis of the presumption that it would incite the Iranian people to take to the streets against the ruling system, or force the Islamic establishment to give up the pursuit of nuclear activities.

At any rate, these figures clearly show that the Iranian society is more homogenous and consolidated than the West thinks when it comes to certain key issues including the country’s independence, territorial integrity, national pride and distrust toward big powers.

2. In his address on February 7, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution pointed to renewed proposal by the United States for direct talks with Iran, which was brought up by the US Vice President Joe Biden in his address at the 49th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on February 2. The Leader said, “This is of course not a new offer and they have repeated it at various junctures, and every time the Iranian nation has used practical steps taken by the Americans to judge their words.” Also, referring to the American’s claim that the ball is now in Iran's court, the Leader said, “The ball is in your court because it is for you to answer [the question] that can talking about negotiations in parallel to the continuation of pressures and threats be basically meaningful? Negotiations aim to prove goodwill [of the proposing party]; you do many things with evil intention and then pay lip service to [support] negotiations! Can the Iranian nation believe that you have goodwill?”

Of course, the Leader’s remarks have been erroneously interpreted by the Western media to denote that the Iranian Leader is opposed to any kind of negotiation, instead of being considered a sign of the Iranian Leader’s logical and realistic approach to the issue of “negotiation.” However, given regular efforts made by the government of the United States to intensify sanctions against Iran and pressure other countries to accompany Washington in this regard or face punishments and reprimands by the US, nobody can expect the Iranian nation to believe the American officials when they talk about readiness to negotiate with Iran, and welcome such allegations.

3. Since 2010, the United States has done its best to escalate sanctions against Iran. Sanctions, however, are like a two-edged sword. That part of the sanctions which is related to putting pressure on Iran has been in focus until now, but there is another aspect to the sanctions which has been less discussed by international media. This regularly ignored aspect is the possibility that sanctions may actually lose effectiveness and backfire when they are tightened too much. The West is well aware that if Iran proves capable of withstanding the sanctions, many scenarios in international relations will certainly change. In fact, the countries will have a role model and whenever similar sanctions are imposed on them, they will have more hope in the positive outcome of resistance against sanctions and would “remember that there were no more sanctions to be imposed against the Iranian nation, but nonetheless, the Iranians managed to endure.” This is why the more the United States widens the scope of sanctions, both pressures on ordinary people are increased, and an antithesis to sanctions gradually evolves. The Iranian Leader believes that there will come a time when the West (not Iran as some analysts believe) will be looking for a solution with regard to sanctions in order to save face and it will be Iran which will go through this crucial juncture of its history with its head held high. In the meantime, as put by an Iran analyst, Trita Parsi (1) , a “game changer” development may come about which will be welcomed by the majority of the Iranian people and promote the national solidarity and union among various political factions in Iran. That “game changer” development could be something like Iran gaining the upper hand in Syria developments, or perhaps unrest in Saudi Arabia due to political turmoil resulting from the succession crisis , or an unexpected development which may affect the national security of Israel as a result of, for example, the revolutions in the Arab world, or even election of a person in the forthcoming Iranian presidential polls who will be able to reduce tension among different political factions. In that case, the state of affairs will no more conform to the simple equation of “increasing sanctions is equal to escalation of dissatisfaction among the Iranians and increased possibility of giving up nuclear activities,” and events may take a totally different turn.


(1) Trita Parsi is the founder and current president of the National Iranian American Council, and author of Treacherous Alliance and A Single Roll of the Dice.

Key Words: Iranian Leader, Domestic and Foreign Policies, Legislative and Executive, Joe Biden, Iran-US Talks, Sanctions, Golshanpazhooh

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