The Islamic Republic of Iran in 2012

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review

The year 2012 was a prominent juncture of the contemporary history for international relations. The main hallmarks of the year which will linger in our minds include: continuation of political developments known as the Arab Spring and more polarization of views on these developments into positive views as well as negative ones which maintain that the spring has already ended in the Arab fall; transpiration of the consequences of the ongoing global economic recession on the economies of the European Union member states and the United States; the results of the latest elections and changes at the highest political levels in the United States, Russia, France, China, and Japan; the massacre of and severe attacks against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims; continuation of insulting moves against the sanctities of Islam; the upgrade of Palestine’s status in the United Nations to “observer non-member state” in addition to amazing, though predictable, international enthusiasm in favor of the upgrade; people’s preoccupation with funny rumors about the forecasted end of the world; holding of the Olympic Games in London which inspired many people with the good feeling of friendship and compassion in parallel with healthy competition, and many other prominent developments.

How did Iran fare in that year? To find the answer to this question, we must be careful about the angle and standpoint that we choose when giving the answer. From one viewpoint, the year 2012 was not a good time for Iran. The proponents put together Iran's failures as well as escalation of threats and problems facing the country to conclude that Iran has overall become weaker and more vulnerable. Pressures resulting from increasing international sanctions against Tehran; depicting Iran's position on the Syria crisis as irrational and solely based on ideological grounds; emphasis on more regional isolation of Iran due to the Islamic Republic’s widening gaps with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates; failure to reach a tangible result in nuclear talks with the world powers; the consequences of the Iranian government’s economic plans and sanctions for the Iranian nation; the heightening domestic differences among Iranian political factions and taking them as evidence to serious weakening of the foundations of the country; and finally international human rights claims against Iran and their consequences for the country’s prestige at global level are all the reasons which proponents of this viewpoint have given to uphold their view. By putting all these pieces together, they finally reach the conclusion that Iran has become weaker and more vulnerable in 2012.

On the other hand, there is another viewpoint which solely relies on positive developments to allege that Iran has by no means become weaker in 2012. Iran's success in holding the summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement heads of state; continuation of economic activities in the country despite severe sanctions; Iran's commitment to its fundamental positions on Arab countries, especially Syria, and Tehran’s continued support for the anti-Israel resistance axis which has won the support of the masses across the Arab world; successful holding of Iran's parliament (Majlis) election and the unprecedented voter turnout in that election; the positive outcomes of “resistance economy” in terms of national self-sufficiency; and the higher importance attached to the promotion of independent and national production by both the government and the nation are mentioned by proponents of this view to explain why the year has been a period of success, prosperity and dynamism for Iran.

Both groups have undoubtedly solid grounds to defend their allegations and certain parts of both groups’ claims are sure to be correct and conform to the realities. However, there is a fair and scientific analysis, which tries to not only take the positive and negative effects simultaneously into account, but also to have a bird’s-eye view of the more comprehensive and general picture of the situation. Therefore, a wide shot of the social developments as well as domestic and foreign policies in Iran will without a doubt reveal a vague, though very auspicious and positive trend in the totality of what is called the Islamic Republic of Iran in the form of more dynamism and transparency in social issues. During the past years, the people of Iran have been able to see and analyze things better and have made more serious efforts to approach various issues more fairly, and have thus created more space to simultaneously criticize themselves and the government. In short, the Iranian people have gained more experience. They have already gone through eight years of [the former Iranian president, Mohammad] Khatami’s presidency followed by a two four-year terms served by his successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The two presidents represented two different approaches and viewpoints to management of the country’s domestic and foreign policies. Therefore, critiques which are now common among the Iranian media and people and focus on the weaknesses or strengths of these two political currents are much more voluminous than critiques which are built upon sanctity of one side to make the other side target of destructive criticism by simply focusing on their weaknesses. This development may not appear very important on the surface, but a review of several thousands of years of the Iranian history will reveal that periods in which balanced, fair and comforting views governed the Iranian society and foreign relations are so sparely distributed which are practically lost in the long history of the nation. Semi-arid climatic conditions of Iran and continued tension among people over the access to water resources; frequent invasions of the country by other countries and empires as well as incomplete wars which have imbued the mentality of the Iranians with a chronic sense of fear, doubt, suspicion and caution in addition to unsatiable penchant of regional and international powers for interference in Iran's internal affairs have been mentioned by most experts as the main causes of such a polarized views that have institutionalized criticism of the government in the Iranian society. However, during the past few years, a kind of new approach has been growing in the Iranian society, which tries to see everything from a fairer and more comprehensive angle. This approach has correctly understood that reforms and improvement are two essential conditions for the survival of a political system. It has reached the conclusion that although persons are effective in shaping political structures in a society, they will not be able to work miracles in the absence of any institutionalized change and development in the previous faulty structures. The new approach is also based on the understanding that people should start reforms by themselves and should not expect the government to do everything. The followers of this new approach have come to grips with the reality that supporting an idea due to empirical faith in its correctness is one thing, while supporting it just as a sign of opposition to the viewpoint that they dislike, is quite a different thing. There are also many other positive findings which cannot be mentioned here.

The Iranian society, like other societies, has its own weaknesses as well as many fortes. However, during the recent years, especially in 2012, the Iranians have become more experienced. They have made changes in their foreign policy on certain issues, while on other issues they have understood that being more resolute is the key to success. They have suffered many difficulties as a result of sanctions imposed on their country, but they have now more faith in the conclusion that the nuclear energy program is just an excuse for imposing sanctions against the country and the main goal of international pressures is not to halt Tehran’s nuclear activities, but to overthrow the Islamic Republic. More importantly, they have come to know that to have a balanced society, having a balanced mindset free from one-dimensional attitudes is a necessity. At present, solution-based approaches, which are not simply built on criticism and fault-finding, are more prominent than before in the analyses produced by the Iranian experts and this is not a minor achievement for the Iranians. The people of Iran know that the year 2013, like its predecessor 2012, will be characterized with hardships, sanctions and animosities. However, a greater number of them is now hopeful about a brighter outlook in 2013.

Key Words: Iran in 2012, Arab Spring, Global Economic Recession, EU, US, Palestine, Syria Crisis, Sanctions, Nuclear Talks, NAM, Golshanpazhooh

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