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Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:48:59 2012

Today's Zaman (Turkey)

‘Khamenei victory in elections signals Iranians’ readiness for potential war’

11 March 2012 / GÖZDE NUR DONAT , ANKARA
The decision by the Iranian people to vote for deputies loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the staunchest anti-Western political camp in the country — in last week’s parliamentary elections showed they are preparing for an assumed attack on their country as a result of Iran’s alleged nuclear enrichment program, political observers have argued.

The Khamenei loyalists’ religious faction, which includes the Iranian elite Revolutionary Guards in its ranks, won a big victory in last week’s Iranian parliamentary elections over incumbent President Mahmud Ahmedinejad’s party, taking 75 percent of Iran’s 290 parliamentary seats.

Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman last week, Hasan Kanbolat, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) in Ankara, claimed that the election results represented the Iranian regime’s success after long-standing efforts to prepare the public for war. “The Iranian regime’s defiant discourse against the West and Israel, which aim to deter Iran from developing its nuclear program, has prepared Iranians for a battle. Iranians have chosen those who would respond in the harshest manner to intimidation by the West,” stated Kanbolat.

Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, is known for his confrontational stance towards the West, particularly over Iran’s nuclear program, which is accepted as being developed for peaceful purposes by the Iranian people. The elite Revolutionary Guard, which is under the command of the supreme leader and loyal to him, made harsh statements over outside criticism of Iran’s nuclear program.

In parallel remarks to Kanbolat, Celalettin Yavuz, deputy head of the Ankara-based Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis (TÜRKSAM), asserted that the much-speculated US and Israeli threat to Iran plays into the hands of hard-liners in Iran. Yavuz proposed that the Iranian people had been united under religious hardliners — who have a more extremist tone in addressing the West compared to those who are currently in power — in the face of escalating threats to the country, explaining the recent victory of Khamenei’s followers in gaining seats in the March 2 elections.

“The more the US and Israel threaten Iran, the more Iranians will give support to extremists,” Yavuz noted. Both Iran’s threats to close the Hormuz Strait — through which one-third of the world’s seaborne oil is transported — following the expansion of US and EU sanctions against the country’s oil trade, and to attack the NATO missile shield system came from the Revolutionary Guard. Although they are conservative and maintain an anti-Western tone to a great extent, current top government officials like Ahmedinejad and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi have been rather cautious of expressing such threats openly.

On the eve of 2012, the deputy commander of this elite military force, Hossein Salami, and Iran’s navy chief Habibollah Sayyari announced Iran’s threats to close Hormuz, saying that carrying out the operation would be a cakewalk for Iran. Similarly, another senior commander, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, mentioned a likely attack on defense shield installations in Turkey, implemented as part of NATO’s early warning radar system last November.

Salehi has several times reiterated his belief that these “feckless remarks” targeting Turkey were not related to Iranian foreign policy and asks Turkey to disregard statements unless they are released by top government officials.

Although the makeup of the Iranian parliament has changed, and it seems unlikely that anyone from Ahmedinejad’s faction will be elected in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections, Yavuz said there would be no breakthrough in Iranian foreign policy orientation. Rather, he emphasized that the supreme leader always has had the last word in foreign policy decisions in Iran but added that his views will now be expressed in more explicit terms as a result of loyalists gaining a parliamentary majority. Some analysts depicted the elections as being undemocratic due to the lack of representation of reformist candidates. However, high turnouts — 64 percent, even higher than the 50 percent recorded in the 2009 election, in which reformists were able to stand — may also be proof of the Iranian people’s trust in the democratic process. Reformist leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have been under house arrest for more than a year, so were unable to participate in the recent elections.

The political rift between Khamenei and Ahmedinejad started in 2011, when Ahmedinejad attempted to supersede Khamenei in Iran’s political hierarchy, in which the supreme leader holds ultimate authority. Before the dispute, the two leaders were in complete political alliance. Ahmedinejad managed to maintain his position as president for a second time in 2009 with the help of Khamenei, by commanding the Revolutionary Guards to muzzle those in the opposition claiming the presidential elections were rigged.

Iran: Turkey’s rival or partner?

While the Arab Spring revolutions and uprisings were sweeping through the region, both Turkey and Iran tried to consolidate their positions in the face of new regimes and political currents and to broaden their influence in the Middle East. Similar political aspirations in the region have brought the two countries to the point of a covert but fast-moving rivalry, particularly in terms of Syria and Iran.

Kanbolat and Yavuz both estimated that the rivalry between the two would continue in the post-Ahmedinejad period, saying that Iran would continue to challenge Turkey’s position in the region.

Meanwhile, Yaşar Hacısalihoğlu, a professor in the international relations department of İstanbul’s Yeni Yüzyıl University, claimed that Iran has come to realize the interdependent nature of its relationship with Turkey, as it heads towards becoming a fully isolated country under the pressure of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions on its oil trade as a result of the disagreement over its continued nuclear program.

“To act at the expense of Turkey in the Middle East would be to Iran’s disadvantage. Iran needs Turkey’s partnership as a mediator with the West,” said Hacısalihoğlu. He claimed that an even more staunchly anti-Western stance of a post-Ahmedinejad administration would not prevent them from seeking diplomatic ways to avert threats to its nuclear program, as Iran does not dare to confront Turkey over regional issues due to its vulnerability in the face of such a threat.

Worried about the risk of revolutions springing up within its own territory, Iran wishes to preserve the status quo by unconditionally backing President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule in Syria, where Turkey is repeatedly calling on him to step down in line with the choice of the Syrian people.

Furthermore, Iran is encouraging Shi’ite political groups to monopolize power in Iraq, in line with its aim to create a sectarian alliance, while Turkey dismisses sectarian differences in its approach to the Middle East.


(919606)

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Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:54:13 2012, in response to Iran's election shows a preparation for war, posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:48:59 2012.

Gulf News

Ahmadinejad's fall, Khamenei's rise

The region will be more insecure as clerics gain more power and influence impacting fledgling democracy

By Osama Al Sharif, Special to Gulf News
Published: 00:00 March 10, 2012
It was not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s finest hour. For years he was described as the protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but now the 56-year-old president has been cast out by Iran’s most powerful man. Most of his supporters running for the country’s legislative elections have been trounced. They were defeated by relatively unknown ultra-conservative politicians loyal to Khamenei. Even Ahmadinejad’s sister was among the losers. Khamenei’s loyalists claimed more than 75 per cent of the 290-seat Majlis or parliament.

This was the first election to be held in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential vote, which Ahmadinejad won, and which resulted in mass street protests. But this time the reformists, like other opposition leaders before them, were banned from participating. Their supporters called for a nationwide boycott. It was a battle solely among Iranian conservatives of different perceptions. The result means that Ahmadinejad will finish his term, which ends next year, as a lame duck president. But what is more important is that Khamenei can now turn Iran into a full-fledged theocracy with undisputed clerical powers vested in him under Willayat Al Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist).

Few people associate the Islamic Republic with democratic rule. But in fact Iran has maintained a sophisticated structure of democratic institutions since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, including an elected President, Parliament, a Guardian Council and an Assembly of Experts which elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader. On the other hand, Iran’s has been a diminishing democracy with most opposition leaders now in jail or worse and reformists within the official structure under house arrest and banned from public office.

The rise and fall of one of Iran’s most moderate and reformist presidents, Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005, opened the path for Ahmadinejad’s confrontational presidency. And when he was challenged by reformist presidential candidates Mir Hussain Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi in 2009, it is widely believed that the government had rigged election results in his favor.

Since then Iranian democracy took a nosedive. The government has been repeatedly condemned by international agencies for its human rights and press freedom violations. The fallout between Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader is not easy to understand. But the president has come under increased pressure from parliament for his failed economic policies and allegations of corruption. His abuse of power, as seen by conservative deputies, is believed to have changed Khamenei’s position from Ahmadinejad. The Supreme Leader has backed parliamentary efforts to investigate the president for corruption and has intervened to overrule some of his key appointments and dismissals.

Latest election results have underlined the extent of Ahmadinejad’s isolation and his estrangement from the Supreme Leader. This will unlikely affect progress with Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which both men support, or its regional politics in relation to Syria, Iraq or the Gulf region. Khamenei’s hostility towards America, Israel and the West in general is only matched by that of the president.

The net outcome of the latest elections is simple; Iran’s theocratic nature will become more pronounced. Khamenei, 73, will follow the same hard line politics both internally and externally. And with a conservative parliament that is loyal to him he will have the ultimate say on the identity of the next Iranian president in 2013.

But it will not be a smooth sailing for the Supreme Leader and his conservative parliament. Domestically, a more religious parliament will have to face growing discontent among the republic’s 78 million inhabitants over many issues including human rights, freedom of expression, women’s rights, economic reforms, unemployment among the young, official corruption and many others. Western economic and oil embargoes will only make life tougher for millions of families who survive on government handouts in a country that is suffering from gasoline and food shortages in addition to collapsing national currency.

There is also the reformist movement within the existing structure, which while it is prevented from participating in public life, still carries influence with millions of Iranians who are fed up with the interference of clerics in political, economic and social life.

Externally, Iran’s nuclear program will continue to invite international sanctions and threats of a military strike by Israel. Relations with its Gulf neighbors are tense and the latest elections will only make Iran more introverted and isolated as the Supreme Leader gets more involved in his country’s foreign policy.

Not since 1979 and the long war with Iraq did the Islamic Republic face such existential challenges. No one will miss the neurotic rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad or his confrontational politics — he will still be around on the foreign policy front — but the region should feel a bit more insecure as clerics gain more power and influence in Iran, whose fledgling democracy is now in a freefall.

Furthermore, we will witness an ardent revival of Shiite ideologies under the Guardianship of the Jurist in Iran that coincides with a Sunni response in the Arab world, especially in the newly free Arab countries. Such a state of affairs will determine the region’s course in the coming few years.


(919608)

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Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 03:01:55 2012, in response to Iran's election shows a preparation for war, posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:48:59 2012.

Asia Times

Mar 9, 2012

Iran vote lets Khamenei pull strings

By Mahan Abedin
The elections to the ninth Islamic Consultative Assembly (Iran's national parliament) generated enormous interest in the global media for two reasons. First, the poll was seen as a quest for legitimacy by Iran's rulers following the disputed presidential elections of June 2009. And for the first time in three decades, Iranian elections appeared to be a reductive contest between conservative groups.

While these observations contain strong grains of truth, much of the analysis has failed to take sufficient account of the deeper consequences of the elections. Last Friday's election was an important turning point in the 33-year history of the Islamic Republic in so far as they illuminate the likely mid to long term trajectory of Iranian politics.

As Asia Times Online predicted on July 10, 2009, in "A leaner meaner Iranian regime", the Islamic Republic has spent the past 32 months shedding excess weight and infusing its key institutions and social bases with greater levels of cohesion and unity. Last Friday's polling was a critical milestone in that process inasmuch as they institutionalize the shift toward maximum regime unity.

This decisive move toward regime unity has two key actual and potential attributes. The first is the actual greater empowerment of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and the second is the Islamic Republic's potential (and likely) adoption of the authoritarian state model.

More than three decades after its founding, the Islamic Republic appears to be eschewing the populist democratic model for the classic authoritarian system marked by minimal popular participation and a dominant state. This significant shift will have profound consequences across a wide range of political and economic factors, in addition to adding greater rigor and robustness to the country's foreign policy.

A 'principalist' affair

The mainstream Western media has made a number of false or inaccurate statements on the nature of the elections and the result. While it is true the polling was centered on a contest between two rival conservative groups (or "principalist" as they prefer to be known), the central divide between these blocs was not defined by their support (or lack thereof) of the leader Ayatollah Khamenei or President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Indeed, both the mainstream right wing United Principalist Front (UPF) and the hardcore right Islamic Revolution Steadfastness Front (IRSF) proclaimed virtually unconditional support for Ayatollah Khamenei in his role as the Valiyeh Faqih (ruler jurisconsult).

The real divide between these blocs is the extent to which they prioritize ideology over pragmatism. The mainstream UPF (which is set to dominate the 290-member Majlis) is composed of an assortment of conservative and right-wing groups which are careful to balance ideology with expediency. The IRSF meanwhile is an amalgam of hardcore right-wing groups and high profile ideologues and politicians who appear to eschew any pretensions to pragmatism or expediency.

This sharp divide has given rise to speculation amongst informed Iranian political analysts as to whether the "principalist" term can apply to both blocs. Some prefer to speak of a new divide in Iranian politics; one between "principalists" (UPF) and "idealists" (IRSF).

This contest was never between the supporters of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. There is no such contest in the Islamic Republic. The president has fallen out of favor with the establishment precisely because he appeared to be opposing the will of the leader last April by refusing to reinstate Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister who he had sacked.

More broadly, both the UPF and the IRSF have taken a strong stand against the so-called "deviationist current", a loosely defined cabal of senior politicians who espouse controversial and eccentric views on topics ranging from Velayat-e-Faqih (rule of the jurisconsult — the cornerstone of Iran's Islamic system) to nationalism. The principalists accuse Ahmadinejad of accommodating this deviationist current at the commanding heights of government.

The Western media was not entirely right to report that the reformists had been excluded from the elections. Strictly speaking, the reformists as an institutional element in Iranian politics largely boycotted the polls. But the first round of voting has already returned more than 30 self-described reformists to parliament.

But these reformists are regarded as sufficiently "safe" by the establishment inasmuch as they are not institutionally tied to the country's official reform movement. Some of them are remnants of the Khat-e-Imam (Imam's Line) of the 1980s, and thus diehard leftists. The bulk of the Khat-e-Imam coalition (in concert with broader elements of the Islamic left) undertook a dramatic ideological transformation in the 1990s by metamorphosing into reformists.

The removal of the reformists as an institutional force in parliament will give the principalists and the idealists the opportunity to consolidate the right wing's hold over the legislature. The most immediate result of this consolidation is likely to center on joint efforts to apply maximum pressure on Ahmadinejad's government with a view to containing the so-called "deviationist current" and preparing the ground for a principalist takeover of the executive branch of government in the June 2013 presidential elections.

Imam Khamenei

The man at the center of the drive toward maximum regime cohesion is Ayatollah Khamenei, who has held the office of Valiyeh Faqih since June 1989. Over the past 22 years, his power has increased steadily to the point that he now appears to be all-powerful.

Multiple forces and factors have elevated this 72-year-old Shi'ite cleric to be the most powerful man in the Middle East. The leader himself set the tone for a new style of politics in the Islamic Republic in his historic Friday Prayer speech of June 19, 2009, in the immediate aftermath of the disputed presidential elections. Tacitly acknowledging the collapse of old factional politics, Khamenei tried (and succeeded) in aligning three critical components underpinning the Islamic Republic's strength; namely dense institutional arrangement, ideological vigor and a mass base.

In the 1990s, during the first decade of his rule, Khamenei appeared to be an embattled ideological leader struggling to contain a wide range of reformist and technocratic political forces in the Islamic republic, led by Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. In the 2000s, Khamenei's position strengthened considerably as right wing factions staged a comeback and broad swathes of the regime's considerable mass base turned against the reformists.

Despite persistent reports to the contrary, Khamenei is in relatively good health and is expected to live for at least another decade. It is during this third (and possibly final) decade of his rule that he is likely to exert maximum influence on Iran's and the region's destiny.

The reformists complain that Khamenei has failed to act as an impartial arbiter in so far as he has facilitated a set of conditions that has given the Islamic right unassailable advantages over the Islamic left. More radical reformists accuse Khamenei of acting as a dictator and of systematically destroying the democratic features of the Islamic Republic.

Irrespective of the truth or accuracy of these accusations, it is important to point out that they do not reflect majority opinion and feeling in the Islamic Republic. Indeed, irrespective of their factional affiliation, the bulk of Islamic Republic loyalists regard Seyed Ali Khamenei as the savior of the Islamic Revolution. They praise him for transforming a weak and battle weary state (in 1989) to a dominant regional power, in the space of two decades.

To many Islamic Republic loyalists, Khamenei more than anyone, even more than the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, represents the essence and the will of the Islamic Republic. Of late there has been a concerted effort in some sections of the Iranian media to bestow the title of "Imam" upon Khamenei, meaning that at the very least he is now on a par with the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

As the Islamic Republic inches toward its 40th birthday, it is "Imam" Khamenei who will be the critical link in harnessing the quest for regime cohesion toward the higher goal of consolidating the Islamic Republic's transformation from a populist to an authoritarian state.

The demise of democracy

Iranian political scientists and analysts readily acknowledge the ideological and systemic tensions between the Islamic Republic's democratic and theocratic features and components. The point of contention between them centered on which component would eventually emerge on top, with a slim majority betting on democracy.

The faith in democracy was certainly the driving force of the reformist movement which consistently argued that the Islamic Republic possesses the innate capacity to make the transition to a fully-fledged indigenous form of democracy. The right wing, in tandem with the majority of Islamic Republic loyalists, countered that the ultimate destination of reformist aspiration was Western-style liberal democracy, and not some ill-defined indigenous brand of the concept.

As it happens, democracy did not end up on top, as evidenced by the eradication of reformists as an institutional force in Iranian politics. This does not mean that democratic and theocratic tensions have been resolved forever, but they have certainly been suspended in favor of the latter.

By any objective standard, the theocratic component is likely to prevail over a long period, and at least as long as the current Valiyeh Faqih (Khamenei) is alive. But looking into the very distant future, the Islamic Republic's survival will depend on the extent to which it can deliver a durable indigenous form of authoritarian rule.

Until the summer of 2009 the ideological nature of the Iranian regime was tempered by a genuine (albeit embattled) democratic impulse which intermittently produced real opportunities for radical change, in particular in May 1997 (when reformists came to power) and most dramatically in June 2009 when the so-called green movement was born.

As a result of this peculiar set of political impulses and traditions — reflected in the Islamic Republic's dense institutional setup — post-revolutionary Iran defied the best efforts of the world's leading political scientists to categorize it within a democracy/autocracy spectrum.

While the path toward full-fledged authoritarianism is now open, the right wingers and the ideologues in control of Iranian politics are likely to face considerable obstacles in this process. Foremost, they will have to overturn three decades of intermittent and embattled democratic experience. Significant sections of the Iranian public — in particular the urban middle class — have got used to influencing the country's destiny, and they are unlikely to give up this right without a fight.

However, from a strategic standpoint, a wide range of political, geopolitical, economic and demographic factors tip the odds in favor of a successful transition to authoritarianism.

At the political level, if we assume that one of the key divides in Iranian politics is the battle between civil society actors and proponents of a strong state, then the latter have a clear advantage. Indeed, it is widely recognized that the Iranian state is stronger than it has ever been in the past two centuries.

This links to the economic and demographic domains, inasmuch as absent a strong private sector and a diversified economy, Iran's young population will look to the state to deliver a decent or at least bearable standard of living, especially in the face of crippling international sanctions. From a demographic point of view, it is the same young population — who were not directly exposed to the divisive experience of the Iranian revolution — which can be politically and ideologically manipulated by a resourceful authoritarian state.

Finally, in the geopolitical domain, Iran is now set on a decade of covert — and possibly direct — warfare with Israel and the United States. The tremendous stresses and losses resulting from these conflicts will mobilize all the key dynamics in Iranian politics and society in favor of the authoritarian state.


(919867)

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Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by orange blossom special on Wed Mar 14 19:51:33 2012, in response to Iran's election shows a preparation for war, posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:48:59 2012.

Wish I had the time to keep up. I find it strange that Mahmoud losing is a march to war. But what war? Mahmoud was in the end times cult, the mullahs are mainly crooked pervs. Will they get more money in a war?

(919876)

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Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by Fred G on Wed Mar 14 21:01:16 2012, in response to Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war, posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:54:13 2012.

More insecure than under Ahmadinejad?

LOL

your pal,
Fred

(919881)

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Re: Iran's election shows a preparation for war

Posted by ClearAspect on Wed Mar 14 21:31:09 2012, in response to Iran's election shows a preparation for war, posted by Olog-hai on Wed Mar 14 02:48:59 2012.

We all saw this coming a mile away... we should just get this war over with.


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