At 77, and with at least one hospitalization in recent years for prostate cancer, Ayatollah Khamenei appears determined, while he still has full power, to make the changes essential for Iran to realign relations with the world, The New York Times reports.
“In Mr. Khamenei’s view, we should be like China,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, an analyst with close ties to the hard-liners. “Have economic relations with the West, but without their political influence and neo-colonization.”
Like other autocracies, Iran has expanded authoritarian soft power in the areas of information, communications technology, ideas and culture where the advanced democracies had been thought to have had a natural advantage, rights, notes Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy. But its ideologically-driven soft power has failed to bear fruit, analysts suggest.
Iranian policymakers, extending to Ayatollah Khamenei, clearly understand the failure of their effort to export the Islamic Revolution, most glaringly in Iraq, where they lost the war to Saddam Hussein, and in Pakistan, where sectarian violence was particularly damaging to the Shiite community, notes Said Amir Arjomand, a distinguished service professor and director of the Institute for Global Studies at Stony Brook University.
“And they know they have ceded the mantle of revolutionary Islam — first to the global jihad of al-Qaeda and now to the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate,” he writes for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “National interest and realpolitik, by contrast, aptly explain the foreign policy of post-revolution Iran, from its attempt to end the country’s diplomatic isolation to its support for the Assad regime against the Sunni Islamists and for the Zaidi Houthis against al-Qaeda in Yemen.”