After Khamenei: stable transition depends on Iran’s deep state


As Iran gears up for a leadership transition, it is important to see the Islamic Republic for what it is, and not what one may hope it can be, note analysts Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam, a Professorial Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS Europe and Director of Rastah Idealogistics, respectively. Given the enduring power of its deep state, Iran will likely keep trying to expand its regional influence, they write for Foreign Affairs.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants a stable transition, and he is counting on the deep state to ensure it. In a 1996 speech to a group of IRGC commanders, he divided Iranians into two groups, the avam, “masses,” and the khavas, “insiders,” and emphasized the importance of the latter’s “level of dedication to the ideals of the Islamic Republic.” Consequently, the next supreme leader is likely to be one of three men: Sadeq Larijani (right), Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, or Ebrahim Raisi, Vakil and Rassam add:

As head of the judiciary, Larijani earned the ire of reformists and the admiration of hard-liners for meting out severe punishments to the Green Movement protesters (as well as a place on the EU’s list of designated human rights violators). Larijani established good relations with the IRGC, whose intelligence arm has assisted the judiciary in recent years by detaining and questioning activists. And he demonstrated his conservative zeal, eagerly attacking Rouhani for supporting the nuclear deal. Further adding to his influence, Larijani chairs the board of trustees of Imam Sadiq University, which trains civil officers for key political positions in the Islamic Republic. His involvement in such pivotal institutions has given him a deep understanding of Iran’s labyrinth of power.

Iran’s Green Movement, meanwhile, has been neutralized through violence and intimidation, they add:

Khatami has been marginalized since he was placed under close state supervision in 2009 (and even as president, he never truly attempted to challenge the deep state). Rouhani, who counts as a moderate in today’s Iran, is also a creature of the political system, and when push comes to shove, he, too, will fall into line, despite his deep disagreements with the hard-liners. Like the rest of Iran’s establishment, he has no desire to relive the 2009 protests or allow the Arab Spring to spread to his country.

The European Council today extended until 13 April 2018 its sanctions responding to serious human rights violations in Iran. These measures consist of a travel ban and an asset freeze against 82 people and one entity, plus a ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for internal repression and of equipment for monitoring telecommunications.

The regime’s survival is now dependent on unsteady security services and the power of patronage, which ebbs and flows with the price of oil, note analysts Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh. Iran’s continuing stage-managed elections and colorless apparatchiks, including President Hassan Rouhani, a founding father of the feared intelligence ministry who mimics reformist slogans, have failed to convince much less inspire. Today, the Islamist regime resembles the Soviet Union of the 1970s — an exhausted entity incapable of reforming itself while drowning in corruption and bent on costly imperialism, they write for the Washington Post:

If Washington were serious about doing to Iran what it helped to do to the U.S.S.R, it would seek to weaken the theocracy by pressing it on all fronts. A crippling sanctions regime that punishes the regime for its human-rights abuses is a necessity. Such a move would not just impose penalties on Tehran for violating international norms but send a signal to the Iranian people that the United States stands behind their aspirations. American officials should insist on the release of all those languishing in prison since the Green Revolt.

Political Islam as practiced by the Iranian theocratic regime has been comfortably generating Shia radical militias, including the terrorist group, Hezbollah, says analyst Najat AlSaied. The fight, therefore, should not be against Islam, but against political Islam.

In the pivotal year of 1848, when peoples around the world where agitating for democracy and liberalism, a woman stood before a crowd of men in Iran and took off her veil, protesting the subjugation of women in Islam. Her name is Tahirih Qurratu l-ʿAyn. Please join Iranian civil society group Tavaana for a screening of “Dust, Flower, Flame,” a newly released documentary (below) about the life of legendary 19th century Iranian feminist Tahirih Qurratu l-ʿAyn. This is a one-night-only showing and tickets are going fast — purchase yours here now. 7pm, Thursday, April 13. Bethesda Row Cinema.

Despite Rouhani’s promise to improve Iran’s lamentable human rights record, things have hardly changed, notes Farhad Rezaei, a research fellow at Center for Iranian Studies:

According to Amnesty International, in 2015 the number of executions reached 977 people, compared to 743 the year before. Other forms of persecution and harassment have also increased. The statistics for the first half of 2016 seem to be even worse. On July 29, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, an independent institution monitoring human rights in Iran [supported by the National Endowment for Democracy], reported 386 executions in 2016 so far.




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