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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #900 on: January 04, 2018, 11:01:12 AM »

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/252374/ayatollah-empire-is-rotting-away
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #901 on: January 10, 2018, 12:30:51 PM »


Iran’s Regime at War With Itself
Jan 10, 2018

 
By Kamran Bokhari

Public agitation in Iran has many wondering about the fate of the almost 40-year Islamic republic. As evident from the way in which the latest wave of protests has been contained, popular unrest is unlikely to bring down Iran’s clerical regime. That said, the demonstrations underscore a political economic problem in the Shiite Islamist state. Before it can truly address its economic problems, it needs to sort out the war that the regime is having with itself.

Jan. 8 marks one year since the death of Iran’s most influential cleric and former president, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Normally, we at GPF do not pay much attention to individual political leaders since they matter only so much when it comes to geopolitics. But in this case, there is a strange development: Reportedly, President Hassan Rouhani has ordered a review of the investigation into Rafsanjani’s death. Rafsanjani, a founder of the Islamic republic, was found dead in his pool. The explanation given was that the octogenarian leader died of cardiac arrest, but the reports that surfaced in recent weeks quoting family members say his body had unusually high radiation levels.
 
(click to enlarge)

It is strange (to say the least) that this inquiry into Rafsanjani’s death comes at a time when Iran’s political establishment is trying to move past serious unrest. This story is emblematic of the struggles within the clerical regime, which have only gotten worse over the past decade. These internal differences are being exacerbated by the public uprising. Just as Rouhani’s opponents tried to take advantage of the unrest to weaken the president, his faction appears to be trying to use Rafsanjani’s death as a countermove – among many others.

Though many see Rafsanjani as a symbol of a corrupt political elite, many others see him as a symbol of political moderation. Rafsanjani left an indelible mark on the country’s political system. He was a close associate of the founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the uprising against the shah. After the revolution, Rafsanjani held several pivotal positions in the regime.

Khomeini appointed him to the Council of the Islamic Revolution, which existed from January 1979 to July 1980 with the purpose of transitioning the country from the monarchy to the Islamic republic. During this same period, Rafsanjani also served as interim interior minister. In 1980, he was elected speaker of parliament, a position he held for nine years. When Khomeini died, Rafsanjani played a key role in the succession of the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Then, from 1989 to 1997, Rafsanjani served two consecutive terms as president.

In 1989, he also assumed the chairmanship of the powerful Expediency Council, which was created to mediate between parliament and the Guardian Council (a 12-member clerical entity with oversight of legislation and the power to vet candidates for public office) and later granted supervisory authority over all three branches of government. Rafsanjani held this position until his death. In addition, from 1983 until his death he served as a member of the popularly elected Assembly of Experts, an 86-member clerical body responsible for electing the supreme leader, holding him accountable and removing him, if and when necessary. From 2007 to 2011 he served as the chairman of the assembly.

Rafsanjani is best known for being the father of the pragmatic conservative camp within Tehran’s political establishment. In this way, he had one foot in the camp of the hard-line clerical establishment and the other in the reformist trend that came to prominence under his successor, former President Mohammad Khatami.

Deeply cognizant of the public mood, as well as the strength of the hard-liners who have dominated the Islamic republic, Rafsanjani long sought to strike a balance between the two sides. His power began to fade after he lost a re-election bid against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. Four years later he sided with the reformists who claimed foul play in the elections in which former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi lost to Ahmadinejad.

The uprising known as the Green Movement that followed the controversial election forced Rafsanjani to return to trying to find some balance between the liberal and conservative camps. However, he had made enough enemies on the right that, despite his positions on the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, his influence continued to wane. His last major accomplishment was supporting the 2013 election of his protege, the current president, Rouhani, who has emerged as the de facto leader of the pragmatic conservatives and their reformist allies.

It is important to note that these categories – pragmatic conservatives, ultra-conservatives and reformists – are no longer coherent blocs; rather, they represent broad coalitions containing multiple factions. The Iranian political establishment has been losing its coherence, especially since the intra-conservative rifts that emerged during the Ahmadinejad presidency (2005-13). In other words, the regime is fast approaching an impasse (if it hasn’t reached it already) where it cannot continue to expect that it will maintain social stability without undergoing substantial political economic reforms. The regime must evolve to preserve itself.

The current supreme leader, at age 78, is near the end of his career. The Islamic republic has had only two supreme leaders – Khomeini and Khamenei – and most of the founders are dead. The only prominent survivors are Khamenei, Rouhani and the 90-year-old Guardian Council chief, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. The political fragmentation coupled with the inability of the state to provide for the needs of a growing and increasingly younger population make succession all the more difficult. The tug of war between the republican and theocratic components of the hybrid regime and the disproportionate power wielded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps further complicate matters.

The old guard is a dying breed, and its allies lack the ability to address the problems of governance. This has enabled Rouhani to get aggressive in pushing for economic reforms. Just this week he criticized religious organizations for not paying tax. On Jan. 9, he made an even more profound remark, according to a statement published on the presidency’s website: “The problem we have today is the gap between officials and the young generation. Our way of thinking is different to their way of thinking. Their view of the world and of life is different to our view. We want our grand-children’s generation to live as we lived, but we can’t impose that on them.”

Rouhani and his allies understand that the problems are not just economic; they are also political. The threat to the Islamic republic comes not from protesters but from the disagreement within the regime on how to govern the country of 80 million. The contradiction hardwired into its political system threatens its long-term stability. Iran’s political problems are catching up with it at a time when it was hoping to consolidate the geopolitical gains it has made over the years during the meltdown in the Arab world.

The post Iran’s Regime at War With Itself appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.
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•   Iran: The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Jan. 10 that the body had told the country’s highest authorities that it could increase the speed of uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities to several times the speed at which they were occurring before the nuclear deal was signed. Isn’t this an admission that the nuclear deal isn’t actually halting Iranian nuclear activity? If Iran wants the deal to survive – and that’s what we think right now – why is it saying this?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2018, 01:35:30 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #902 on: January 13, 2018, 11:25:54 AM »

Trump’s Iran Gamble
He issues a red line to rewrite the nuclear deal or reimpose sanctions.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 12, 2018 7:09 p.m. ET

President Trump said Friday that he’s waiving sanctions related to the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal—for the last time. In essence he issued an ultimatum to Congress and Europe to revise the agreement or the U.S. will reimpose sanctions and walk away. His distaste for the nuclear deal is right, but the risk is that Mr. Trump is boxing himself in more than he is the Iranians.


Mr. Trump said in a statement that he is waving sanctions, “but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.” He added: “This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately. No one should doubt my word.”

That’s called a red line, and it means that if his terms aren’t met within 120 days, Mr. Trump will have to follow through or damage his global credibility. Presidents should be careful about putting themselves in box canyons unless they have a clear idea of a way out and what his next steps are.

Does Mr. Trump know? It isn’t obvious. Mr. Trump rightly focuses on the core faults of the accord: major provisions start sunsetting after 2023; the failure to include Iran’s ballistic-missile programs; and inadequate inspections. He wants the European allies that also negotiated the deal—France, Germany and the United Kingdom—to rewrite it with the U.S.


But Iran is sure to resist, and so will China and Russia. French, British and German companies already have billions in business deals invested or being negotiated with Iran, and their political leaders will be loathe to jeopardize them. European leaders have been embarrassingly quiet amid the anti-regime protests in Iran. European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini hosted the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, France and Iran this week. They expressed support for the deal and said little about Tehran’s protest crackdown.

If the Europeans resist a nuclear renegotiation, Mr. Trump would then have to act alone with U.S. sanctions. While those are potent, to be effective they will have to target non-U.S. companies that do business with Iran, including our friends in Europe.

Some fear Iran would use reimposed U.S. sanctions as an excuse to walk away from the deal and rush to build a bomb, but we doubt it. The more likely scenario is that Iran will continue to court European business and try to divide the U.S. from its allies and block a new antinuclear coalition. The mullahs will claim to be abiding by the deal even as the U.S. has walked away.

On Friday Mr. Trump also challenged Congress to strengthen the nuclear deal’s terms under U.S. law, most likely by amending the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. This will require 60 votes in the Senate, which means Democratic support. This will test the sincerity of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who opposed the deal. But in today’s polarized Washington, partisanship no longer stops at the water’s edge. Mr. Trump won’t persuade Europe if he can’t persuade Congress.

The question all of this raises, as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson put it Thursday, is what is the policy alternative policy to the nuclear deal. The answer is containment with a goal of regime change. The people of Iran have again showed their displeasure with the regime, and the world should support them. We’d back such a strategy, but it isn’t clear that this is Mr. Trump’s emerging policy, or that he and his advisers know how to go about it.

The Treasury Department is moving ahead with sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missiles, including 14 more individuals and entities “in connection with serious human rights abuses and censorship in Iran.” The targets include the head of Iran’s judiciary and the cyber units trying to prevent protesters from organizing and accessing reliable news. But Mr. Trump has been reluctant to counteract Iran’s adventurism in Syria or Iraq, and a policy of regime change can’t be half-baked.





All of this is an enormous undertaking for an Administration already coping with the nuclear and ballistic threat from North Korea. The safer strategy would have been to keep waiving sanctions and let the nuclear deal continue while building support to contain and undermine Iran on other fronts. Mr. Trump can now say he has followed through on his campaign vow on Iran, but building a better strategy will take discipline and much harder work.

Appeared in the January 13, 2018, print edition.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #903 on: January 15, 2018, 02:00:35 PM »



•   Iran: The Rafsanjani story isn’t going away. The former president’s daughter recently claimed that when he died in 2017, he had been wrapped in a radioactive towel at the hospital after having a heart attack, according to Etemaad news agency. Let’s revisit everything we know about Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the circumstances around his death. From there, we can determine how his death, or the recent leaks, have affected Iranian protests.
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ccp
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« Reply #904 on: January 16, 2018, 08:04:22 AM »

for now:

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455454/why-trump-extended-iran-nuclear-deal-timing-north-korea
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #905 on: January 18, 2018, 08:20:25 PM »



Iran’s Internet Imperative
The U.S. can do far more to help Iranians defeat the regime’s firewall.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 17, 2018 7:20 p.m. ET
33 COMMENTS

No one knows how Iran’s political protests will evolve, and perhaps the current moment is more like Poland in 1981 than 1988. That’s all the more reason for the U.S. to assist Iran’s political opposition as it seeks to use the internet to evade regime censors and build a larger movement.

We do know that demand for information inside Iran is skyrocketing. Iranians are flocking by the millions to use circumvention software like Psiphon and Lantern to hide their identities from Tehran’s cyber authorities and access social media, messaging apps and trustworthy news sites. Silicon Valley tech company Ultrareach Internet Corp., which invented the Ultrasurf circumvention software, reported its servers failed this month as Iranians flooded their systems. More than half of the Iranian population owns a smart phone.

The authorities in Tehran are reluctant to order a wholesale internet shutdown lest it damage Iran’s already-weak domestic economy and anger more Iranians. But they also want to control the flow of news and information into and throughout Iran. Toward that end they’ve blocked Twitter , Facebook and in particular Telegram, a messaging app with more than 40 million Iranian users. Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani uses government TV and social media to offer lip service to the right of Iranians to express themselves.

This an opportunity for the Trump Administration to learn from the Reagan Administration, which used the telecommunications tools of the 1980s to spread information behind the Iron Curtain. The tools then were short wave radio, satellite news and fax machines. Today’s dissenters need software to evade the regimes’s internet firewalls.

Yet the U.S. government seems remarkably slow and backward in spreading the freedom message, starting with the taxpayer-backed Broadcasting Board of Governors. The BBG’s mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” which should put it in the center of Iran’s online battle.

But the presidentially appointed BBG board has become a political sinecure, rather than a home for foreign-policy experts who want to fight oppression. Its current CEO, former cable industry executive John Lansing, was appointed by President Obama. President Trump hasn’t nominated a replacement.

While Iranians are desperate for reliable circumvention technology, the BBG leadership has spent only $15 million of its $787 million 2017 budget on internet freedom and anti-censorship projects, and the agency is telling vendors it’ll take weeks to direct more funding to these projects. The place needs a thorough rethinking for the internet age. Is President Trump aware that he could dismiss the BBG’s current board and nominate a CEO who’s more attuned to foreign policy and the fight for freedom?

Ronald Reagan once observed that truth is “the ultimate weapon in the arsenal of democracy.” That belief animated U.S. policy during the 1980s and, along with a U.S. economic revival and military buildup, sowed the seeds of revolution across the Soviet bloc. The Trump Administration needs a similar strategy toward Iran, North Korea, and for that matter Cuba, Venezuela and China.
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