Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Factional conflicts in Iran

China is not the only place where factions within a seemingly unified elite are competing with one another.

Iran’s tough nuclear stance masks struggles at top

The negotiating stance from Iranian officials never varies: The Islamic Republic will not give up its capabilities to make nuclear fuel. But embedded in the messages are meanings that reach beyond Tehran’s talks with world powers.

It points to the struggles within Iran’s ruling system as it readies for the next round of talks…

Iran’s Islamic leadership… has now staked its political credibility on its ability to resist Western sanctions and hold firm to its rights under U.N. treaties to enrich uranium.

Any concessions -- either too great or too fast -- could risk internal rifts within Iran’s power structure. And that could draw powerful forces into the mix, including the Revolutionary Guard that acts as defender of the theocracy and overseer of the nuclear program. As talks deepen, so do the political considerations for an Islamic establishment that cannot afford to appear to come away empty handed…

This is the tricky ground being navigated by Iran.

Its leaders are desperate to avoid any impression of caving under the Western economic squeeze. Any serious rollbacks -- without Western concessions in return -- could open room for hard-liners to take pot shots at the ruling clerics. It also could put the Revolutionary Guard in the awkward position of defending the Islamic system against ultra-nationalists who normally side with the Guard…

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