Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

International influences on Iranian politics

The question is, how will international events and pronouncements affect the domestic politics in Iran? A near revival of Persian nationalism? A political unity?

Long Divided, Iran Unites Against Trump and Saudis in a Nationalist Fervor
After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political, Iran’s urban middle-classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.

The changing attitude, while some years in the making, can be attributed to two related factors: the election of President Donald J. Trump and the growing competition with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s sectarian rival, for regional dominance.

Iranians listened during the 2016 campaign as Mr. Trump denounced the Iran nuclear treaty as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and promised to tear it up. They watched in horror when, as president, he sold more than $100 billion worth of weapons to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and participated in a traditional war dance in Riyadh. And they are alarmed at the foreign policy moves of the young Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who they see as hotheaded and inexperienced.

At the same time, they now believe they have something to be proud of, with Iranian-led militias playing a central role in defeating the Islamic State militant group in Syria and Iraq, increasing Iran’s regional influence in the process.

The two most popular stars in Iran today — a country with thriving film, theater and music industries — are not actors or singers but two establishment figures: Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s regional military effort, which is widely seen as a smashing success; and the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the symbol of a reasonable and measured Iran.

In short, it appears that Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted and that Iran is now a strong and capable state capable of staring down its enemies…

Iran’s hard-liners are savoring the reversal in their fortunes, after losing influence in the Obama years. “Thanks to Trump’s dishonest, cheating and crazy remarks, he has proved what we have said for a long time: America cannot be trusted,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line political analyst. “Many didn’t believe us, but now they do.”…

Iran’s leaders have begun promoting patriotic causes, recognizing in the changing mood a chance to reinforce their credibility, which had been flagging…
Encouraging nationalism in Tehran

The state’s theocratic ideology has long dictated an artificial version of nationalism, where everything is related to Islam. Love for Iran’s long pre-Islamic [Persian] history has been illegal in some instances, and often deliberately ignored by officials and state television.

But in light of the new national unity, those restraints have been relaxed so long as the presentations encourage patriotism…

There are limits to the new nationalism. Iranians who tried in October to commemorate the ancient King Cyrus with a gathering at his tomb found roads blocked and a high fence around the site. Well-known nationalists were sent text messages warning them not to participate…

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