Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, August 29, 2013

PR campaign or analysis?

This analysis seems primarily based on an interview with a former Iranian government official. It's unsigned, so there's no hint about whose ideas shaped the analysis. And, we have to ask whether this is analysis or part of a campaign to put a more reasonable face on the government of Iran.

In spite of those reservations, the description of the limits on the Supreme Leader sound reasonably accurate. Just don't forget to use a grain of salt.

Iran’s supreme leader does not rule supreme
Though supreme leader, Khamenei does not rule supreme.

“Of course Mr. Khamenei has his own personal viewpoints… and he insists on them and repeats them,” said Ali asghar Ramezanpoor, a former deputy culture minister, listing Khamenei's deep distrust of the United States, Western cultural influence and his insistence on the nuclear program as a red line.

Himself president from 1981 to 1989, Khamenei “knows that on administrative issues of the country he must be flexible,”Ramezanpoor told Reuters.

The Iranian political system is a complex mix of Shi'ite Muslim clerical authority and an elected president and parliament, overseen by numerous appointed regulatory councils.

Then there are the elite Revolutionary Guards who, as well as being engaged abroad… also control large parts of the oil-based economy.

Though all roads lead to the leader, Khamenei also has to satisfy these constituencies and balance their interests, especially those of the Revolutionary Guards.

“Khamenei is not a dictator in the classic sense, but there is no question that on particular issues such as the nuclear file he probably will have the last word,” said Gary Sick, an Iran expert and former U.S. National Security Council official…

Khamenei's public comments suggest he believes that even if Iran were to give up atomic energy work that the West deems a smoke screen for attaining a nuclear arsenal, the United States is bent on regime change and so any concessions are futile.

Indicating he will at least give Rouhani a chance to try out the new posture, Khamenei has most recently said he is also not against direct talks, but merely doubts they will succeed.

Khamenei allowed each of the two previous presidents, the reformist Mohammad Khatami and the populist hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a period of grace in which they pursued policies he disliked before he blocked them and rendered them ineffective…

The question of whether sovereignty comes from God or the people has often played out violently across the Middle East but appears to be contained within a perennial tug of war in Iran…

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