Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, October 16, 2015

Complexities of politics

Ask students to draw a diagram of the balances of power in the Iranian regime based on this analysis. Then compare their diagrams to those in their text books.

Why did Iran’s parliament hold hearings on the nuclear deal?
In July, Iranian state television broadcast a live U.S. congressional hearing to the general public for the first time in its history. Although the testimony at the hearing was replete with bitter rhetoric directed at the Iranian government, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei managed to exploit it for his own purposes. Following the hearings, Khamenei authorized the Iranian parliament (Majles) to become involved in the nuclear deal — from which it had previously been excluded — as a kind of retaliatory measure…

After the nuclear deal was reached in Vienna, attacks on the agreement — by Republicans, by the State of Israel and by some Gulf Cooperation Council members — commenced. They were so severe that Iran’s Supreme Leader began having concerns about the possibility of unilateral termination by the United States… In August, Khamenei insisted that nothing was final; both the United States and Iran could potentially reject the deal… Inviting the Majles to participate in the process was, perhaps, a means of hedging his [Khamenei's] bets…

The public difference of opinion would show the West that the nuclear agreement was not a done deal on the Iranian side, either, suggesting that if the radicals won, Iran would resume enrichment, inspiring the West to make more concessions. The underlying message was that the nuclear deal could be reversed entirely by Iran as well, not just the United States, at any time…

The [Majlis debate] proved a useful tool to restrain Rouhani’s reformist agenda without Khamenei’s direct involvement. The MPs went so far as to suggest that Rouhani was incapable of hold office. Such criticism ensured that Rouhani would need greater support from Khamenei against the extremists, increasing the Leader’s bargaining power vis-à-vis reforms that the president might seek in other areas.

The extremist current… during Ahmadinejad’s presidency was able to suppress all dissenting voices. With the rise of the Rouhani government and the conclusion of the nuclear deal, these extremists were on shaky ground… By involving the Majles in the nuclear deal, the Supreme Leader may be seeking to mobilize fundamentalists and IRGC forces in advance of the parliamentary election.

If extremists lacked opportunities… to play a role in Iran’s foreign policy, they might become more active within the existing order and eventually could become dangerous for Khamenei himself…

Khamenei’s involvement of the Majles was a clever ploy designed to achieve both internal and external objectives. By designing a game with much fanfare but without significant adverse impact on the deal, the Iranian leader has provided an outlet for the deal’s opponents that also enables him to contain them. We will have to wait and see if these efforts pay off.

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