Sunday, 27 May 2012

Theocracy to Autocracy: Iran's Sneaky Revolution And Why Its Got Everyone So Twitchy

Much ink has been spilt over Iran in recent months, largely concerning the daunting issue of a nuclear armed Iran. Since Iran's Islamic revolution the west has long considered Iran its cultural and political polar opposite. But where has this rise in tension come from? A quasi revolution is taking place in the Islamic Republic. In its wake it is leaving a less Islamic and a decidedly less Republican Iran. The one man band causing all this kafuffle is the charismatic and unassuming Admadinejad.

The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)  is currently investigating Iranian nuclear facilities, and so far the results look promising. With P5+1 negotiations (UK, US, Germany, France, China and Russia) to take place this week a resolution to the uneasy tension may play out. But why has Iran got everyone so nervous?

Contrary to its stereotype Iran has been gradually shedding its radical garbs since its Islamic revolution against the Shah in 1979. Internally the Supreme Council of Ayatollah's have overtime become increasingly cynical due to the inflexibility of theocratic governance. In the face of a growing sense of foreign economic inadequacy, international pressure to demonstrate political legitimacy and maturity with Israel, in addition to dire bureaucratic gout  have led even radical conservatives to yield to reformist governments. Resulting in recent decades of opening up of multi-party elections, freer media apparatus, and some lack lustre economic horizon planning.

The radical visions of Khomeini's 1979 revolution were curtailed by a secession of liberal reforming governments headed by Khatami and Rafansanji which reduced  political isolation and economic encirclement felt by Tehran. But with Iran's oil revenue propping up an under achieving economy, worsened still by sky high subsidies, the reformist results were agonisingly unimpressive, although admirable. Admadinejad represents a second generation of ideologues that believe Iranian failing's are due to the wavering from Khomeini's radical vision, the liberals have misguided the Surpreme Council off the righteous path. Admadinejad wants to bring back the good ol' radical days of yore, 1979.

Admadinejad, a relative unknown, swooped to power on a wave of military and insidious security service methods. Using underhand and undemocratic methods he regained the municipalities, the parliament and the presidency in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively. Regaining much of the executive and legislative power back from the liberal-reformer camp. Admadinejad's radical ideology is well-grounded in his self-appointed cabinet (average age 49), with military and security services echoing his radical fervour.  So much  so  the conservative Ayatollah's fell into begrudging submission, fearful of this new military heavyweight. Admadinejad marks a departure from theocracy and a shift into a more conventional military-based regime.

There has been a large popular opposition to Admadinejad. Since his election in 2005 the 'Green Wave' has been a mass movement opposing his incompetency to govern. He is renowned for installing likeminded inept ministers, and galvanising political patronage through hand-written letters in response to his peoples pleas, a few quid in an envelope, responding in a Jim'll Fix It fashion, without the fix it.

With Admadinejads election the EU-3 nuclear talks set up by his predecessor collapsed. Admadinejads support relies on fear and the heavy influence of Iranian security and intelligence. Not only does he gain populist support from some Arab supporters and radical elements for his anti-Israeli, anti-west rhetoric, but it also fuels Tehran-Washington tension. This tension - real or not - galvanises his military position, the threat of attack impels his conservative followers to want to reach the nuclear arms threshold quicker - The point at which Israel-US forces would refrain from attacking a nuclear armed state. Obama has told Iran that if it unclenches its fist, it will find an extended hand. Something the liberal forces in Iran advocate strongly, but without avail due to Admadinejads military influence.

It can be hoped that like many authoritarian regimes, incompetent and belligerent management will stifle the production of a working bomb. Incompetency Admadinejad has in abundance. The fear is that if he continues with bumptious rhetoric, bomb or no bomb, Israel may lose their patience. Israel can only rely to a certain extent on its Arrow-2 system and nuclear triad; air, sea and land, as it has practically zero strategic depth. An Israeli premptive attack may act to solidify Tehrans pursuit of nuclear arms. The short-term does not look good for Iran with Israel, in the long-term Admadinejad's current trajectory might spark a regional nuclear arms race, a particularly unstable one.

 Another hope is that the Green Wave movement can move from only being an anti-Admadinejad to an anti system movement, signs of which have been apparent since the dubious 2009 elections. But the broad spectrum of political forces in the Green Wave will need to agree to disagree in order to rid Iran of this charming  sabre rattler and his entourage. 


  1. I'm not so sure it's as easy as that. Ahmadinejad is very clever; he's just not very subtle. And forget "charming." He is cited on numerous occasions in the Dictator's Handbook ( and the examples keep coming. He's using nukes as a clever negotiating tool and he's got more tricks up his sleeve for when he needs them.

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    2. No doubt it will not be an easy ride, any opposition struggles to keep their own team in check - also the opposition leaders are the very richest men of the country, which cannot bode well for their image in a country ravaged by state-business corruption. Admadinejad has a warm image that appeals, whether or not he really is charming - fortunately I have not had the pleasure of meeting him. I will look up the Dictator's handbook - thanks for the post