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Empty Hopes
Waiting for the Moderate Backlash

Hoping that that Iranian moderate will triumph over hardlines, observers are latching onto Tweets from the Iranian President and Foreign Minister in the wake of the burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. See for instance this Financial Times report, which claims that “the latest political crisis between Tehran and Riyadh has prompted a backlash against hardliners in Iran.” More:

President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday condemned both the Saudi government for executing Nimr, but also the attack on the Saudi missions. “Attack on #Saudi missions was wrong & against the law — condemned by all Iranian officials,” he wrote on his Twitter feed.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the moderate foreign minister, said the damage inflicted on the embassy building in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad was “in no way acceptable”.

The report goes on to cite other Tweets from ordinary Iranians—but makes no mention of the Supreme Leader, the IRGC, or how the mob came to be able to ransack the embassy. (As Mark Dubowitz has noted, the dual structure of the Iranian government has allowed it to perfect the good cop, bad cop routine.)

So is this kind of Twitter-based, moderates-only look into Iran’s intentions insightful analysis or grasping at straws? Here’s a hint: This kind of evidence led the CIA to report that the Shah was secure in 1979, which in turn led many in the West to believe that the Egyptian Revolution was the start of real democracy.

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  • qet

    “Moderate backlash” is a contradiction in terms.

  • Fred

    Moderate Iranian. Is that one that doesn’t eat his hostages?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This wishful thinking about the Iranian Moderates has been going on for nearly 40 years, when will these deluded idiots recognize the “Truth”? Islamic Culture has no moderates, it never underwent a “Reformation”, and what’s more important an “Enlightenment” which placed Reason above Religion, the Rule of Law above political position, and was responsible for the development of Modern Civilization. In places like Iran and Saudi Arabia they still execute people for Witchcraft, how backward and unjust is that?

    • Jim__L

      The Enlightenment put Reason above Authority… mostly because the Reformation did the same.

      The misplaced confidence in Twitter is the real problem here. The Twitterati (though I prefer the term “Twittering idiots”) don’t even represent the broad outlines of opinion in America. It will be interesting when the non-twit population of America realizes this.

  • Dale Fayda

    “These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.”
    Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as quoted in “Turkey’s PM Erdogan: The term “moderate Islam” is ugly and offensive — Islam is Islam” in Jihad Watch (2 September 2007).

    Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

    • Suzyqpie

      Sure does. There is one Hadith, one Koran, one Sharia Law – One Islam. The West has invented various adjectives in an attempt to ameliorate the debris field that is Islam. “A weapon of the Islamic propaganda machine in the U.S. Is the whitewashing of the ghastly Islamic present by creating a fictional glorious Islamic past,” quote Amdrew c McCarthy.

  • Episteme

    The thing is, I don’t doubt that the likes of Rouhani and Zarif ARE comparatively moderates and are opposed to ratcheting up tensions of this sort with Saudi Arabia. However, I doubt that they have a capacity to do anything more than offer a certain check on the ambitions of those of the Ayatollah’s ‘party,’ given the total institutional control by the theocracy and Revolutionary Guard. Hence the peril of the recent nuclear deal: the only way to strengthen the hand of internal opposition forces is by reducing the capacity of Revolutionary Iran to operate as a regional/international actor. The failure of international parties to offer some level of support for 2009’s Green demonstrations was a lead-in to all this: there’s a vast young, educated population in Iran that has no political power now besides to throw up what stopgaps it can in the likes of Rouhani to at least keep their nation at technical peace and in actual talks with other nations; the 2009 election crisis was seen as opportunity to ‘claim’ more of a voice institutionally for the more ‘neutral’ professional classes and was hoping for a Gorbachev Moment. I’m not defending either man as a real moderate or Western-style figure, but I do think that they do indeed walk a line internally of speaking for a large moderate part of the population (falling themselves liminally between factions in a way).

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