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After the Nuclear Deal
Drowning in Moderation

Iran goes to the polls today for Parliamentary elections. While we’ll have to wait for Sunday for the official results, the conditions under which the elections are being held make it look like a rigged game. Sohrab Ahmari writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Half of the original 12,000 or so candidates for the 290-seat Majlis were disqualified ahead of the election. As were 75% of the 801 candidates for the 88-member Assembly of Experts—including Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of regime founder AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini. That leaves a ratio of candidates to seats in the Assembly of Experts of less than two.

Most of the disqualified belonged to the so-called reformist and moderate factions of the regime. Even if every single disqualification were reversed, however, it wouldn’t matter a wit, since the regime’s popular branches are subservient to its unelected institutions. Above them all sits the supreme leader, and the pre-election purge means whoever succeeds Mr. Khamenei is likely to share his views on all important matters.[..]

On the domestic front, the regime has launched a fresh crackdown against degar-andishan, dissidents or “other-thinkers”—poets, film makers, journalists and novelists who question its rule. Tehran is also warning off Iranian-Americans eager to cash in on their commercial connections now that international sanctions have been lifted. Security forces in October arrested Siamak Namazi, an American energy consultant who had long advocated for the removal of sanctions and a Washington-Tehran opening. On Monday, Mr. Namazi’s U.S. citizen father, Baquer, was arrested after apparently being lured back by the regime.

Computer programmers have a saying: garbage in, garbage out. In this case, if you are running an electoral system with fewer than two people competing per seat, and you’ve removed many of the moderates… you’re unlikely to see many moderates among the winners. Or much moderation from the government to follow.

Of course, we could be surprised on Sunday. But right now, it looks like the oft-promised moderation that was supposed to follow the Iran deal is nowhere to be found. Which means more regional aggression, more war, more death—nukes or no nukes.

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  • Fat_Man

    The only 3 people in the world who are surprised are Obama, Kerry, and Valerie Jarrett.

  • Episteme

    Per http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35681250: Despite this, it appears that Rouhani’s ‘reformists’ ended up winning all 30 seats in Tehran and (while they don’t have the same support outside the capital) should have a sizable nationwide parliamentary coalition with Rafsanjani’s ‘moderate conservatives.’ While the Iran Deal was suck-on-wheels, one has to wonder – despite the incredible dangers of the IRG and Revolutionary Council having such access to money, potential (in the Aristotelian sense of going-to-be-actual) nuclear capacity, and military hegemony – if the other half of the equation, the increased connections of the young, bourgeois, and often surprisingly pro-Western post-1978 generation to the outside world may be an interesting counter at some level if there can be enough of a “trust but verify” instead of “just go about being Iran.”

    While the likes of Rouhani and Rafsanjani aren’t anything like Western liberals, an Iranian that swings to them is better than one wholly in the pocket of the IRG and Revolutionary Council – the nation looking to be a regional hegemon through things like business investment (even to the level of major cronyism in Iraq) is still a preferable step to bomb-all-the-things, and one wonders what steps-from-below can done to influence good civil behavior by trying to convince new trading partners with Iran to choose where in the country (and with what people) to invest and work. Because we can’t unwind 2015 any more than we can unwind 1979, I’m curious how trying to steer investment toward the young and those entities that are furthest from direct government control (and thus, even if they have less power to manage domestic resources also have less to seize or problematize foreign-introduced resources) and so build up alternate capitalized power bases. It’s actually not far off from either the sort of concepts used for foreign investment in other growing nations, as well as how we often conceive of how to devolve more-subsidiary business in our own over-centralized markets.

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