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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