It’s starting to sink in to the conventional wisdom that there won’t be an Iranian Thermidor after February’s elections. See for instance the Economist‘s takeaway on the new Iranian situation after the elections—more moderates in Parliament, but expect continuing hard line foreign policy:
Nor should the West count on a more pliant partner in the Middle East. At the moment, Iran is standing tall in the region. Its support for Bashar al-Assad’s homicidal regime in Syria has been reinforced by Russian bombers. It is the dominant force in Iraq, its mostly Shia neighbour. And it is giving its old Sunni rival, Saudi Arabia, a bloody nose in Yemen.
Having asked them to dismantle Iran’s nuclear programme, Mr Khamenei will need to placate Iran’s hardliners in other ways. Funding for the Revolutionary Guards, including its Quds Force, which operates in several countries, is likely to go up, not down. Iran’s support for Hizbullah, its battle-hardened proxy in Syria and on Israel’s borders, will probably grow. Free from sanctions, Iran is likely to remain prickly, no matter how moderate its parliament appears.
The Economist is joined in its skepticism that the Iranian elections will lead to meaningful results by the Washington Post, whose editorial is entitled “Hope, but No Change.” (Tellingly, the New York Times, which looks for signs of moderation in Iran the way a starving man looks for water in the desert, has remained officially mum.)
Even President Obama’s lead negotiator on the nuclear deal, Wendy Sherman, recently told a Duke University audience that President Rouhani was “a hardliner”:
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs for the U.S. Department of State, spoke at the Sanford School of Public Policy Thursday night about her experience negotiating the deal. During the talk, titled “Negotiating Change: The Inside Story Behind the Iran Nuclear Deal—A Conversation with Ambassador Wendy Sherman,” Sherman explored the negotiations from her perspective.
Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy and the director of Duke’s American Grand Strategy program, interviewed Sherman about the conditions that led to the deal, as well as the challenges of handling the Iranian negotiators.
“Iran, not the Iranian government, loves the American people,” Sherman said. “[The Iranian government] uses enmity towards the U.S. to support the supreme leader and their approach to life.”[..]
“There are hardliners in Iran, and then there are hard-hardliners in Iran,” she explained. “Rouhani is not a moderate, he is a hardliner.”
Now that the fantasies of an easy fix are waning—that Iran, seeing our open hand, would shift seamlessly and democratically to moderation—it’s time for the press, the soft left, and others borne on the main stream of conventional wisdom to start taking Iranian regional aggression, from Yemen to Syria, seriously. But will they?