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West Realizes: No Moderation Coming in Iran

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?

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  • Clayton Holbrook

    This line of criticism regarding the Administration’s attempt at détente falls on defender’s deaf ears I think. For them, Iran’s regional aggression is somewhere between no concern to America and actually a feature.

  • Fat_Man

    Wendy Sherman may have wised up, but dollars to donuts, the White House has its fingers in its ear and are singing la la la, I can’t her you.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If Islam was led better there, you’d have a better country in Iran. The clerics are really the problem, which is sort of a government thing and sort of not.

    • CosmotKat

      “If Islam was led better there, you’d have a better country in Iran.”
      Probably not. Look at turkey. Once the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed the Turks embraced a secular society under Ataturk and flourished for a generation or two until they began to embrace Islam as a intimate partner with the state. Goodbye secularism at the state level and hello to belligerent and rigid Islam out to rid the world of their infidel enemies. Look where all the turmoil and genocide is occurring around the world…….it’s in Islamic countries.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Well, you and I are in agreement here. Islam “led better”, as far as I’m concerned means Imams who tell people to pray daily, observe Ramadan, avoid alcohol, try to live a good life treating others well and fairly, and THAT’S IT, PERIOD. In other words, no religion in government, no coercion of secular society, no “vision” of religious domination of anybody.

        • CapitalHawk

          Well, the problem is that your ideal Islam is not Islam at all. Islam is an all encompassing religion and it will not permit any competing power centers. Islam was, from the beginning, 100% theocracy. The only majority Islam countries in the Middle East that are not theocratic are run by strongmen/royal families and even in those counties the rulers are pretty openly Islamic in their public statements and positions. Iraq is already moving back toward theocracy because when you have elections in the Middle East, that is what muslims elect.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Yes, that’s true. But I’m telling you what Islam SHOULD be. Failing that, from the standpoint of human rights, the whole thing needs to go to the dustbin. If the Islamic leaders would stop loading their people up with crap, there would be a lot less enmity. Remember, neither we nor anyone else can kill all the misled people.

        • CosmotKat

          In regard to a secular government yes we are. I believe this is the key differentiator in the U.S. constitution and sets us apart from other nations. However; I suspect we would still disagree on the nuclear pact with Iran. It accomplished nothing beyond enabling and fast tracking Iran’s quest for hegemony in the middle east, feeding and fueling terrorism, and expediting their acquisition of nuclear weapons while exacerbating an arms race in the most destabilized region in the world. This was nothing more than building a false legacy of success for one man while adding to the misery of millions.

          • FriendlyGoat

            That remains to be seen. The GOP Congress, of course, can declare a war at any time—–in essence, telling Obama or any other president to command it. Think they will? Think they will for Donald or Ted or Hillary?

          • CosmotKat

            What remains to be seen? The deal is falling apart as I write. It was predicted. Why do you involve the GOP congress in an issue that is the sole responsibility of the president and his advisers. Why would they declare war now? I don’t get what point you are trying to make. Enlighten me.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, the choices were to make a deal to avoid an Iranian nuke or go to war to prevent an Iranian nuke. Constitutionally, wars are declared by Congress or they are illegitimate. War—-or not—-is most certainly not the sole responsibility of the president and his advisers.
            I’m saying that those in the GOP Congress who adamantly oppose any deal with Iran DO HAVE another avenue yesterday, today, tomorrow or any day they control Congress. They can declare a war with Iran and force any president to prosecute it. Regardless of whether it might be a better idea than a deal, I just don’t think they will do it.

          • CosmotKat

            “Well, the choices were to make a deal to avoid an Iranian nuke or go to war to prevent an Iranian nuke.”
            Perhaps in your view, but in mine there was a third option and that was to keep sanctions in place. Removing that option does not ensure they will not obtain sooner or late the nuke anyway, while removing it ensures they have the funds to pursue terrorism in a more robust fashion which appears to be the case, procure military weapons to inhibit the war option which they are doing, and create more chaos in the region which they are certainly doing, all while flipping the administration the bird and chanting “death to America” which I guess is code words for na-na-na-na-na, chicken, we fooled you, chump!.

          • FriendlyGoat

            With sanctions in place, both Israel and America were quite concerned about a short break-out time to a bomb. Sanctions were not doing the trick you claim.

          • CosmotKat

            I never knew it was intended to be a trick, but rather a policy to starve the beast and that was working as intended. The breakout time is now immaterial and likely no different than before Obama’s spineless capitulation he dressed up as progress. I think what this administration achieved was the recognition they had a kick me hard sign on their back and decided they liked that and gave the Iranians green light to kick anytime they felt like it and there would be no repercussions.

  • Episteme

    I’ve been wondering one thing (really two). There’s a substantial portion of the Iranian population that’s pro-Western, especially the students and professional class. Also, the ‘other half’ of the deal (besides the nuclear issues; both halves being equally worrisome in how they could go awry) involves the unlocking of assets of both Iranian governmental and private firms and newfound ability of foreign (primary European and Chinese) governments and businesses to make deals with those. As such, I wonder how we might pattern a strategy somewhat off the post-Nixon-goes-to-China-days by trying to (even indirectly or via allied intermediaries) support the growth of private-sector and next-generation groups in Iran.

    This would not even necessarily need be directed toward regime change – consider how with China, we’re surreptitiously educating most of the next generation of leadership in capitalist economics (and many of them are actually being converted to Christianity while in America) – nothing need even be so dramatic with Iran, but imagine if a substantial portion of the people serving in government 5-10 years from now, when any weapon systems become active, are substantially pro-Western because they’ve either gone to grad school in the West or done business directly with Europe and the US for their entire career? I don’t have any specific laid out in my head, but I imagine that we could go about doing so (Eastern Europe in the 1980s is also an example that I think of, thinking of the intellectuals in Poland and Czechoslovakia working/studying with the West covertly and then openly once Communism fell).

    • Beauceron

      “There’s a substantial portion of the Iranian population that’s pro-Western, especially the students and professional class.”


      It would be, in most cases I think, simply wrong to call them “pro-Western.” I don’t think they’d spend their Friday afternoons shouting “Death to America” if they had the option, but that hardly makes them pro-Western even by a broad stretch.

  • Beauceron

    Yeah, well. As a subscriber to The Economist over the last decade, it has been appalling to watch the degradation of that publication.

    They’ve been insisting for a decade that Turkey was a moderate liberal-leaning democracy. They were convinced Iran was on the brink of a moderate breakthrough. They have cheerfully pushed for mass immigration to the West.

    It’s my last year as a subscriber. Too expensive, and so much incorrect analysis these days.

    • CosmotKat

      I dumped this rag long ago for the same reasons. It uses it’s once highly respectable image while embracing an increasingly radical left wing view of the world. It is no longer a reputable publication IMHO.

    • bannedforselfcensorship

      When the endorsed Obama and Obamacare, that was when i started ignoring them, but even before, they’d started falling.

  • CosmotKat

    “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?”
    Short answer likely not. This is ideological for them, not common sense. A common sense approach would have extracted something beyond promises of reform. Not matter how this administration spins this deal it will always be thought of as spineless capitulation they dressed up as progress.

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