By Farah Al Zaman Abu Shuair
This paper highlights the views of various roleplayers on the Iranian scene regarding Iranian-American convergence, the reasons for its rejection by some parties, and the motives behind its acceptance and defence by others. At the forefront of these is the institution of the Iranian Supreme Leader that seems to play a role that casts a shadow on everyone else. The Supreme leader does not prevent negotiations with the United States within the framework of the nuclear issue, but remains cautious in the face of any practical rapprochement.
By Al Jazeera Center for Studies
From the end of September to the middle of October 2013, it seemed that Iran’s relations with the western world were witnessing monumental changes. On 16 October, the EU representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, praised two days of talks that had just taken place in Geneva between representatives of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and Iran. Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described the talks as ‘essential and a motivation for progress’. He said they ‘open up new horizons of relations between Iran and western countries.’ Although Ashton and Zarif spoke separately and did not hold a joint press conference, this was the first time such language was used since the topic of Iranian nuclear capability became an international agenda item in 2002.
By Fatima Alsmadi
Has Iran’s position on Syria begun to change? This is a crucial question, as Iran’s tone toward military action against Syria has altered from being threatening throughout years of supporting the Syrian president, Bashar Al-Asad, to milder rhetoric. It appears that the issues around the use of chemical weapons instigated this change. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, strongly criticised the use of chemical weapons in a Twitter post, and his subsequent tweets supported the forcible prevention of their use. This coincided with the threat of a military strike on Syria – Iran’s strategic ally in the region – by the United States and some of its allies.
By Afro-Middle East Centre
While delivering a speech to the Majlis (Iranian parliament) on 3 February 2013, outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed members a clip in which Fazel Larijani, brother of Iran’s judiciary chief, Sadeq Larijani, and Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, was seen offering to quash charges against former prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi for financial gain. Dubbed ‘butcher of the press’ and ‘torturer of Tehran’, Mortazavi had been under investigation for his activities following the 2009 election, which led to the deaths of over thirty protesters and mass arrests of many others. Ali Larijani subsequently threw Ahmadinejad out of parliament, declaring that his presentation lacked evidence, and accusing him of waging a war against God.
The impending Iranian presidential election scheduled for 14 June 2013 is widely acknowledged to be one of the most critical in the regime’s thirty-five year history. With the economy in tatters as a result of sanctions and economic mismanagement, and the regime striving to restore its legitimacy following the 2009 election protests, voting patterns and voter turnout will not only influence a possible alternation of power, but may provide insight into the longterm survival of the regime. Hence security has been stepped up, voters have been encouraged to participate, and candidates with both economically rightist and leftist positions have stressed the need for economic growth.
By AlJazeera Centre for Studies
Tensions surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme have risen again, but the main determinants of the issue remain largely the same as they had previously been. As before, these determinants will most likely reduce the chances of a war being waged against Iran. New factors – particularly the upcoming elections in the United States – will act as additional restraints preventing the launch of military operations against Iran in 2012.
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
Last week, the Obama Administration formally charged the Islamic Republic of working with al-Qa'ida. The charge was presented as part of the Treasury Department's announcement that it was designating six alleged al-Qa'ida operatives for terrorism-related financial sanctions. The six are being designated, according to Treasury, because of their involvement in transiting money and operatives for al-Qa'ida to Pakistan and Afghanistan. The announcement claims that part of this scheme was a "secret deal" between the Iranian government and al-Qa'ida, whereby Tehran allowed the terrorist group to use Iranian territory in the course of moving money and personnel.
For the most part, major media outlets uncritically transmitted the Obama Administration's charge, without much manifestation of serious effort to verify it, find out more about the sourcing upon which it was based, or place it in any sort of detailed and nuanced historical context. Stories by Joby Warrick in the Washington Post and Helene Cooper the New York Times exemplify this kind of "reporting."
The Islamic Republic of Iran's interest in a stable Middle East is arguably greater than that of the United States - after all, this is Iran's neighborhood. For Iran to grow and prosper, it needs secure borders and stable neighbours. A poor and unstable Afghanistan, for example, inhibits trade, and, potentially, increases the flow of refugees and narcotics into the northeastern part of Iran.
Arguably, stability in Iraq may be even more critical to Iran than stability in Afghanistan. The Iran-Iraq war caused enormous suffering to the people of Iran; Iranians will not forget it in the decades ahead. They will also not forget that their suffering was largely because of American and European support for Saddam Hussain - including western support for his acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, which he regularly used against Iranian and Iraqi civilians. There was no condemnation from western governments or even the western media for these cruel and barbaric acts. Iranians believe that western leaders are just as guilty for these crimes against humanity as Saddam Hussain himself.
By Peter Jenkins
The US and its European partners are continuing to set stiff conditions for recognising Iran's nuclear rights and addressing issues of concern to Iran. That is the implication of the stress in recent statements on Iran 'meeting its international obligations', since it must be assumed that Western capitals believe that the UN Security Council has turned various demands made of Iran by the IAEA Board of Governors into 'international obligations' (though whether they are right to believe that can be disputed). These demands include suspending uranium enrichment work at Natanz and Qom and reactor construction at Arak, re-applying and ratifying the Additional Protocol, and transparency measures that extend beyond the formal requirements of the standard IAEA safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol. These stiff conditions make it hard to be optimistic about the P5+1/Iran talks that are due to resume later this month. Iranian spokesmen have been reiterating that they are not prepared to discuss a halt to uranium enrichment. Tehran's unwillingness to re-apply the Additional Protocol as long as Iran remains subject to UN sanctions is well-documented. And experience suggests that Iran's leaders are resilient enough to withstand the 'pressures' (sanctions) to which they have been subjected.