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.

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 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.

By Sourav Roy

"Our production lines are running very smoothly and we are capable of producing an endless number of ballistic missiles," announced Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in a recent interview with the Iranian national news agency Fars. "We have made phenomenal progress in air defence capabilities and the current slew of sanctions means nothing more than a soft encouragement for us to acquire 'self-sufficiency'," he added.

Salami's comments clearly resonate with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's claims in February that Iran's enemies remained unsuccessful in their attempts to devise an interception system capable of breaching Iran's "impenetrable" missile shield. Iranian political and military top brass have repeatedly claimed flamboyant military accomplishments and technological advancements, only to maintain silence later on.

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.

 

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