Some insiders in Iran say that a nuclear deal is being planned by powerful figures in the leadership as the start of a fundamental shift in Iran’s ideology, aimed not only at normalizing relations with the world but also at rebranding the now 35-year-old Islamic Revolution, turning away from its founding principles of anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism and strict limits on personal freedoms, The New York Times’s Thomas Erdbrink reports:
In recent weeks, commentators here say, hard-liners have swallowed hard and followed Ayatollah Khamenei’s lead in supporting the nuclear team, outwardly, at least….Failure to complete a deal and a breakdown in the talks, many here say, would almost surely make Mr. Rouhani, the main promoter of détente, a lame-duck president, ending any chance of his executing his agenda of more personal freedoms and better international relations.
If a deal is reached, though, they say the opposite could happen, and those who have been marginalized over the years by the hard-liners — the reformists, centrists, moderates and groups that have long and unsuccessfully promoted change — will be the beneficiaries.
Surprisingly, a political adviser long aligned with Iran’s hard-line faction predicts that this is precisely what is going to happen, with Iran repositioning itself after a successful agreement. “If there is a deal, and if it is good, the entire system will go along with it,” said the adviser, Amir Mohebbian, who is close to several prominent Iranian leaders. “There will be a huge political shift after a deal.”
He said that with the rise of Sunni radicalism in the Middle East, Iran’s ideology of radical resistance against imperialism needs an update. ….
The paradox of Iran is that of a society which aspires to be like South Korea is hindered by a hardline revolutionary elite whose ideological rigidity and isolationism more closely resembles North Korea, says Carnegie analyst Karim Sadjadpour (right):
During Iran’s 2013 presidential campaign, Hassan Rouhani marketed himself to both these interest groups as the man who could reconcile the ideological prerogatives of the Islamic Republic with the economic interests of the Iranian nation. Despite these raised expectations, however, Iran today remains a country of enormous but unfulfilled potential.
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to arrest journalists, members of student organizations and labor unions, lawyers defending dissidents, members of minority faiths and cultural groups, and civil rights activists, the Gatestone Institute reports. Iran ranks second only to China in number of executions. In the execution of juveniles, it leads the world. Gender discrimination continues to deny women educational, legal and professional opportunities. Public events, such as sports matches, remain segregated.
In his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-Proliferation, and Trade, Council on Foreign Relations analyst Ray Takeyh argued that Iran participates in the nuclear talks only because they serve so many of its interests—one of which may yet be an accord that eases its path toward nuclear empowerment:
For Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most important objective is the survival of the regime and preservation of its ideological character. As an astute student of history, Khamenei senses that disunity among the elites can feed popular discontent and imperil the regime. The fraudulent presidential election of 2009 caused not only a legitimacy crisis but also divided the regime’s elites. By conceding to Rouhani’s election, Khamenei has managed to restore a measure of accountability to the system and has drawn some of his disgruntled cadre back to the fold. Given such domestic calculations, Rouhani’s political fortunes are not necessarily contingent on the success of his arms-control policy. Khamenei clearly hopes that his president can ease Iran’s economic distress, but the notion that Rouhani will be displaced unless he can quickly obtain concessions from the West is spurious.
The Islamic Republic of Iran may be rigorously ideological, but analogies with Nazi Germany are inexact, says Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.
“On the one hand, it’s hard to make historical comparisons because history doesn’t repeat itself precisely,” he tells Israel Hayom. “The Nazi ideology was an insane one, but it was secular, while the ayatollahs in Iran base their ideology on religion and extremist jihadism. Germany at that time was a global power and a leader in military technology and science on par with the U.S. today. You can’t say the same thing about Iran.”
“On the other hand, there are similarities, particularly when it comes to the desire to destroy us and to ethnically cleanse the Middle East of Jews, and there is a common goal: to change the global balance of power. Iran wants to tilt the balance between the West and the Islamic world, and that is the goal of its nuclear project.”
[The prospect of a nuclear deal empowering moderates] may seem far-fetched, in that consistently at critical moments over the past 15 years, Iran’s leaders have thrown in their lot with the hard-liners, Erdbrink adds:
Their march to power, which has given them control over the judiciary, Parliament, the security forces and large parts of the economy, was partly facilitated by Iran’s leaders. …The hard-liners say they operate under the banner of Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who has repeatedly warned that he is “not optimistic” over the chances of reaching a nuclear deal with the West and particularly the United States, which he regards as Iran’s archenemy….
“Even if there is a deal, Mr. Rouhani and like-minded people will be losers because it will not bring the prosperity that they have promised,” says a hard-liner. “Anybody who thinks this will bring about ideological change must be joking.”