The case for a tactical pause with Iran

Make them wait

The Obama administration should avoid repeating the key mistake of the Bush administration, for which Iran was solely viewed through the prism of its nuclear program. Delaying nuclear talks a few months won’t make a dramatic difference to Iran’s nuclear program. It could, however, determine which Iran America and the region will be dealing with for the next few decades — one in which democratic elements strengthen over time, or one where the will of the people grows increasingly irrelevant to Iran’s decision-makers.

Moreover, even nuclear talks would have a negligible impact on the election dispute, Iran currently is not in a position to negotiate. Some in Washington believe that the paralysis in Tehran has weakened Iran and made it more prone to compromise. But rather than delivering more, Iran’s government currently couldn’t deliver anything at all. The infighting has simply incapacitated Iranian decision makers. [continued…]

Showdown between Khamenei and IRGC?

Two important developments over the past few days suggest that a possible confrontation may be under way between Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and the high command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

One development was the order issued by Ayatollah Khamenei overruling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appointment of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his First Vice President (Iran’s president has eight vice presidents). The second was the firing of ultra hardliner Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, the Minister of Intelligence.

A reliable source in Tehran told the author that both episodes were meant to be signals by the IRGC’s high command to Ayatollah Khamenei that they were in control, and that he should toe the line — their line. According to the source, Ayatollah’s Khamenei’s order to fire Mashaei was delivered to the Voice and Visage (VaV) of the Islamic Republic (Iran’s national radio and television network) on the day Mashaei was appointed by Ahmadinejad. The VaV was asked to announce the order on national television and radio, but Ezzatollah Zarghami, the director of VaV and a former officer in the IRGC, refused to do so. [continued…]

Iran will rise above the ashes

In his 1998 speech to the American people, Iran’s reformist president, Muhammad Khatami, said he prayed that “at the close of the 20th century, people would . . . begin a new century of humanity, understanding and durable peace, so that all humanity would enjoy the blessings of life.’’

Khatami’s address marked a stunning departure from the anti-Americanism that had fueled the Iranian revolution. A scholar of The Enlightenment, he praised Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,’’ which “reflects the virtuous and human side of this American civilization. In [Tocqueville’s] view, the significance of this civilization is in the fact that liberty found religion as a cradle for its growth, and religion found protection of liberty as its divine calling. Therefore, liberty and faith never clashed.’’

By insisting on the compatibility of religion and liberty in America, Khatami laid a philosophical foundation for bridging the political divide between Iran and the United States. He did not vilify the United States as the “Great Satan.’’ Instead he held the United States as a model for emulation – a democratic civilization whose success reflected the ingenious combination of the principles of religion and the virtues of liberty. [continued…]

Tehran combines clemency and toughness

The Iranian authorities sent a mixed message of clemency and firmness on Wednesday, saying that more detainees arrested in the post-election crackdown would soon be freed, but also that 20 protesters charged with serious crimes would be put on trial, starting this weekend.

There were also new arrests, including those of two prominent reformists, Saeed Shariati and Shayesteh Amiri, opposition Web sites reported. Separately, an “underground network providing foreign media outlets with photos and footage of the post-election unrest” has been identified and its members arrested, the state-run Press TV reported, citing security forces.

The report said that the network was made up of “pro-reform extremists” and that at least two members had confessed to providing images of the unrest to Western news media in an effort to “stage a regime change” in Iran. The Iranian leadership has blamed foreign media for riots and rallies after the disputed June 12 presidential election. [continued…]

Iran security forces retreat as huge numbers of mourners gather at cemetery

Thousands and possibly tens of thousands of mourners, many of them black-clad young women carrying roses, overwhelmed security forces today at Tehran’s largest cemetery to gather around the grave of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped shooting at a June 20 demonstration stunned the world.

Amateur video apparently taken at Behesht Zahra cemetery and quickly uploaded to the Internet shows a sea of mourners moving through the cemetery chanting slogans. “Death to the dictator,” chanted those in one long procession, kicking up a storm of dust as they walked. “Neda is not dead. This government is dead.” [continued…]

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