July 17, 2014
NO ONE SAID IT WOULD BE EASY:
Remaking Iran (Said A. Arjomand, JUL 16, 2014, Project Syndicate)
Posted by Orrin Judd at July 17, 2014 10:01 PMIn his speech to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death on June 4, Khamenei fully appropriated the discourse of the dissident clerics aligned with Khatami. Thus, he described the regime instituted by Khomeini as a religious democracy in which all high state offices, including his own, derive their legitimacy from the will of the people as expressed in elections.But Rouhani needs more than Khamenei's backing. Khamenei is 74 and has health problems. With Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the 83-year-old chairman of the Council of Experts (the body of clerics that elects the supreme leader) gravely ill, Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, an influential member and former intelligence and security minister, has suggested that the Council should proceed to elect Khamenei's successor now. Clearly, the clerical elite is concerned about the future of its leadership after Khamenei. Should a succession process begin soon, it would significantly constrain Rouhani's room for maneuver.Rouhani's relations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other security forces are of more immediate concern. Last month's unceremonious killing of a billionaire businessman detained by security forces on corruption charges seemed to reflect the tacit division of power between the president and Iran's security apparatus.Nonetheless, tension is simmering beneath the surface. Rouhani seems to have halted the expansion of the IRGC's economic empire. The IRGC's commander, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, has publicly expressed his hostility to Rouhani's administration, while General Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, has countered by expressing his support for the president.It is in Iraq, however, that Iran faces its most complicated mix of challenge and opportunity. Determined to prevent the disintegration of the country, Iran has provided military and political support to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government. This appears to align Iranian and American policies, with both determined to counter the gains of radical Islamist forces in Iraq and Syria. Rouhani's circle is fully prepared to address this crisis by talking to the US.After a year in power, Rouhani's program of economic development, environmental cleanup, and improved health care is proceeding smoothly and quietly. But, given the uncertainty of the domestic and international political context, there are no guarantees of success. Much depends on whether a nuclear deal with the international community is achieved, and the likelihood of that outcome has unexpectedly increased, owing to the common interest of Iran and the US in coping with the collapse of Iraq.
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