April 3, 2015


Prospect of Bolder Iran Unnerves Some, Encourages Others (BILL SPINDLE, April 3, 2015, WSJ)

President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif--pragmatists who are front and center in the nuclear negotiations--have stressed the economic and practical benefits for all sides that would come with a relaxation of sanctions and better international relations.

They have spoken to Iranians' exhaustion with economic challenges and concern over the country's growing isolation, and have played up the potential business opportunities for Western companies in Iran.

On the other hand, ideological hard-liners--including the Revolutionary Guard Corps that wields control over regional foreign policy--have pushed the notion that a deal would amount to proof that the West can't thwart Iran's ability to pursue its interests, whether they be enriching uranium or openly pursuing what they see as Iran's regional prerogatives.

"The people who are managing nuclear negotiations are very different from those handling Iran's regional policies," said Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has held those two sides together in support of the negotiations by essentially encouraging each to promote their own view. He will almost certainly continue that course through the remainder of negotiations to June 30, and likely even after any final deal takes effect.

Iran could well very well seek to re-establish ties with the world--inviting European and U.S. companies to work in Iran for example--while simultaneously continuing to aggressively expand its influence across an increasingly chaotic Middle East.

Iran's leadership sees no immediate contradiction in that. The regime sees itself as both leader and protector of Shiite Muslims. It frames its push for new influence as essential to fighting ultra-extremist Sunni groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda--both of which, Iranians point out, the West also is battling.

"For Iran, the big problem is these groups. They are the key challenge," said Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor of international relations at Tehran University.

Given that we share a mutual interest in self-determination for Shi'a communities, we both expand our influence by helping liberate them.
Posted by at April 3, 2015 4:31 PM

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