Sunday, December 24, 2006

Amir Taheri: "Wounded but Alive: Could Ahmadinejad Become More Dangerous?"

Taheri is always worth reading. Here are the closing paragraphs:
[...] Voting in Iranian elections is always problematic. Since all candidates are approved by the authorities in advance, most citizens are barred from running for office. Also, the results must be approved by a 12-man body of mullahs who could stroke anybody's name from the list of winners, often on spurious grounds. Nevertheless, many Iranians believe that even such limited and patently undemocratic elections could provide an opportunity for affecting the balance of power within the ruling establishment.

There is no doubt that this is what Iranian voters have done, at least as far as the AOE is concerned. The question now is whether Khamenehi, with the Damoclean sword that Ahmadinejad wished to hang over his head out of the way, will try to rein in the firebrand president.

Rafsanjani, possibly Iran's wealthiest man, represents the fears of the middle and upper classes that have seen the economy on the verge of collapse, businesses frozen and the outflow of capital turned into a flood, since Ahmadinejad's election. But it is hard to see what the Rafsanjani faction can do against an administration that has managed to maintain its base among the urban poor and remains popular within the segment of the Iranian population that still believes in the Khomeinist revolution.

The impact of Ahmadinejad's defeat in the AOE elections on Iran's foreign policy is even harder to gauge. Rafsanjani and his faction have no means of directly influencing decision-making in that field. But they could serve as a channel of communication between the European Union and Khamenehi and persuade the latter to offer at least some of the concessions needed to defuse the crisis over Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions.

However, that possibility may force Ahmadinejad to heat up his rhetoric further and adopt an even more aggressive posture to prevent any deal brokered by the European Union.

As always in Iranian politics under Khomeinism, good news comes mixed with bad. Ahmadinejad is wounded but still very much alive. And that, according to Machiavelli, is when a political animal is at his most dangerous.

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