POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAN AND POSSIBLE IRAN-US COLLISION
Deputy Director of “Noravank” Foundation, Head of the Center for Political Studies
Parliamentary elections held on March 2 and presidential elections in 2013 in Iran are of great importance not only for domestic political life of the Islamic Republic of Iran but they may also become an incitement for the military encounter between Iran and the US. The articles refers mainly to the developments in the election period which may influence processes taking place in Iran and in the region.
Election campaign on the eve of the parliamentary elections
As it was expected parliamentary elections in Iran were held without main and radical opposition, which stated back in January that it was going to boycott elections on March 2. The oppositionists who participated in election campaign constituted 10% of all the candidates and they were united in two oppositional coalitions – Islamic Participation Front of Iran and National Trust Front. Though these groups came forward with criticism of the authorities, their views can be considered oppositional only conventionally as they do not demand changes of general state policy and governing structure of the state.
One could hardly expect that the main part of the population which took an oppositional stance would protect these two coalitions as there were no vivid representatives of opposition among them. On the other hand Iranian active opposition urged its supporters to boycott elections thus trying to deprive future parliament of legitimacy. On March 3 when preliminary results of the elections were issued, it became clear that this restricted opposition could not even win 10% and amounted to nothing more than 7%.
Rather interesting processes took place in the conservative camp either; in February an incumbent speaker of the Iranian Majlis Ali Larijani considerably lost his ground. In early February a number of media and web-sites belonging to radical conservatives issued materials according to which over the recent years Ali Larijani had made rather big fortune, owned huge property and had been involved in a number shady dealings mainly connected with privatization of state property.
There was even information that the sheikhs prohibited Ali Larijani participating in the parliamentary elections, which however, later was disclaimed by Larijani. Most probably, an eager activity was initiated in order to minimize chances of Ali Larijani to be reelected as a chairman of a new parliament. Besides, today Larijani is considered as a possible candidate for presidency at coming presidential elections in 2013 and propaganda directed against him aims to deprive him of a possibility to run for president. It should also be underlined that if the proposal by the spiritual leader of Iran Ali Khamenei to abolish the post of the president and substitute it by the prime-minster elected by the parliament made last October is passed, then the post of the speaker of the parliament may become influential while electing a prime-minister. Hence, possible “overthrowing” of A. Larijani means that he and powers supporting him cannot influence formation of the executive authorities.
Most probably, in consequence of information campaign directed against him, Ali Larijani’s wing in February joined Conservative United Front established with the participation of A. Khamenei which is in fact a coalition uniting conservative powers. This coalition won the elections and will have about 150 deputies in the parliament, taking into consideration the fact that independent candidates will join it.
As for the supporters of president M. Akhmadinejad, they suffered a devastating defeat and they will have about 50 deputies in the parliament even if they include independent candidates.
Though the elections were held without serious provocations, the Iranian authorities were expecting such provocations.
As the Iranian media mention, the parliamentary election agitation in the cities was seriously restricted by the security services, because they expected that mass meetings might be used for terrorist acts or provocations, the number of which has increased recently and it is connected with the activation of separatists in Belujistan and Kurdistan.
The fact that the Iranian authorities were expecting serious provocations and possible destabilization before the elections is not questioned. Both strengthening of surveillance by the security services and statements of the government officials prove that. On January 24 the Minister of Intelligence of Iran Heydar Moslehi stated that West prepares serious destabilization of situation in Iran, which includes following actions:
- Underlining political disagreements and deepening of contradictions in the political system by means of propaganda;
- Propagating doubts concerning the transparency of the election process in the country and abroad;
- Taking political discussion to the streets;
- Creation of the atmosphere of distrust;
- Aggravation of the economic and social conditions in the country by means of economic sanctions.
We would also like to add centralization of the American military forces in the proximity of the Persian Gulf which creates psychological background for the most aggressive opposition and seems to “persuade” that an attempt to start a revolution may receive a military support on behalf of the United States. The US military presence in the proximity of Iran, of course, first of all looks like a psychological action, as today the United States do not have enough power and abilities to implement military interference in the processes which could take place in Iran in consequence of the parliamentary elections.
But it should be mentioned that a possible threat expected from the United States will be of paramount importance for the Iranian authorities for at least one year. If such a dangerous situation was created on the eve of the parliamentary elections, doubly dangerous situation may be on the eve of the presidential election in 2013, as the latter is much more important for the public and political life of Iran than parliamentary elections. Thus, the post-election and pre-election situation in Iran will remain rather strained for at least a year and state will be obliged to react tougher to the domestic threats.
Summing up a part regarding domestic developments, let us mention that despite eager domestic political struggle, the authorities demonstrated that they control the situation in the country. As for the policy of opposition, it has failed to some extent as 64% of population participated in the elections and it raised the level of its legitimacy, though the opposition did not participate.
Will there be a collision between Iran and the US?
The processes, which take place in Iran, are of great importance for the United States either, and it has gained a first serious opportunity to strike a massive blow to the Iranian positions. It is conditioned by several factors:
- Opinion polls show that 48% of the population of the Unites States supports the idea of delivering strike at Iran. But if they held a penetrating investigation, it would appear in our opinion that the main reason for such an anti-Iranian mood is propaganda carried out in regard to M. Akhmadinejad for the recent seven years. In his statements the Iranian president gave a handle for the American propaganda to declare him the enemy of civilization. But in a year Akhmadinejad will leave his post and the next president of Iran may be more acceptable for the Western public. The main presidential aspirant is the mayor of Tehran M. Ghalibaf who is a western type of leader and if he becomes a president West can hardly expect any support from within Iran.
- The future of the sanctions imposed on Iran is not clear yet either. Today international community seems to demonstrate that it has made a maximum use of the sanctions; it is obvious that China and Russia would not allow the UN Security Council imposing even more serious sanctions on Iran. Hence, economic means of suppressing Iran are exhausted.
- Events in Syria have seriously weakened Iran. If B. Assad’s regime falls, Iran will lose its main ally in the region. But if Syrian authorities manage to preserve their power and suppress opposition, Iran will regain its weakening positions on the border with Israel. In this case a possible American attack on Iran may cause new big regional war in which not only Iran and the United States but also Syria, Israel, Lebanon and even Egypt (where Muslim Brothers who are looking for a reason to unfold confrontation with Israel are strengthening their positions) will be involved. Large-scale regional confrontation will also affect situation in Iraq and Afghanistan where the formed conventional status-quo is most probably the only expedient situation for Washington. Such developments may cause for the United States uncontrollable situation in the whole Middle East.
Thus, it can be supposed that the current situation in the region and pre-election year in Iran provide very short-term possibility for the US to counteract Iran.
But the point is that to what extent Washington is ready to carry out military incursion into Iran or deliver air strikes at the Iranian military and nuclear objects. Though opinions about its readiness prevail, many authoritative organizations and specialists believe that striking Iran is a big information bluffing. In particular, Shahram Chubin – one of the most authoritative researchers of the Middle East and Iran over the recent 20 years – is of such opinion. The latter believe that neither United States nor Israel can or aim to deliver strike at Iran. And the current aggravation of situation is conditioned by the efforts of mainly Tel Aviv, which tries to “blackmail” international community – if you are not ready to increase pressure on Tehran, we will strike Iran and wash our hands off an affair.
It is also obvious that the United States creates grounds for avoiding striking Iran. In this aspect the statement made by the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on February 16 that the achievements of the Iranian nuclear programme were hyped deserves special attention: “We frankly don't see a lot new here. This is not big news. It seems to have been hyped. The Iranians have, for many months, been putting out calendars of accomplishments, and based on their own calendars, they are many, many months behind. This strikes us as calibrated mostly for a domestic audience.” This is nothing but an attempt by Washington to avoid “responsibility” of striking Iran, which has been formed recently as a result of “Iranian threat” propaganda. Moreover, president Obama’s speech to AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) on March 4, in which he said that as president and commander in chief, he had a deeply held preference for peace over war, also proves that Washington wants to avoid war.
However, one can say that in the year to come important developments are expected in both Iran and region. We should hope that those developments will not bring to the processes which may affect security of the Armenian communities in the region and Armenia in case of aggravation of civil war in Syria and military collision between the United States and Iran.
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